Time spent with every newborn is precious. For newly minted dad Tim Low, work took a back seat when his son arrived so he could focus on supporting his wife and bond with his new bundle of joy.

“I wanted to make sure my wife is as comfortable as possible, so we moved back in with my family. With my mother, grandmother and helper living with us—there is a whole tribe for us to tap on for support,” shares the Director of Golf at Clubhouse.sg who looks after his son in the mornings while his wife rests.

“He falls asleep on me sometimes, and when I have skin to skin contact with him, I get to feel that wonderful connection,” shares the enthusiastic father. “But I am still trying to figure out how to soothe him on my own when he cries before he is whisked away by my wife or mother,” he jests.

Happy Couple, Happy Baby

This strong family support system is what Dr Shefaly Shorey, a member of the Advisory Panel on Parenting for Families for Life Parenting, believes leads to greater marital satisfaction among new parents. This can also indirectly influence their bonding with the baby, she says. “Studies have affirmed that when babies were shown the stressed faces versus happy faces of their parents, they showed more inclination towards the happy faces of their parents. So when mum and dad are a happy couple, baby can feel their happiness and this leads to better bonding.”

The Importance of Prenatal Bonding

But is bonding only effective after the baby is born?

“Ideally, bonding should start as soon as you find out you are pregnant,” recommends Dr Shorey who is also an assistant professor with the Alice Lee Centre for nursing studies at the National University of Singapore (NUS). “Babies experience sensory stimulations as early as the first trimester and their sense of hearing is one of the first to develop. Bonding with your baby early and consistently contributes to their overall wellbeing.”

Simple gestures like rubbing your pregnant tummy gently, singing or reading out loud and speaking to your tummy are effective ways for both parents to bond with their baby.

“It may feel awkward at first but do keep in mind that bonding is a gradual process. The more attempts you make, the stronger the bond will be when your baby is born,” she adds.

Bonding After Baby Is Born

Even though mums get a lot more bonding opportunities with their babies especially if they are breastfeeding, Dr Shorey notes it is equally important for dads to be involved in their babies’ daily routines.

“Both parents should try to schedule regular bonding time with baby at least once a day—whether it is changing diapers, feeding, having skin to skin contact or speaking to baby in gentle, unhurried tones. If done at least 30 minutes each day, these interactions can have long-term benefits on the bonding process,” she explains.

For parents who experience separation anxiety when they head back to work, Dr Shorey assures them that this is a normal phase that every parent goes through. Hearing baby’s voice over a phone call and looking at pictures and videos of baby are some ways to maintain the bond and reduce some of this anxiety.

As for dads looking to soothe their babies, Dr Shorey advises them to use a baby sling. “Carrying baby close to your heart and moving in a slow rhythmic motion can help to calm baby down and help both dad and baby develop a deeper bond,” she suggests.

The content of this article was adapted from an interview on CNA938 Family Ties. For more parenting tips, visit Families for Life Parenting or check out #AskFFL on the Families for Life Facebook page.