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Engaged dads are linked with improved weight gain in preterm infants and higher rates of breastfeeding. And you can help. Encourage your partner to:
• Hone his parenting skills before the baby is born by taking baby-care classes. "Being able to respond to baby's physical needs is one of the best ways to bond," says Roland C. Warren of the National Fatherhood Initiative.
• Connect with great dads he knows. Men should reach out to experienced people the way women do, Warren says.
• Hold the baby often. Studies show that the earlier fathers hold their babies, the sooner they bond with them.
• Attend pediatrician's appointments. Well-child visits provide ways for dad to participate and gain information firsthand.
• Hang out sans you. Babies whose fathers spend more time alone with them show more exploratory behavior, according to a study in Psychiatry. "That's where the serious bonding occurs," Bishop says.
Humans flourish because men bond more directly with their children than most mammals. In fact, they bond as strongly as moms, just not in exactly the same way. A few style differences:
1. Dads roughhouse
Thanks to brain differences, fathers tend toward physical play; mothers express empathy through words.
2. Dads chatter
When a baby coos, fathers are more likely to talk rapidly, while moms are more apt to touch the baby.
3. Dads teach self-control
A father's physical style of play helps children learn to manage impulses and regulate their emotions.