Paternal Bond Could Come Slowly for Some Dads

For many men, this reticence to share their feelings may be even more considerable. Some may keep these feelings to themselves for fear of appearing insensitive. For others, fear of revealing their true concern may further prevent them from talking about how they feel.

But help may be on the way for some new fathers; Seppinni said male parenting classes have sprung up to help new fathers and fathers-to-be form a bond with their kids.

For Dads, When Does Bonding Begin?

Still, even parenting classes may not help some fathers avoid an initial period of detachment.

He said there are three times at which many fathers form a bond with their children. Some fathers, he said, form this bond while the child is still in the womb. For some, the bonding moment is at birth. And for others still, bonding does not occur until the child is as old as "little league age."

The delay, it turns out, may have something to do with the way fathers traditionally relate with their children.

"Fathers respond to the interactive qualities of kids," Shapiro said. "Until fathers start to sense something coming back from the child, some won't feel that bond or connection."

Henry's experience, for one, appeared to reflect this tendency.

"Maybe it's just something that's part of being a guy," Henry said. "I didn't start to feel that connection until I started getting a reaction from the baby."

This tendency, in part, may also be partially due to the fact that traditionally, a father's role is to introduce the child to the world -- but only when the time is right.

"The father's role -- to first guard the maternal bond and then to open up the world to the child gradually -- is very important," Shapiro said.

How to Foster a Paternal Bond

For those fathers who want to speed up the bonding process with their child, Seppinni said that quality time is key.

"The best way to really bond with your children is through the day-to-day routine of sitting with your child, holding the baby, feeding it -- even when you're scared to death of it," she said. "Even if you don't feel an emotion, it's the day-to-day routine that lets you get a feel for it."

Shapiro agreed that there are things that new fathers can do to help foster a bond with their kids.

"Give your wife a break every day. You just spend time with the baby," he said. "If you're a dad and your baby falls asleep in your arms, and you're looking at it, stuff -- magical stuff -- starts to happen."

Henry said that in the time since he went through his own period of paternal detachment, some of the other new fathers he has talked with have said they had much the same experience.

Patience May Be Key in Paternal Bond

Based on his experience, he said that his best advice is to be patient.

"You've just got to keep thinking, 'Those feelings are going to come,'" he said.

But once they did, Henry said, he was hooked.

"It's the most powerful emotion you're going to have," he said.

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