Attachment and bonding – the father’s role

Attachment with the father is equally as important as the attachment with the mother and contributes greatly to a child’s development. Some studies have shown that a high quality father-child relationship allows a child to take his explorations a little further. Fathers can do activities with their baby to promote attachment, whether or not they are the main caregiver. Here are some suggestions:

  • Use a baby carrier as much as possible. Men’s physique usually allows them to carry an older, heavier baby than a woman can.
  • Lie down with your new-born on your chest. Your heartbeat will help your baby develop trust.
  • Take a bath with your baby. Physical contact is important. If another person is present, he or she can take the baby to dress him when he comes out of the bath.
  • Provide the same affectionate responses, routines and positive discipline as the other parent, so the child feels safe, no matter which parent is looking after him.
  • Don’t hesitate to show affection to your baby or toddler.
  • Support a breastfeeding mother because breastfeeding is ideal for the baby. Look for other opportunities to spend quality time with your baby, by bringing the baby to the mother or burping him afterwards.
  • Encourage your toddler to challenge himself by developing his physical skills (climbing, jumping, etc.). Supervise him carefully but, most importantly, make him feel good for his efforts.
  • Act as a role model for your child in your intimate relationship and with those around you.
  • Consider taking parental leave to spend time with your baby and build your confidence for parenting alone.
  • Spend time alone with your baby. Start with just a few minutes at a time if you are hesitant, and then increase the time. If you don’t want to be too far away from the mother, just take your baby outside or into another room.
  • Find out about the community resources available for new parents, for example Parent & Toddler groups.
  • Watch the mother for signs of exhaustion or depression especially if she is the main caregiver. These could affect her ability to provide quality care. If you are concerned, talk to a doctor, a public health nurse or a community health nurse about it.
  • If your work takes you away from home for long periods of time, make sure you spend quality time with your child during which you learn to recognize her cues and reactions.
  • Don’t hesitate to get help if you feel overwhelmed and if your baby cries constantly. Never shake a baby.

Copyright Lifestart 2018

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Infant Mental Health Awareness Week runs from June 13th-19th.           

This week provides an opportunity to focus attention on the wellbeing, social and emotional development of our babies and young children. It highlights the importance of early relationships and a relationship based approach to interventions with infants and families. As our understanding of IMH and its evidence base develops, so also does our knowledge of how to apply this knowledge and an ‘IMH lens’ to interactions with infants, parents and caregivers in health and social services. 

What is infant mental health?

Infant Mental health (IMH) refers to the healthy social and emotional development of Infants starting at conception up to three years of age.

The first 1000 days of life are recognised as a critical period of opportunity to support infant mental health. Decades of research have shown that it is the quality of the early caregiver relationship that is a significant determinant of the infant’s healthy social and emotional development and in turn physical health, right up to adulthood.


The National Healthy Childhood Programme has embedded IMH as the foundation of the development of its resources and in the approach of the delivery of the universal child health service. This embedding of key messages can be seen in the My Child suite of books ( and also on  where key messages around bonding and relationship building have been embedded for the parent/caregiver.


In clinical practice the topic of IMH has been included for the first time in the National Standardised Child Health Record. To build on this, the National Healthy Childhood Programme have just completed a suite of three eLearning units which are now available on HSEland for healthcare practitioners / caregivers who are working with children and families.  


Throughout the week you will see videos and key IMH messaging being promoted on the HSE MyChild social media pages ( Facebook / Instagram ). Keep an eye out in the National Newspapers for articles from our experts also. (IrishTimes article)  


In addition The National Healthy Childhood Programme have developed a series of ten practical videos with HSE expert advice which are now available on YouTube and on the relevant pages on the website.

These videos (2-3 minutes each) are aimed at parents/guardians of children (0 – 3 years).

These new video resources are available here while lots more expert advice for every step of pregnancy, baby and toddler health can also be found at

There are a suite of posters available focusing on the promotion of IMH messaging to order from

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