There are many who believe that touch is the most fundamental of human interactions. A hug can speak volumes. It can communicate dozens of different things over the whole range of human emotions. Touch is vital to human growth and development. An interesting (albeit a little cruel) experiment I read about long ago placed juvenile animals alone in a kennel. On one side of the kennel was a warm, soft, stuffed animal with a pulsing “heartbeat”. On the other side of the kennel was food. The animal would spend most of the time cuddling with the warm, comforting surrogate mother, and only go to the other side for a nibble, and then scurry back to the warm, soft side.
Food was less important than comfort to the animal.
Can you imagine growing close to your baby without touching him or her? Of course you can’t. The important thing to remember is that nothing can replace this important time in you and your baby’s relationship, and the best way to connect with your baby is through touch. Baby can understand tone of voice, but not words. (This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t talk to your baby. Just hold baby while you talk.)
First, make sure that all of baby’s other needs are meet. Baby will not think that bonding time with dad is too cool if she is hungry or in need of a diaper change. Here are some good ways that I have bonded with my own babies through touch:
1) Explore your baby’s face with your fingertip- Let her learn what it feels like to have daddy touch her eyebrow, follow the curve of her ear, outline her mouth, or gently trace her jaw-line. Be sure to talk, coo, or sing to her while you do this. This is a very special, tender way for a parent to bond with your child.
2) Stretch and move baby’s limbs- A newborn has to learn everything, including the capabilities and limits to how her body moves. Lay your baby on her back on a blanket and kneel over her so she can see you. Gently bend her elbows and work her knees. Rotate and wave her arms and hands. Spread and close her fingers and wiggle her toes. Open and close her arms to a gentle rhythm.
3) Hold your baby- There are lots different ways to hold your baby. Carry her upright. Use the football hold. Hold her near and at arm’s length so she can see you from up close and from further away. (Make sure you carefully support a newborn’s head.)
4) Play body games with baby- There are a ton of games that you can play with your baby’s body. This Litte Piggy, Johnny, Johnny Whoops, Ride-a Ride-a Horsey, Kissing games, and even old fashioned tickling.
All of these suggestions are things that I’ve done with my children, and would certainly recommend them to dads who want to grow closer to baby.