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The Dad-Baby Bond

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Every once in a while, during those first heady days after the birth of my first child, I'd catch myself staring at her, trancelike, marveling at every little thing she did. Of course, it would be quite a while before she actually did anything truly remarkable, but somehow, I found everything miraculous, from the smell of her hair and her delicate hands (complete with outrageously sharp fingernails), to the snarfles and soft breathing when she was awake and the look of pure peace when she slept.

Dad in Training

After a few days of this, I was snapped out of my reverie by a sharp jolt of reality: There was a lot more to being a dad than just looking at my baby. If I really wanted to build the kind of relationship with her that I'd dreamed of, I was going to have to get in there and get my hands dirty (metaphorically, of course. I'd already done a ton of diaper changing...). The problem was that, never having spent much time around babies, I had absolutely no idea what to do. Not being one to ask for help (I know, I know, it's a guy thing), there was really only one way to learn what I needed to learn. So I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and jumped in.

Within minutes, I had an important epiphany: Since my daughter was just as clueless as I was, she was incredibly forgiving. Over the first few weeks of her life I made dozens of mistakes (none life- or health-threatening, I'm happy to say). But I also discovered a few simple ways of interacting with her that she really seemed to enjoy.

The Power of Touch

The first discovery was that she loved it when I held her. She generally preferred my arms, but after they went numb and my back started aching, she was perfectly happy in a front pack. She also loved it when I talked to her. At first I felt a little silly about the whole thing—she clearly had no idea what I was saying—but my voice seemed to soothe her. I'd tell her about my day, about what was happening in the news, and what we were seeing when we went out for walks. Sometimes, if I paused for more than a few seconds, she'd stare at me with those bright little eyes and I could swear that she was thinking "Okay, and then what?"

One important piece of advice: Because babies' heads are relatively large (one-quarter of their body size at birth vs. one-seventh by the time they're adults) and their neck muscles aren't very well developed, their heads tend to be pretty floppy for the first few months. So it's critical to be sure to support your baby's head—from behind—at all times, and to avoid sudden or jerky motions.



Member comments

Love this!
Refreshing to hear this perspective especially near Fathers Day

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