As a baby massage teacher, I’m always struck by just how uncomfortable fathers are with their new born babies the first time around. I guess my husband being made redundant just as I went on maternity leave with Ameli was – from a fatherhood perspective – a blessing for us, because he didn’t have just two weeks to get to know his firstborn. Even so, he was so afraid of hurting her, dropping her, or otherwise damaging his 7lb 7oz daughter.
Practice makes perfect though, and it didn’t take too long for him to get the hang of it, and seeing the relationship between them blossom had a lot to do with my desire to help fathers become comfortable with their bundles, and teach baby massage.
A few weeks ago, I was invited to an afternoon tea with ex-rugby player Ben Cohen. He had been working with Persil Non-Bio, Comfort Pure and the British Skin Foundation to put together a booklet,” The Cuddle Mastery Guide with Ben Cohen“.
Persil & Comfort conducted some research which showed them that 60% of new dads feel nervous when holding their babies, and 33% didn’t really know how to hold them – I can really attest to this from working with dads in my classes. In fact, their research showed that it takes new dads on average a week to really feel okay holding their little ones, possibly due to the fact that for 20% of men, their own is the first teeny tiny baby they ever actually hold!
I’m sure we all know that cuddling and touch are so important to the development of little ones, and contrary to old fashioned advice, there is no such thing as spoiling a baby – a child, maybe, but never a baby. Babies are humans who from their conception have felt the touch of another, and heard a heart beat always around them. Out the womb, what people often called the fourth trimester, they need all the physical contact they can get.*
The Cuddle Mastery Guide can be downloaded as a PDF, and is a handy guide for new fathers. It shows Ben with (not his) babies – he is daddy to two five year old girls now, but he says himself, with twins, he just had to get stuck in! – in different cuddle poses, such as the bonding cuddle (one of my favourites!), the post feed cuddle (always a useful one!) and the playtime cuddle. I particularly like the ‘sociable cuddle’, as it gives you a firm hold on baby, in a rather strong ‘I’m not letting go’ tone, while still allowing adoring aunts to get a look-see.
Personally, I’m all for anything that helps dads get more involved, not just with child care, but with bonding and falling in love with their baby too, and if a big strong manly rugby player can do it, there’s not a man in the world with an excuse not to.
*Obviously that’s not always possible. This is meant as a general rule of thumb. There have been plenty examples over the years of even premature or incubated babies showing signs of improvement at every instance of physical touch and kangaroo care.