Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Face Time

Bonding with your baby is supposed to be easy. You were there when she was born, or shortly afterwards. You cuddled her close and explained who you were. Then she was put back in the plastic crate and the next time you saw her, after a hospital visit or two, was when you brought her home. You don’t feel like you’ve bonded. That’s fine. You probably haven’t yet. You’ve just got a bit of catching up to do.

So, how can you make up for lost time? You can’t breastfeed. You can change a nappy or change her clothes. But most of the time she’ll cry when you do this. If you’re lucky, you might get to give her a bottle from time to time. But what about when you can’t? The answer for me was this: give the baby face time.

I can’t remember when I first started doing face time, probably when Nancy was a month or so old. The best way to do it is to put the baby on the floor, ideally on something soft like a changing mat, and kneel on all fours over her. If she’s got her eyes open she’ll almost certainly react to seeing you. Babies, girls especially, love faces. Even before they can see properly, they can make out the shape of a face. Let her get used to you. Don’t worry about not having anything to say. Don’t worry if you don’t feel like singing. She won’t mind. Just look at her.

Do this a few times and see what happens. She might even make a noise when she first sees you, which is encouraging. Try moving your face close, rubbing your nose on her nose. Rock forwards and backwards. Play peekabo with your hands. Blow gently on her forehead. Kiss her under the chin or tickle her ears. It’s all good stimulation and she’s already getting the message that you’re fun and interesting. Let her play with your hands. Babies find hands and fingers fascinating. They’re the world’s cheapest toys. She’ll spend ages just holding your fingers, or more likely trying to put them in her mouth.

Face time doesn’t have to last long. A few minutes a day will probably do. Sometimes you’ll get absorbed and you might be there for ten, twenty minutes. Especially when she discovers how to smile. It’s a great moment and you’ll never get bored of how her face lights up when she sees you.

Later when she’s strong enough to hold her own head up, you can give her face time sitting on your lap. When you walk into a room, she’ll hear your voice and look for you. She knows who you are. But what’s equally important is that through face time, even before she can speak, you know who she is. When you do the occasional nappy or feed, you can use the same tricks on her that you learnt in face time.

Before you know it, you’ve bonded. She’s the most important thing to you in the world. Close you eyes and you can still see her face, even at work. It’s like falling in love all over again.

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