Without more context, it's hard to say a lot about this, but what this seems to say about sex roles is that men are not supposed to be tender with babies. They are supposed to be tough, not nurturing.
We can see this in what the man wanted to do and what he actually did. He wanted to touch the feet, but that seems too much like something tender and sappy that a woman would do. So instead he just let the baby have a "firm" grip on him (firm being a good kind of grip for a male baby). That way, he's just allowing the baby to test its reflexes on him. He's not nurturing it.