If you’re like many mothers, you might have imagined that you would forge an instant maternal-child bond the moment your bundle of joy was placed in your arms after delivery. In reality, labor and delivery may leave you physically and emotionally drained and you may feel overwhelmed by dealing with a crying baby who needs to nurse around the clock. As you’re juggling these new feelings and responsibilities, you may wonder – now that my baby is here, how do I bond with him (or her)?
Bonding is the term for the intense attachment that develops between parents and their baby and it is based on learning to read and respond to your baby’s needs. Developing that loving, connected relationship with your newborn baby lays the foundation for raising a child who is confident, caring and empathetic. When you’re a new parent, it may take some time to understand your baby’s unique cues and all the ways you can interact with your newborn to foster a strong bond.
Here are 5 ways to begin building that bond:
- When you hold your baby, you’re letting your baby know that you are near and that he or she is protected. Newborns need this constant reminder that they are safe and loved. Did you know that when you hold your baby, your body temperatures align? Your body temperature will rise and fall according to your baby’s needs.1
- Think of touch as your baby’s first language. Tiny gestures like holding your newborn’s hands and stroking his or her face also help your baby to feel secure. Gently massaging your baby not only helps him or her to relax, but also increases blood flow and stimulates their digestive track. Learn more about the methods and benefits of baby massage.
- Making eye contact. Your newborn baby can see about twelve inches in front of his or her face, which means that you are in perfect view when you are holding them. You will notice that as you make eye contact with your baby at close range, he or she will gaze back and start to recognize you. Your baby may even try to imitate your facial expressions.
- Singing and talking. It shouldn’t be surprising to hear that a newborn can recognize his or her mother’s voice from the moment of birth. After all, your baby has been listening to you talk from inside the womb. Just like holding and touching, singing and talking to your baby helps to solidify their sense of safety and security. Not sure what to talk about? Babies often enjoy just listening to your conversations or your descriptions of their activities and environments.
- Spending time. For many moms, maternity leave may be the only time they can devote themselves full-time to their baby. If you have to get back to work – or, even if you don’t – spending time with your baby is a must. The more time you spend with your newborn, the more quickly you will learn their different cries, wants and needs and the more quickly you will develop that sense of attachment.
Keep in mind that bonding is a process, not an instinct. And it’s different for every parent and every baby. Remember that you are building a bond that is meant to last a lifetime, so don’t expect it to happen overnight. Give yourself time to adjust to the demands of motherhood and time to get to know your baby.