The arrival of your new baby is such an exciting time! You’ve been awaiting this for nine long months, and baby is finally here. You may be quickly realizing that this tiny, snuggly human of yours doesn’t do a whole lot yes besides eat, sleep and poop. You might just be drowning in postpartum hormones, and not feel all the closeness and attachment you thought you would feel.
Which leaves you wondering, how does bonding with your newborn baby work? Is there anything you can actively do to bond with your baby?
Well, mama, bonding with your baby is something that usually happens very naturally through attentive care – even if you don’t feel immediately “bonded” … But yes – there are also many intentional ways for bonding with baby after birth whether you are breastfeeding, bottle feeding, mama or dad.
Below you’ll find my 7 best tips to enhance your experience of bonding with your newborn baby during this very special time.
Importance of bonding with baby
When you have a baby, creating a strong bond with them is essential. Bonding with your baby through loving nurturing is important for their long-term self-esteem and happiness. In fact, research shows that it’s a crucial part of their emotional, cognitive, and social development as they grow in their first two years of life.
The thing is, bonding with your baby doesn’t take rocket science. Simply being an attentive and loving parent, responding to your child’s needs promptly and sincerely, and providing them with a safe and secure home is really all it takes. The tips below can also help you get a sense of how to bond effectively in the early weeks and months with your newborn.
When does bonding with your baby occur?
Baby bonding isn’t something that has an official start and stop. Your bond with your baby actually started while they were growing in your womb. By taking care of your body throughout pregnancy, getting excited about kicks and flutters, singing and talking to your belly, the bond began! Even the prep you did to your home and mentally before they arrived strengthened your bond.
Once they arrive, bonding continues to happen with every feeding (whether at the breast or with a bottle), every diaper change, every time you pick them up when they cry, every snuggle, song and more. Your bond with your baby is an ongoing and dynamic entity that is always growing and changing.
BONDING WITH BABY THROUGH TOUCH
When your baby is first born, touch is one of the best ways to communicate your love and strengthen your bond. You can do this by spending time snuggling with your baby skin to skin. By laying on your body you will promote a sense of security and promote healthy growth and development in your baby. If you are breastfeeding, skin to skin also helps stimulate your milk supply. Skin to skin bonding is also a great way for dad to bond with baby, especially if mom is breastfeeding and dad can’t help with feeding. Additionally, infant massage, bath time, and simply rubbing your newborn’s back or caressing their cheek are ways to bond through touch.
WRAPPING TO BOND WITH BABY
After spending nine-months snug and cozy in the womb, most newborns love the secure feeling of being wrapped up tight. You can use this to your benefit and to bond with your baby in two different ways. Swaddling your baby tightly can help them feel calm and relaxed and allow you to rock with your baby, feed them, sing or talk to them while they are calm and content. Even if they are sleeping, just cuddling and holding them close while they are swaddled is a great way to bond. Wearing your baby in a wrap-style carrier is another great way to bond. Many babies feel happiest when they are on the chest of their parent, and by wearing your baby you can help them feel calm and content, bond, and get some things done with the hands-free convenience a wrap provides.
READING TO YOUR BABY
Reading is a wonderful way for both moms and dads to bond with their baby. Many parents forget that it is a ritual you can begin even with a newborn. The sound of your voice and rhythmic tones in many of the baby books will stimulate your baby’s growing brain, expose them to words and give them a language and academic advantage as they grow and develop.
Incorporate reading into your bedtime routine every night to fit this bonding time into your schedule every day. It is a wonderful way to help you little one wind down and have some intentional one-on-one time with them. Quickly, they will come to associate this special time with sleep and look forward to it every day.
SINGING TO YOUR BABY
In addition to reading books, singing to your baby is another way to strengthen your bond and stimulate them cognitively. New research shows that singing can be just as effective as early reading in cognitive stimulation. Don’t feel shy or worry about your singing voice, your baby won’t mind at all. You should also feel free to sing whatever comes to mind. Kid songs and traditional lullabies are great but singing some of your favorites still provides the same bonding experience.
TALKING TO YOUR BABY
Talking to your baby, especially while making eye contact, is a powerful way to bond. They are learning to memorize your face and begin trying to mimic your facial expressions and tones from a very early age. In addition to talking to your baby intently while gazing at them, talking to them about what you’re doing, what’s around them, and generally narrating the day-to-day are great ways to promote language and expose your little one to a variety of words.
RESPONDING TO THEIR CRIES
Creating a secure attachment with your baby is one of the most important aspects of bonding. This is the foundation for trust between you and your little one. A secure attachment is also linked to children and adults with higher self-confidence, greater academic success, general happiness, and potential in life. Responding to your baby’s cries promptly every time they cry is the single best way to create a secure attachment. Anytime your baby cries you should pick them up and comfort them. You should figure out if they are hungry, need a diaper change, or just need some snuggles and comfort to feel content and calm again. Remember that it is impossible to spoil your newborn baby! Attentive response to their cries is essential.
NOURISHING YOUR BABY
Feeding your baby is another opportunity to bond with them. Especially because newborns don’t do a lot more than eat and sleep, nourishing them—whether at the breast or with a bottle– is an intrinsic way to bond. If you are breastfeeding, you and baby will spend a lot of time cuddling skin-to-skin and making eye contact. Both help in bonding and release oxytocin in mama and baby. You can enhance the bonding by singing, humming, or talking to baby while they nurse. Bottle feeding is also a wonderful time to bond if you are not breastfeeding. While bottle feeding you can promote bonding by snuggling them close while giving them a bottle, talking and singing to them while they take a bottle, making eye contact and holding their hand.
After either type of feeding, you will burp your baby and can snuggle them on your chest skin-to-skin as they digest.
What if bonding doesn’t happen?
Sometimes new mothers and fathers have a difficult time bonding with their new baby. If this is the case, do not feel guilty! The arrival of a new baby can feel very abstract and it might take time before you feel like they are really yours. What’s more, because your baby can’t interact back this can make a bond difficult to feel for some parents. Other factors that can impact your ability to bond with your baby are traumatic birth experiences, postpartum depression, a history of depression and anxiety, a baby that has colic, and more.
If you are having trouble bonding with your baby, it’s a good idea to mention it to your provider so that they can assess you for postpartum mood disorders, like postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety. But in many cases when you don’t feel bonded, it just means it’s taking a bit more time. Use the tips in this article to help you create a bond and by the time your baby can smile and laugh with you, you’ll be surprised at how attached you feel.
Enjoy Bonding with Your New Baby, Mama
Remember that there is no special formula or checklist for creating a bond with your baby. It will look different for every mama. One thing that is certain is how fast these early days fly by! They may seem long while you’re in it, but they will be gone before you know it. So put your other responsibilities on hold the best you can and focus on bonding with your sweet baby by using the tips on this list and in whatever way feels natural for you.