What is Bonding?
Bonding is the strong connection that develops between you and your baby. It’s the feeling that makes you want to shower your baby with love and affection ~ when you know that you would do anything to protect and care for her. Bonding is what gets you up in the middle of the night to feed your hungry baby and makes you attentive to her wide range of cries.
Why is Bonding Important?
The emotional bond between you and your baby is necessary for her healthy growth and development. It makes her feel secure, and children who feel safe have a head start in life. They cope well with life’s ups and downs, and are able to understand how others feel. They are able to naturally form other healthy, close relationships as they go out into the world.
How does it happen?
When a new baby makes its appearance in a family, it can be hard for both mom and dad to connect with her. Some take one look at their baby and are overcome with emotion. Others look at this little wrinkled stranger and aren’t sure what to think. To top it off, lack of sleep and the other demands of being a new parent can wear you thin.
Bonding happens over time. Your baby may be cute and cuddly, but she’s also an entirely new person ~ one you’ll have to get used to before you become truly close. You can’t force yourself to bond ~ there’s no magic formula. Here are some tips to help foster bonding with your new baby:
- Concentrate on your new baby. These first few weeks and months offer great opportunities for you and your new baby to get to know each other. Cut down on activities that aren’t essential – the housework will wait for you!
- Hold baby close. A newborn’s eyes focus best about a foot away, so she can see your face as she breastfeeds. Dad and others can hold her in the same position when feeding and cuddling.
- Look into her eyes. New babies can recognize faces and follow movements
- Touch her skin. Skin-to-skin contact helps baby recognize and feel comfortable with you. Let her sleep naked on your bare chest ~ smell your baby and let her smell you. This is the way nature intended us to bond.
- Talk or sing to your baby. She has probably learned to recognize your voice even before birth, so it is a soothing sound to know you are there. Lullabies can help bonding as you sing her to sleep.
- Observe your baby. Watch how she moves, listen to her sounds, and notice how she changes from one day to the next. You will begin to see the world from her perspective.
- Focus on your baby’s cues and signals. Pay attention to her signals to understand what she wants and needs. A baby needs to know she can rely on you, so answer when she cries out.
- Take time for yourself. Most new parents tend to lose themselves in their baby. While this is an important part of bonding, you also need time for yourself. Take a relaxing bath, write in your journal, or go for a short walk. Then you can go back and really enjoy your time with baby.
- Enjoy the preciousness of these days. Babies are new for such a short time. If you talk to anyone with older children, they’ll tell you how precious and important these early days are. Enjoy them while you can.
A true parent-child bond develops through everyday caring. Over time, as you get to know your baby and learn how to soothe her and enjoy her presence, your feelings will deepen. And one day — it may be the first time you see her smile — you’ll look at your baby and realize you’re completely and utterly filled with joy and love for her. Now that’s bonding!
When should I worry?
If, after a few weeks, you find that you don’t feel more attached to and comfortable with your baby than you did on the first day, or if you actually feel detached from her, resentful of her or very anxious about her, talk to your family doctor. Postnatal depression is a real illness that can delay bonding, and it’s best to seek help as soon as possible.