New parents, and new moms in particular, have a lot on their mind when it comes to “things you mustn’t get wrong with your newborn.”
Bonding with their baby is one of the most frequent topics in this category.
If you have fears about “not bonding right” we’re here to reassure you. Our guide will help learn the best ways to create a healthy bond with your baby.
Bonding with Baby is an Unfolding Process
A common image is that of a midwife handing over a baby to a somewhat tired-looking, blissful new mom.
As soon as she sees her plum, rose-cheeked, flawless baby, feelings of intense love flow through her and the bond is sealed.
We have movies and commercials to thank for that image, but the reality is often very different.
Mom has been in labor for hours and is as exhausted as she has ever been in her life.
If there were medical complications, the baby may have been rushed to the ICU and mom is in post-op care.
However, the bonding and love still occur despite all this seemingly horrible circumstances, even if they’re not in the way you expect.
Bonding is a natural process of developing a loving emotional connection with your baby.
This first emotional connection your baby shares lays the foundation for all other emotional relationships later in life. And frankly, that is a huge responsibility.
Fortunately, you and your baby are biologically wired to love each other.
Initially, the emotional connection is one-sided, but as your baby grows, the feelings become mutual.
In a way, you begin to bond with your baby from the moment you find out you’re pregnant.
Sometimes you’ll become aware of the bond when you first feel your baby kicking.
Or you’ll realize the connection after childbirth when you first feed your baby, or perhaps when baby’s dad is here too you mutually feel the love for the new life you created.
The main point is, bonding is not a one-off event that happens or doesn’t happen (in which case you go ahead and blame yourself for being a bad mom).
Bonding is a process that unfolds as both you and your baby get to know and love each other.
How to Strengthen the Bond with Your Baby
You have all the “tools” needed to build a healthy bond with your baby within you, and here are ten ways to help you strengthen your bond:
1. Understand what healthy bonding is and what isn’t
Bonding is not a one-off event
A common misconception is that if you don’t feel overwhelmed with love the moment you see your baby, the two of you will never successfully bond.
While this is true for chickens and ducks, human babies and mothers have far more advanced emotions.
Genetics are on your side.
It is in your genetic make up to become attached lovingly to your baby.
Those kissable cute cheeks, tiny feet and hands or hearing a baby cry trigger an instinctive reaction to respond.
Even in situations where medical or mental health conditions make bonding difficult, adequate treatment can help most moms experience this loving relationship.
2. Consistency is the key
The essential element of developing a healthy bond with your baby is to be consistently present to meet its needs and give them love and affection.
Consistency involves establishing yourself as a constant presence who your baby sees, hears and feels on a regular basis.
Being fed, changed, held, and responded to as and when needed provide this constant presence.
During the first days and weeks in a baby’s life, new moms easily guilt themselves into thinking they are doing something wrong, but simply caring for your baby and responding to their physical, social and emotional needs is enough.
3. Learn communication cues
Bonding is a process of emotional communication, and many new moms find themselves a bit lost when they’re told to communicate with their newborn who does little except sleep, eat and cry.
Crying and eye contact are the most obvious means of babies non-verbal communication and most of us, especially the first-time moms, take some time to understand the meaning behind them.
Figuring out what your baby wants is a matter of practice.
You can learn to understand your baby by paying attention to how she cries when hungry, when the diaper is wet and how he or she sounds when he wants to be held and cuddled.
There is also no shame in asking for help if you have someone more experienced available.
4. Make the most out of feeding time
If you are breastfeeding, the feeding time is your prime opportunity to bond with your baby since all significant elements needed for healthy bonding are here.
You’re in close skin-to-skin contact, baby’s needs are being met, and your soothing voice and eye contact can help the baby feel loved.
If you are a mom who can’t breastfeed or are finding breastfeeding to be less than pleasant due to painful nipples or baby having trouble latching, don’t be hard on yourself.
Bottle-feeding gives you the same opportunity to bond during feeding time. It is more important you feel calm and relaxed during feeding, as the baby will feel more peaceful too.
5. Talk to your little one
Some moms begin talking to their little one during pregnancy, while others need to “meet” the baby first.
Since the vision is still developing during the first few weeks, it’s your voice that the baby learns to connect with you first.
The baby, of course, doesn’t understand the meaning of what you’re saying but can pick up your tone and the type of emotion you are communicating surprisingly well.
This is especially important for new moms who find it difficult to do the “baby talk.”
Even if you talk about “adult” things or sing a pop song you enjoy, but with a happy voice and in a relaxed atmosphere, your baby will pick up the emotion behind the words.
6. Play in a relaxed atmosphere
The play is an essential part of your baby’s development.
Your baby will be sleeping most of the time during the first few weeks of his or her life, so there isn’t much you and your partner can do.
As baby stays awake for longer, you’ll discover the amazing feeling when your baby smiles back.
Making silly facial expressions, cooing, silly sounds, music, and rhythmic rocking all stimulate the playful side of your baby’s developing personality.
During bathing or changing, or when you or your partner get a peaceful moment to just enjoy your baby’s presence, you’ll find your own ways to play with your baby.
7. Soothing strengthens the bond
Soothing involves all previous elements of bonding and meeting your baby’s needs through feeding, touch, play, and affection.
The feeling that mommy will come when it’s hungry and that there will be smiling and caring face or a loving voice when it’s feeling discomfort helps a baby to build a sense of security and trust.
This feeling of security and trust in a primary caretaker is a foundation of a future secure attachment.
Your baby is learning that it can rely on you, your partner, or other close people from its surroundings, like the grandparents.
Later in life, this security resonates in how your child will approach the world.
8. Don’t compare yourself and your baby with others
You and your baby are unique. The way you two will bond won’t ever be 100% the same as how other moms bond with their babies, or even how you bonded or will bond with your other kids.
Your baby has its own temperament and is developing its personality week by week.
On the other hand, your pregnancy, childbirth, and your life situation change over time and influence the relationship with your baby in unforeseen ways.
As you get to know your baby, you might discover that she simply doesn’t like the company of too many people, or that he enjoys seeing new faces and meeting new people.
Neither of these is a sign that your baby hasn’t bonded with you, but instead, says more about your baby’s emerging personality.
Some babies smile earlier, others need more time.
9. Take care of yourself, too
A mother who feels good in her body, so she can share her love with the newborn is the crucial element of any healthy bond.
Life circumstances don’t always allow this, and even everyday distractions, stress and pressure can push new moms beyond reasonable coping limits.
This is why it is essential to take up any offers for help you get during the first postnatal weeks.
Any extra hour of sleep helps, and it’s very healthy for your emotional well-being to get an hour or two for yourself, to recharge.
Then you’ll be able to be with your baby while relaxed and satisfied, and there is nothing more beneficial to the bond between you.
10. Bonding time with dad
The early bonding is mostly focused on the connection between the mom and the baby, it’s easy to overlook dad’s emotions and the vital bond he needs to build with his newborn.
New dads can find it difficult to express their love to a tiny, wrinkly, crying newborn.
This is why your partner needs to get to know your baby in their own way and find their unique way of communicating.
A dad needs to create the opportunities for bonding, be it by taking part in nappy changing, night feeding, and setting up a regular playtime with dad.
He needs to discover his baby’s personality and meet his child in a way unique for them.
Seeing a baby smile for the first time at a silly face they make will seal the bond.
When to look for outside support?
Sometimes events out of your control can make it more difficult to bond with your baby.
Postnatal depression, difficult birth, or insecure social situation with lacking support, among other things, can affect your capacity for bonding.
In cases like these, look for outside support.
If you can rely on your partner or a close family member, ask for help. If you are feeling too overwhelmed and unable to cope, seek professional advice.
Babies are wondrous and adaptable creatures, who will love you unconditionally.