It’s true that some infants and mothers instantly bond from the minute the baby is handed over into the mother’s arms. However, there are just as many instances where mothers feel protective of – but not necessarily “in love” with – their baby in those early months.
The reality is that you are two separate people, thrown together by biology, chance and inexplicable mystery – so it may take time and effort to bond with your baby in a deeply connected way.
Bonding with your baby is good for the body as well as the soul
The more researchers examine the life of infants – the more they’ve connected the importance of mother/baby bonding with the baby’s overall physical, mental and emotional health.
An article in Parent’s Magazine shares several studies that demonstrate that babies who have strong, safe bonds with their primary caregivers (typically the mother) have a greater ability to love and trust the world around them, sleep better and even have more developed brains.
With that in mind, here are 7 of the best ways to bond with your newborn…
1. Bond with your baby bump
Your developing baby is much more aware of its external surroundings than you know. S/he can sense changes in light and easily recognizes familiar voices – most especially yours. If your baby isn’t born yet, make time to bond with your baby bump. It’s the first step in creating an extra special connection with your newborn.
2. Have skin-to-skin contact immediately after the baby is born
Unless there’s a true medical emergency, make “skin-to-skin” contact part of your birth plan. Those first few minutes are precious – helping to anchor your baby and you in a storm of activity. There’s plenty of time for the birth team to weigh, measure and take Apgar scores after you’ve had some moments to be together.
Should your baby need immediate medical attention, have your birth partner stay right with the baby – talking to him/her and even holding his/her hand all the way so s/he feels supported.
3. Breastfeed your baby
Breastfeeding is about so much more than nutrition. Your bodies communicate with one another in a myriad of ways while breastfeeding, including smell, touch and rhythmic heartbeats.
Read Breastfeeding Tips for New Mothers and print a copy so you have instant access to important tips – as well as La Leche League contacts and other lactation support if breastfeeding is a challenge. Never hesitate to seek help if needed to smooth your breastfeeding journey.
4. Take a Babymoon (with baby!)
Outside of required physician or midwife appointments, ditch the calendar, the phone and outings. Hunker down for as many days as you can in a “Babymoon,” – a honeymoon for you and baby. Keep your baby on your chest or lap as much as possible; it’s the only place s/he wants to be anyway. Really minimize visitors that first week or two – in addition to helping you bond, this also protects you and baby from overstimulation and unnecessary fatigue.
5. Work to read his/her signals
Eye contact, smiling, snuggling and cooing are all ways to connect and bond with a newborn. But sometimes, your baby needs a break from that, too. Learn to read baby’s signals, indicating s/he needs a break or a more gentle or distant approach. These include things like yawning, looking away from you, pushing/pulling away from you or crying.
6. Respond to her cries – always
For the first three months, you should always respond to your baby’s cries. This is not the time to try the “cry it out” method because infants cry to say, “I need something.” Pick your baby up and speak lovingly, mirroring with words what their cry seems to say, “I know you’re so tired/frustrated/uncomfortable/hot/irritated/etc….”
If it seems like your baby doesn’t want to be held, stay nearby so s/he can see you and maybe offer a finger or a hand – a soothing voice. All of this helps your baby to feel safe and secure.
7. Leave the mess and don’t stress
The more you fret about everything that isn’t getting done, the more stressed you and your baby will be. Just surrender to the fact that things will be messier, and more complicated, and not as organized as you want them to be – and that’s okay. Your biggest and most important job right now is to bond with your newborn – the rest will take care of itself eventually.
Bonus tip: Give friends a family to-do lists. They’ve all said, “Call me if you need anything…” and they mean it. From grocery and errand runs to doing a load of dishes or holding the baby so you can take a shower – ask, ask, ask, for help and people will be so thrilled you did.
Schedule a consultation with the OBs and midwives at Overlake and we promise to do all we can to support you and your newborn’s relationship.