For many new parents this isn’t something that takes thought or action, for many parents bonding is instant and as natural as breathing in and out and the bonding begins during pregnancy and continues effortlessly after their baby is born. For others feeling a deep bond and connection to your baby may not be as instant. Sometimes a traumatic birth, a perinatal mood disorder, or other factors might contribute to having trouble bonding. If you are having these feelings is can be helpful to talk to your GP, a children’s health nurse, midwife, psychologist or therapist. Please see Support Services for more info that might be helpful for you if you are at all worried about bonding, or your own mental health.
Below are some ideas that might help any parent who wants to foster or build on a strong secure bond between themselves and their baby. Also there is no time limit on forming a bond, these ideas may help with newborns, babies and even with older children.
Skin to Skin. If possible initiate skin to skin at birth, or soon after. You may need to discuss this with your care provider, or include it in your Birth Plan, if there are no medical reasons that would prevent them from doing so, your baby is handed immediately to you, and placed naked on your chest, then have a warmed blanket laid over the top of you to keep baby and you warm while you have your first snuggles. Skin to skin time can be continued at home, and not just for newborns. You might want to bath or shower with baby to have that special bonding time each day. Breastfeeding or Bottle feeding is another good way to have skin to skin time every day.
Breath them in. For some parents the smell of their baby helps with feeling connected to their baby, hold your baby and smell the top of their head, smell their breath – taking deep breaths to relax you also. For me, when I felt disconnected I could smell my baby and he smelt like my baby, I can’t describe how powerful that was for me.
Eye contact. Is so important, for babies, and children, even bonding with adults, eye contact can help create a feeling of closeness.
Feeding. When you feed your baby, no matter how your baby is fed, this is a bonding experience. If you bottle feed, as tempting as it might be to have baby hold their own bottle as they get older, try to still take that time to bond and connect with your baby while they’re fed. Bonding and feeding can continue right though to adulthood by having a family meal, with technology off, to talk and reconnect as a family at least once a day if possible. Simple daily rituals can help maintain connection and bonds within a family.
Respond to their physical and emotional needs. Feed your baby when they are hungry, help them sleep when they’re tired, pick them up when they need a cuddle and comfort. By meeting your baby’s needs you are building their trust in you, they will learn they can count on you to be there for them when they need you.
Communication. Talk to your baby, and listen when they “talk” back. As children get older, keep the lines of communication open, talk to them about your day, your life and your feelings and listen to them and hear theirs.
Ignore pressure to disconnect. People might tell you that you’re spoiling your baby, to put them down, or that by holding and responding to your baby you are “making a rod for your own back”. I can assure you that you will not look back when you’re children are grown adults and wish you had spent less time holding them when they were little.
Take care of yourself. This is important for bonding that you respond to and respect your own feelings as well. If you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed to talk to someone about how you are feeling. If you’re tired and run down, if you’re getting frustrated or angry, it’s okay to put baby in a safe space – like their cot – and get a drink of water and take some deep breaths.
For more on bonding please read: Attachment Parenting