Bonding With Your Newborn
From the first moment you lock eyes with your newborn baby, you will want to bond with her and show her that you’ve never loved anything or anyone as much as you love her. You’ll want to shower her constantly with affection. But bonding with a newborn isn’t always so easy for every parent.
Even though the miracle of life is portrayed as such a magical moment for new parents, it might not be picturesque in real life. After hours of labor, you will be physically and emotionally exhausted, and your baby will be squalling — not exactly an ideal scenario for instantaneous bonding.
Bonding with your baby can be work, and there’s no exact time frame for every parent and newborn. But taking the time to learn ways to bond with your newborn will help both parents feel connected and promote healthy development for your baby.
Why Bonding Is So Important
When your baby shows attachments — strong physical and emotional connections — to his caregivers or parents, and eventually other people in his life, it releases hormones that promote healthy brain growth. Bonding also encourages brain developments that are connected to body growth, learning capabilities, and emotional reactions.
Bonding with your baby strengthens the connection between parent and child. It allows your newborn baby to feel secure and helps her understand that you are the one she can rely on for all her needs, including love and comfort.
How Does Bonding Happen?
As the parent, you can begin to feel a connection to your baby before he’s even born. Anticipating his birth, setting up the nursery, and picking out baby names are all ways to feel connected to the little person you’re going to bring into the world. Your baby will also feel connected to you in the womb because of the sound of your voice.
Once your baby is born, many normal, day-to-day activities and experiences can be chances for bonding. When you feed, hold, talk to, and care for your newborn, you’re bonding with her, showing her you’re the person who provides for her. It’s instinctual. The best ways to bond with your baby will feel natural and fun.
Bonding isn’t something that always happens the first moment your newborn is placed in your arms, and it doesn’t happen overnight. Research shows that around 20% of new parents don’t feel an emotional connection with their little ones in the hours after delivery. It’s a process that can take weeks or months. So don’t feel guilty or ashamed if your bonding isn’t instantaneous. As with most things related to newborn caregiving, patience is key!
Talk to your loved ones and keep in contact with your doctor if you’re worried about postnatal depression. Reach out to a parent helpline for counseling and support.
Ways to Bond With Your Baby
Breastfeeding. In addition to providing the nutrition your little one needs, breastfeeding allows him to be close to you, to feel and smell your skin. Keep eye contact during feedings as well.
Respond to distress. Your baby will cry a lot during the first months of her life — it’s her only way of communicating. Holding her and reassuring her as quickly as possible when she’s upset helps build trust.
Be silly. Talk to, play with, and make silly faces at your baby. Giving him attention and playing with him encourages smiles and laughter and help with bonding.
Hold your baby on your left side. This will allow your newborn to hear your heartbeat.
Learn to swaddle. For most babies, a good swaddle means good sleep. Teach yourself the best newborn swaddle techniques to make your baby feel secure and safe.
Do what he likes. Once you’ve learned what activities make your baby happy, try to do them as regularly as possible.
If your newborn has to spend some time in the NICU in the days after delivery, talk to the nurses about allowing you to assist with changing and baths. Even though you don’t get to spend as much time with him as you’d like, this way you can still interact with your baby.
How Dad Can Bond With Baby
Most fathers might think that bonding with their babies won’t be as easy because babies are instinctually attached to their mothers through birth and breastfeeding. And although it might take some time and effort, newborns are just as capable of bonding with their dads as with anyone else.
Here are a few ways for dads to bond with their babies.
Bottle feeding. Dads can have the same close, snuggly experience moms have when feeding their newborns, even though it’s with a bottle. Just hold your little one close to you and gaze into his eyes while he feeds.
Nighttime duty. During the night, let mom sleep while you take care of any middle-of-the-night distress your baby has. This will help your baby understand that she can rely on mom and you for her needs.
Help with diaper duty. Mom will be thankful that she doesn’t have to change every dirty diaper, and this allows for time spent making silly faces at and talking to your baby.
Take baby for a walk. Get some fresh air and exercise using a carrier or sling so he can feel close to you on a little adventure outside.
Set a special “dad” time. If you’re a busy dad, try to set time out of every day where you and your newborn get to bond one-on-one. Try a book before bedtime or a massage when she first wakes up.
Benefits of Skin-to-Skin Contact
Many experts agree that one of the best and easiest ways to bond with your baby is through skin-to-skin contact. Skin-to-skin contact is when you place your baby on your chest with the skin touching. Use a blanket to keep your baby warm during skin-to-skin contact.
Try to introduce skin-to-skin contact as soon as possible after delivery. During skin-to-skin contact, hormones like oxytocin and endorphins get released, which helps create the emotional bond between parent and child. This can also lessen the possibility of postnatal depression.
Also, skin-to-skin contact isn’t something that only moms can do! Dads release the same hormones and can easily bond with their little ones during skin-to-skin contact as well.
Moms Share Their Bonding Experiences
“Lots of skin to skin for both mama and papa and baby helps. My husband would bond by holding our babies so I could shower or use the bathroom for extended periods of time. I bonded with my babies through breastfeeding and tons of snuggles and ‘laying in’ as much as possible.” –Lindsey Mason
“My husband changed all the diapers for the first few days. It gave him a ‘thing’ to do that made him feel special. Eventually, he took over bath time for a while. They listened to music and made that their bonding time.” –Kate Jones
“I struggled with bonding because of my depression, but it’s really about being there for my baby when she needs me and lots of physical contact.” –Nancy Evans