BY DR. CARON B. GOODE
The bonding period for you and your baby begins long before birth. As your baby grows and develops within you, the special relationship between you and your child is already beginning to form. This special relationship, full of intense emotion, a deep sense of connection, and a strong attachment is what drives a mother to feed her baby in the middle of the night or comfort her when she’s crying. This same bond waters the roots of trust and open communication with your baby and teaches her that she is loved, valued, and respected.
While some new moms may feel instantly attached to their babies immediately following birth, other moms need a bit more time to adjust to their new role by physically, emotionally, and hormonally recovering from the birthing experience.
Wherever you are on your bonding journey, it’s important to know that bonding is a process and not an end result. Each day you respond to your baby’s needs, gaze into her eyes, or shower her with your love and affection—your bond is growing deeper, wider, and more intense.
As you learn to interact with your baby, use these tips that can help you grow your bond with your baby.
Bond through Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding promotes closeness between a mother and baby. When you breastfeed your baby, you’re guaranteed to hold your baby close 8–18 times per day. If you’re able, consider breastfeeding your baby.
As you feed your baby, interact with him. Talk, make faces, sing songs, or engage him in a babbling conversation. You’ll see your baby begin to copy the things you do as your relationship grows and develops.
Bond through Touch
Your baby will respond to the warmth of your touch. Skin-to-skin contact will also help your baby feel secure, stay warm, and promote bonding. Lay your nude baby against your bare chest, and cover your baby’s back with a lightweight blanket.
Bond through Eye Contact
Your baby will gaze into your eyes for hours. Your newborn will typically see you best when your face is about one foot away from her body. When feeding your baby, make faces, smile, and look into your baby’s eyes to promote bonding.
Bond through Sounds
Your baby loves your voice. Sing and talk to your baby often. Your voice is a familiar sound to your baby, and your baby will feel comforted by hearing you sing or speak. Your baby will also be soothed if you lay him on your chest with his head near your heart. The familiar sound of your heartbeat will relax him.
Bond through Responding to Your Baby’s Needs
Simply picking up your baby when she cries or feeding your baby when he’s hungry will promote bonding and trust. As you learn your baby’s language, you’ll notice that different cries mean different things, and you’ll be able to meet your baby’s needs more quickly.
Bond through Baby-Wearing & Snuggling Together
Wearing your baby is a safe way to carry her close. Wearing your baby promotes trust and a sense of security in her and helps to stimulate him with sound and motion.
Hold your baby often, and embrace times of simply snuggling together. Being together, uninterrupted, is a natural way to bond with your baby.
Bond through Infant Massage
Massaging your baby is a natural way to improve your baby’s physical and emotional health. When a mother massages her baby, her body releases oxytocin, a hormone which helps her to relax and bond with her baby. Set aside a few minutes each day to physically connect with your baby though massage.
Bond through Routine & Repetition
Doing something over and over again helps your baby to process information and learn about her world. Repetition also instills a sense of safety and security in your baby, which promotes bonding.
Babies thrive when they have a routine because they like knowing what comes next. Routines help babies feel safe and secure, which fosters the bond of trust. Establish a solid bedtime routine to help your baby get a good night’s sleep.
Bond through Books
Sharing a picture book with your baby promotes an emotional connection and stimulates a positive interaction. Look for colorful picture books or books with pictures of babies’ faces to share with him.
Bond through Baths
Babies love soothing warm water, and taking a bath together can be a relaxing way to connect and bond with your baby. Make bath time a part of your bedtime routine.
In addition to your smell, most babies are soothed by the scents of lavender and eucalyptus essential oils. Dab a drop of essential oil on the outside of your baby’s pajamas or in bath water to help calm a fussy baby.
Bond through Play
Playing simple games with your baby promotes a joyful interaction. Try capturing your baby’s attention by playing peek-a-boo outside of normal playtimes, like during diaper changes and baths.
Bond through Dance
Babies love to be swayed and gently rocked to the sounds of music. Hold your baby close, and gently twirl around the room. It’s a natural way to create a physical and emotional closeness with your baby.
The mother/child bond doesn’t magically appear. The magic happens over the course of time you spend lovingly caring for your baby. Like any relationship, nurturing it, prioritizing it, and embracing it will help it successfully grow and develop.
Dr. Goode is a licensed counselor and the founder and faculty member of the Academy for Coaching Parents International (www.acpi.biz). She has recently co-authored (with Tara Paterson) the award-winning Raising Intuitive Children and Nurture Your Child’s Gift.