From the moment you feel that first flutter of life growing inside you, you may have stirrings of an unbreakable bond developing. Most newborns will recognise their mother’s scent the moment they are born and will feel comfortable in their mother’s arms. This is not a bond that your baby is born with, but rather something that is nurtured with each moment you spend together.
Ways to bond with your baby:
1. Look into their eyes
Newborns can only see about 30cm away – just enough distance for them to see you when you’re breastfeeding. They are especially fascinated by your eyes and can stare at your face for hours, so eye-to-eye contact and facial expressions are very effective means of bonding with your baby.
How/when: breastfeeding or bottle-feeding; cuddle time
2. Touch them
Skin-to-skin contact is essential as your newborn will be familiar with your touch, as well as your smell. This kangaroo care where you hold your naked baby against your bare skin allows intimate bonding to be established. Touch your child at the same time and you imprint your particular touch on your baby’s memory.
How/when: feeding time; nap time; cuddle time; bath time
3. Sing to them
Your baby hears everything around them but is particularly attuned to your voice. While the cute toys and mobiles you have in your newborn’s room serve as stimulation, a wonderful way to bond with your baby is to talk and read to your infant and sing your own lullabies. Your voice will become familiar and your baby will become attached to your voice. This is also a great way for dad to form a bond with his baby.
How/when: anytime; use a sling to carry baby while you are working around the house.
4. Feel your heartbeat
When held close to your chest, your newborn will recognise your heartbeat. This will soothe them, make them feel secure and help with the formation of a trusting relationship.
How/when: anytime; use a sling while you are doing the household chores.
Within a few weeks, you will notice that your infant begins to express pleasure with coos and glimpses of a smile. They will also begin to communicate hunger, pain or fear through different cries that you will have begun to understand. You and your baby will soon understand each other’s signals and if you are responsive to their needs, they learn to trust you.
It is important to remember that it is impossible to spoil a newborn, so don’t listen to those who might be telling you that you are. From birth, your infant does not realise that it is separate from you. They are aware only of their needs and expressing them; it is understandable that you pick up and soothe your child. It is probably safe to say you can’t hold your baby too much during the first three months.
“You and your baby will soon understand each other’s signals and if you are responsive to their needs, they learn to trust you.”
As your infant gets older, verbally responding to their cries develops their listening skills and language recognition. Holding and talking to your baby are quite possibly the most important contributions you can make to your baby’s future development. These first few years are the groundwork and a strong healthy attachment between mother and child is the key.
Bonding with dad
It can be hard for fathers to watch their partners become so consumed with their newborn, and it is understandable that there may be feelings of jealousy of the time that mom and baby are sharing together. Fathers can begin to feel more bonded when they have an opportunity to share in newborn feeding and changing activities, burping the baby, kangaroo care and rocking the baby to sleep.
A lack of bonding
If you still don’t feel any attachment to your newborn after a few weeks, or you feel any negative feelings towards them, you may be suffering from postnatal depression (PND). This condition requires treatment and there is support available that will enable you to establish a bond with your baby. Note, fathers can also suffer from PND.