This may arguably be the most important thing you do with your baby during the first few weeks of his or her life.
Bonding with your baby is the process of building a relationship with your little one and developing a way of understanding – especially during those first few weeks when you have no idea what your baby seems to want or need.
While some mothers fall in love instantly and have no trouble forming a strong attachment to their babies, other mothers may need more time. Perhaps labour was particularly painful or there may have been complications or you find yourself struggling with a cranky baby, are always tired or in a less-than-ideal home situation – these are all scenarios affecting bonding with your baby.
Attachment begins after birth and grows stronger as baby grows older. Every time you cuddle your baby or hold them close, when you gaze into their eyes or tickle them – these are the moments when you are building your bond.
Make time to sit with your baby, play with him or her, singing songs or playing games, even when you are not sure that they understand at all. Especially when they are a few days old and you don’t know if they even know who you are! Did you know that your baby already knows your voice? Research shows that babies learn the sound of their mother’s voice while still in the womb, which means that when they are born, your voice alone will be a comfort to them.
Within a week, your baby can recognise your face and of course, your smell. By the time your baby is six weeks old, you will begin to see them smiling for the first time. This is a wonderful and magical time for most parents, as you can begin to interact with your little one and see the joy and happiness on their face when you spend time with them.
Bonding with your baby is also important for your little one as it encourages hormones and chemicals to be released for brain development. Bonding is not only vital for mothers, but fathers and grandparents can also bond with the baby. This is especially helpful when a mother is struggling to cope or perhaps suffering from post-natal depression.
How can I bond with my baby?
Don’t worry if you see your baby responding to other people, reaching out to them or calling for them. This is a good sign and shows your baby is capable of forming bonds. Feelings of jealousy are natural but really unnecessary as the love your baby feels for you will always be stronger than any emotion for someone else.
If you feel that your bond is perhaps not as good as you’d like it to be, focus on spending more time with your baby; making eye contact, touching them, and talking to them. Go outside or for walks in the park and talk to them about what is happening around them.
Don’t worry if you don’t feel a strong bond with your baby right away. Getting used to your new routine may have put you in survival mode where your emotions are somewhat reserved. Remember what is important. Don’t focus on cooking or cleaning. Your baby must come first.
In the first few hours after birth, having plenty of skin-to-skin contact can be a very powerful way to develop a bond with your baby. If you were unable to do so, don’t fear, you can work on building a bond later as well. It all comes down to quality time between you and your baby.
For many parents, the bond becomes a reality with time as they suddenly feel the love they have for their child, or when their baby’s face lights up as they walk into the room. If you worry that your bond with your baby is not as it should be or if you are feeling depressed and weighed down by the responsibilities of your new life, you may want to consider seeking help from a doctor or nurse. Post-natal depression, also called the baby blues, is common and easily treated and affects up to 15% of mothers.
Do nothing – together. The love between mother and child is one of the most special and profound connections on earth – and also one of the most rewarding. Allow yourself to feel it and let it nurture you – as it does them.