There is nothing in this world more important than bonding with your baby. If you are reading this, chances are you are expecting or a new parent and it’s all you think about besides names, colors, birthing classes, and baby furniture!
Bonding is love. Bonding is protection and reassurance. Bonding is how we pass on who we are to our children. Without the reassurance of bonding, your baby can’t develop into an emotionally healthy human. Bonding started the moment you knew your baby was alive.
Bonding Before Birth
At about 4 months, you feel that little tapping, like butterfly wings. That little person is in there, dreaming about you. Doesn’t it make you want to sing?
Studies show that babies in the womb respond to music with increased heart rate at 25 to 27 weeks, and by week 31, they can hear your voice. Studies show that babies with prenatal exposure to music are smarter, calmer, and less colicky, with earlier speech and better motor skills. Since these babies get an early start hearing language, and seem to remember music they heard in the womb, it makes sense that talking, singing, and playing music to your baby gives the bonding process a better start.
Play gentle music to your baby. The fetal heart rate increases steadily over 5 minutes when music is played, but with louder music, it increases rapidly, especially with faster tempos. Play classical or acoustic, not heavy metal. Sing lullabies. Speak love and life. Your baby is listening.
Bonding With Your Newborn
When your baby is born, he or she should be laid on your naked stomach, skin to skin, until the afterbirth passes and the cord can be cut. You should not be separated unless it is medically necessary.
Finally, you and your baby get to see each other! Your baby will have just been through the most traumatic experience of his or her young life! It probably wasn’t a picnic for mom either. You both need a break.
Take time now to rest and bond with your newborn. Keep lights low, music soft, and movements gentle. Rest together while your newborn adjusts to life outside your womb. You both need it.
Breastfeeding Bonds Better
Breastfeeding is a wonderful way to bond, and there are truckloads of books on why breastfeeding babies are better off. It’s better for mom too; nursing lowers the risk of postpartum depression, tightens the uterus naturally, and burns calories like crazy. If you are worried, take a breastfeeding course now or join La Leche League for support. Don’t miss out on this ancient joy of motherhood if you can.
If you are bottle-feeding, you can still make this a bonding experience. Hold your baby on your lap, supporting his or her head. Looking into your baby’s eyes, gently stroking or massaging the head, and singing softly are all great ways to help your baby associate you, your voice, and your smell with feelings of love, comfort, and security.
The closeness that you experience during feeding is almost intoxicating. Notice the rush of tenderness you experience when you smell your baby’s head. These are the ancient mother-child bonding pheromones that were vital to ancient survival.
Talk and Play
Get in the habit of playtime, just for you and your baby. Spend time just playing and talking, face to face, eye to eye, smile to smile. It’s tempting to try to get things done around the house, but remember, nothing is more important than this little person. What you do now to bond with him or her is far more important than work or house cleaning. As a parent, this is your job.
One fun way to spend time together is bath time. After bath time, lay baby on a towel on the bed and massage him or her with a lotion that your pediatrician recommends. Allow baby’s skin to breathe and check for rashes. Gently flex baby’s arms and legs. Rub on the lotion while you talk and smile into your baby’s face. Smiling shows your baby that he or she is ok. This part of touch bonding allows baby to become comfortable with his or her body and to develop a sense of self-worth. Mama loves me, I make Mama smile, I feel good.
Baby Bonding is Important for the Whole Family
Doesn’t bonding just happen? In a way, it does. Bonding is crucial to the survival of the human race. If prehistoric parents being chased by a saber-tooth tiger just dropped their babies to run faster, we might not be here!
However, modern life is much more complex. Studies show that adolescents who become alienated from their families are much more likely to make bad choices. You need a powerful, loving bond, because parenting is never going to be as easy as it is when they are adorable babies who can’t talk back.
Bonding with your baby is also vital in the short run. Lack of bonding can lead to a poor sense of self or even personality disorders. Babies who are held, comforted, and snuggled in the first six months of life grow up to be more confident toddlers and children.
Bonding is important for the whole family. It can be strange for the new dad who suddenly finds himself feeling displaced by a tiny person. Without good bonding, a dad can experience feelings of jealousy or confusion about his role in the baby’s life. Make sure dad gets plenty of quiet time with baby, preferably after a feeding. If there are siblings, give them a role in baby’s care if they are old enough, and put them in a nearby playpen or supervise them if they are too young. Fostering a loving relationship now will last a lifetime.