Ways to bond with your new infant
A parent’s job begins the moment a woman learns she is pregnant. Upon receiving such news, women typically make important changes to ensure the well-being of the fetuses growing inside them.
Once a child is born, the first few weeks with baby certainly can be a whirlwind. During this period, pediatricians note how important bonding with parents is for a baby’s development. Parents may be unaware that the touches, cuddles and feelings of safety and security provided by them help set a foundation for emotional well-being, which can last throughout their child’s life.
According to Jeff Simpson, Ph.D., adjunct professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota and an author of a study about childhood attachment, babies who were securely attached to their mothers by 12 months old (turning to her for comfort when exploring an unfamiliar place) were more likely to come out of an argument in their early 20s still feeling connected to their partners.
Simpson surmises that the ability to trust, love and resolve conflict develops in part from how people are treated as infants.
The Australian parenting website Raising Children Network says repeated human contact like singing, cuddling, talking, touching and gazing into each other’s eyes enables a newborn’s brain to release hormones that help his or her brain to grow. This, in turn, helps to develop memory, thought and language.
New parents may wonder what they can do to foster strong bonds with their babies. The following are some strategies to build those bonds.
—Breastfeed baby. Breastfeeding provides more than nutrition. The close contact during nursing helps the child to hear mom’s heartbeat and gets skin-to-skin contact.
—Make eye contact. Parents should keep eye contact with baby when engaging in feedings and other care. This helps the baby remember who their parents are and reassures them that their parents can be trusted.
—Read baby’s messages. A child who wants to engage will make little noises, such as cooing or laughing sounds. He or she also may look relaxed and interested, while some may seek out their parents. React to these messages promptly.
—Respond to cries. Parents can do their best to always respond to cries for attention as it helps the baby to feel safe. This is key during the first three months of the baby’s life. As the baby ages and has already developed a bond, parents can encourage more self-soothing.
Bonding is important for babies and parents. Developing a connection early on can provide a safe and nurturing environment that can set the course for the child to feel loved and supported throughout his or her lifetime.