Bonding with your baby is crucial to your child’s development. How exactly do you bond with a baby? Here are 7 tips to developing a close relationship with your newborn.
- What is bonding?
- 7 Important Ways for New Parents to Connect with Their Baby
- Breastfeed your baby
- Tips for fathers to bond with a new baby
What is bonding?
Bonding is considered creating a healthy, connected relationship between parent and child.
On its own, “bonding” is an elusive term that is otherwise indefinable. It means different things in different contexts, to different people, that it can be difficult to define.
Our perceived life experience is our truth which is why it’s so difficult to accept someone else’s experience as truth – this is the double empathy problem. Noting this is important in the context of bonding because bonds look different for everyone.
How you bond with your child won’t look the same as another parent’s way of bonding.
7 Important Ways for New Parents to Connect with Their Baby
While you will bond in your own way for what works for you, here is a list of ways to bond with your new baby. All are proven to benefit child development.
1. Meet your baby’s needs.
Are they crying? Okay, are they hungry? Gassy? Diaper changed? Meet your child’s physical needs as often as you can.
Sometimes, babies just want to be held. This is a need – babies need to be held to develop secure attachments to their caregivers and feel safe in their environment.
It is scientifically impossible to “spoil” a baby. “Spoiling” a baby is literally the same as meeting a baby’s needs.
Babies are developmentally incapable of self-soothing. Making them cry it out has detrimental effects on their development and leads to long-term negative mental health that carries into adulthood.
They’re babies, not adults. Even adults need help sometimes, but babies are entirely helpless and there is nothing they can do about it.
As the legal guardian of your child, it is your responsibility to meet your child’s needs. Crying it out is neglectful because it ignores your baby’s need for human connection. Babies rarely survive without human connection, and those who do, do not develop secure attachments to people.
At the heart of everything that is good in our life is human connection. Do not withhold this from your child.
Take care of yourself.
While the goal is to meet your baby’s needs most of the time, remember that no parent is perfect. You won’t always get it right and that is okay. A secure attachment is still possible even during the rough times.
Take time out for yourself to nap, rest, and pursue interests you enjoy. In the newborn days, that’s often a simple as taking a shower and putting on fresh clothes. Your baby picks up on your mood and feelings, so taking care of your mental health is an important priority.
2. Read to your baby.
Did you know that intelligence is made and not something one is born with? Babies whose caregivers read to them grow up more intelligent than kids who were not read to as babies.
Reading to your baby exposes them to stories and a wide range of words during a time they might not be exposed to the vocabulary typically. It also may lead to your child reading earlier than their peers.
Have a variety of books on hand that teach various development skills, like emotional regulation and pattern recognition. To avoid them just memorizing the story, read different books everyday. If they have a favorite – and they soon will – read the favorite in addition to a second, random book.
3. Maintain a routine.
Babies thrive on routine. Adapt your schedule to them, and they will adapt theirs to you. Meet your baby’s needs when they surface instead of waiting – unless you’re on the road and literally cannot.
Don’t force your baby to comply with your routine out of convenience because they’re not going to understand why you won’t feed them right now. Babies are not capable of patience. Again, they’re babies.
Keep the house quiet when it’s usually quiet, and they will adapt to napping around that time more than they do during its noisy hours. Try times of letting a baby sleep in a noisy space. This will be more convenient for you in the long run because they won’t startle awake at the first sign of a loud noise.
Just make sure it’s not so loud it damages their eardrums.
4. Hold them.
Perhaps the most basic way to bond with your baby is to simply hold them. Human connection is powerful. Babies love hearing the heartbeats of their caregivers.
Ever so often, there’s a story about a stillborn baby being revived after its mother holds them. There are many more stories of babies in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) having higher chances of survival from just holding an adult’s finger or being talked to.
You cannot spoil a baby so you can hold yours 24/7 if you want to. “Baby wearing”, sometimes one word, is to where you put your baby in a sling or baby carrier on your back or front. The back is generally preferred unless the baby is new.
I can personally attest that this is one of the most precious ways to bond with a baby. There’s nothing sweeter than a baby asleep on your back, even when you’ve got an itch from sweating because you are both hot.
Baby wearing is associated with secure attachment parenting because it allows the baby to experience their environment from a safe space. That safe space is with whoever wears them.
In my experience of wearing my cousins, they felt safer with me at family gatherings where their parents were busy. None of the other family members had worn them.
Baby carriers, wraps and slings give you your hands and arms back! So if you don’t want to miss out on holding these little ones as much as possible because you can’t sit on the couch and hold them all day, this might be the next best thing.
Babywearing is also a better way to grocery shop, as you will always know where they are and will have extra space in the cart. I’ve never seen a story about a baby being kidnapped from baby wearing before.
5. Be present.
A baby cries when you leave the room because you left the room. They do not fully develop object permanence until they’re seven months of age, provided they’re not neurodivergent.
Object permanence is to where something continues to exist when you can no longer see or sense it.
For example, I would try to see beyond the screen of the TV as a kid because I thought the rest of cartoons existed in the TV somehow. I didn’t understand the concept of the cartoons or how the TV screen only showed portions of scenes instead of entire worlds.
Another example of object permanence is forgetting about things if you can’t see them. Neurodivergent people often don’t “ghost”, they just forget you exist. It’s nothing personal — just neurodivergence.
Babies function similarly. They do not know you will be back. In their brains, they truly believe you are leaving them stranded and alone. They cry because they’re scared — not because they’re spoiled.
6. Skin-to-skin contact
Fathers often find skin-to-skin contact helps them bond with their babies, since they historically do not spend as much time with their new babies.
Skin-to-skin contact helps stabilize the baby’s heartbeat and breathing patterns. It also releases oxytocin, or the “love hormone”.
Science has proven that premature babies show better regulation and improved growth when they are held with skin-on-skin contact.
7. Talk and sing to them
Your baby will learn your voice and bond with you as you talk and sing to them.
There’s a reason baby playgroups engage in the activities they do, like stretches, dancing, singing, laughing, even though those things are embarrassing out of context for many adults. They are wonderful bonding options for parent and baby.
Breastfeed your baby
Breastfeeding is an ideal way to give a newborn excellent nutrition and human connection.
Breastfeeding your baby is a beautiful way to bond with your child, as the baby is literally tied to you and gains skin-to-skin contact.
If you are in a situation where nursing isn’t possible, don’t dismiss this strategy just yet.
You can also achieve this same type of connection with a bottle. Instead of propping that bottle on a pillow, hold and feed your baby the same way you might if you’re breastfeeding.
Some adoptive mothers can induce lactation with the help of their doctors if they wish to. This will be more difficult for mothers with a yeast allergy, however, as that affects the hormones associated with creating breast milk.
Tips for fathers to bond with a new baby
If you can go on paternity leave, consider doing so either during the same time as the other parent or afterward.
Don’t be afraid to hold your baby when your partner is not. Again, babies cannot be spoiled! They need to be held to feel safe and loved. You’re not going to break them. Babies look and feel more fragile than they are.
Dads, bond with your baby as much as you can. They’re only little once, and you will appreciate the time you spent with them while they still let you.
Eventually, they will grow up and not want to be held as much anymore, as they lean towards exploring and being more independent. This is just a part of growing up.
Fathers can find a carrier that works for them so that they can wear your baby. An ideal baby carrier will position the baby facing in (against you) and not out (away from you).