It has been a long nine months of waiting, and your baby is finally here. How do you foster a connection between you given you are nearly strangers? How moms and dads create an instant connection with the little bundle of joy, and how to deal with any difficulty they experience in parent-baby connecting.
It is the deep link that is formed between parents and children immediately after childbirth or later. It is that special connection that makes you always want to respond to your baby’s needs with love. Binding invokes a strong emotion that would make any parent want to catch a grenade for their kid, literally. The family bond is what makes a parent stay awake late at night feeding their precious and understand their different needs.
Why is it important?
Parent-baby bonds are vital for development. The connection that a parent and a child have is excellent for the emotional health of your infant which is essential in dealing with any challenges they face as they become older. It promotes growth and the children’s socializing skills for them to form intimate relationships later in life. How mothers and babies bind after birth promote the babies’ sense of security, confidence, and self-esteem thus making attachment parenting worth every single moment.
When does baby bonding happen?
It happens differently with every parent and child. Some form a baby connect instantly after they see their newborn for the first time. Another 20% of parents feel no real emotional bond to their babies for some hours after delivery. There is no need to panic if it takes you a few days, weeks or months to form newborn connections. Like any other kind of love, bonding with baby is a process that requires patience and will grow gradually. It is also the magic that explains how adopted babies attached with their adoptive parents even if they did not participate in their lives at their younger ages.
Attachment milestones with your little one
For sure you’ll face with challenges such as fussiness, unresponsiveness of the infant and that might defy your emotional connection, efforts to bond leading to fear and anxiety. Here are some milestones to monitor the progress of the baby’s attachment. Sometimes happens that the milestones are not happening in a proper way or in the right period of time. This should be a signal for seeking help. Attachment problems might become a solid issue if not identified early.
- Attention and regulations (birth – 3 month old baby)
It’s the most crying period. Until the three month old baby is only trying to adapt to a new world and all emotions are expressed in crying. As a result, it is hard for him to interact and pay attention to you. But when he is not crying, he is attentive to other things but not engaging with you. Do not force anything; just be with him. When he shows attention to you respond by touching, soothing or expressing playful gestures.
- Shared joy (3 – 6 month old baby)
At this stage, the baby has sensory experiences. He can express gestures but will not be in the mood of interacting some time. Just follow his lead. Interact when he wants to but let him be if he is not feeling it.
- Communication exchange (4 – 10 months)
Now your kid has a more sophisticated engagement with you that even he can have a back and forth conversation. He has more gestures and expressions that show what he wants. Follow the lead and respond to those non-verbal cues.
- Gestures and problem-solving (10 – 18 months)
At this fourth milestone, your little one has more improved skills such as pointing, walking, scooting that can lead to better connections and attachment to you. Respond to your baby’s gesture to confirm you understand them, for instance handing him something he pointed.
How to bond with your baby?
Such a connection with your kid happens in many ways. The initial bonding begins before you give birth. Feeling your little one kick, or seeing him on an ultrasound screen is where you start to establish a connection. Other activities that foster the infant attachment include;
Try making a skin-to-skin connection
It’s very important to feel your little one as soon as possible. A newborn is put mom on the stomach, to make skin connection, and start the process of sharing energy and contact. The best, if you can do that just after the labor in peace and quiet. It’s called “kangaroo care” and help a mother and a newborn to feel each other in a new way. But even after the first interaction, touching and skin on skin connection are extremely important. Try to caress him regularly, gently canoodle when you change his nappy, feed or bath him. Encourage skin contact so that he can learn to identify the texture of his parents.
Respond to the cries
Even if are not able to tell why your newborn is crying the first time, you should always be attentive to it. Your care and respond help him to feel secure and physically safe. So, he feels trust and gratitude.
Making them feel comfortable by rocking them in your arms or gently massaging. It’s proven that massage improves the relationships between parent and baby and relieves stress in premature infants As well. Plus, it stimulates the release of feel-good hormone oxytocin and can lift the mood and eases postpartum depression.
Maintain eye contact
Gaze your newborn in the eyes while daily tasks and communication. This will help him learn the connection between words, emotions and feelings.
Spend as much time as possible chatting
You can boost attachment by giving him the ability to feel you and the world around. Wear him in a sling or carrier, rocking him on your lap, talking to him and make different facial expressions. Different things around like what to look at, who to listen to and feel makes his brain grow. If you chat with him, he won’t understand you but recognizes your voice, intonation, and smile. Kiss him, stroke his cheeks, lean towards him closer, smile and chat.
Talk, smile, sing, dance, play games as you change their diapers, sooth them to sleep, while feeding, etc. You can just pronounce the actions you are doing now or tell stories and tales. This helps newborn learn to recognize the sound of your voice. Babies love songs, rhythm, and sounds of music. And that’s not a big deal if you forget the words or the tune.
If singing is not your forte, try to dance across from your child so he can see. It induces the production of various beneficial hormones in your body. So the dance will not only entertains your precious but also a good way to relieve mom’s stress. Dancing with your kid, holding him can be very fun. He will probably love being twirled around, jiggled about and flipped over.
What can be more beautiful and natural? It is the most organic way to create strong bonds. It is proven that closeness and intimacy of breastfeeding strengthen maternal affection. When a baby suckling, happening a massive rush of the ‘love hormone’ oxytocin in women’s brains. This release enhances a mother’s feelings of trust, love and affection.
How fathers bond with their babies?
In most cases, a father’s attachment is very strong as well. But it is your duty to assist your partner to promote this tie with the kid. Though some of the techniques above also work for the dads. When trying to establish a father-baby bond, here are some tips your spouse can use;
- Begin before birth by participating in ultrasound appointments, prenatal visits and touching your spouse’s stomach to feel the kicks
- Participate in child delivery by being there in the room to encourage your partner
- Help your partner by making babies food and feeding them, changing the diapers, giving them a bath, or mimicking their moves
- Use front baby carriers during routine family bonding activities.
How does the baby connect?
You will definitely notice it. They will smile at you, make eye contact, coo, laugh or cry. Following their lead in these behaviors will help strengthen your connection.
Why support is important?
Having your partner, family members or friends help you with household chores is highly recommended especially for breastfeeding moms to give you ample time to create a bond with your kid. They can also support you emotionally. Outsourcing a support system is excellent for the child to learn to connect with other people.
Factors that contribute to delayed baby attachment
- Postpartum depression;
- If a mother experienced difficult and prolonged labor;
- The equipment used in the ICU for premature delivery or unforeseen issues with the mother well being may hinder the normal parent and child ties;
- Facing the reality that you have a baby may delay attachment as the parent adjusts their mental picture.
When should you worry?
Although parent baby connect happens eventually, there is a need for concern if at the first doctor’s visit you feel you have not tied or if you are finding it difficult to feel each other.
Share your concerns with your pediatrician to diagnose and treat you if you’re suffering from postnatal depression or postpartum depression. You can also join classes for newborns parents where you can share your experience with others.
It is great for you if you created an attachment with your baby soon after birth. For those parents that face difficulties establishing that attachment, it is okay. Bonding is complex and there’s no formula to making it happen at your pace. Just care and spend time with your newborn as much as possible. The magic will happen and you will be having total fun raising your little one. Happy family bonding!