10 Ways to Build a Bond with Your Newborn Baby
Skin to Skin
One of the most basic things you can do with a new baby is physical contact. Skin to skin is usually recommended as soon as your little one is delivered. This contact between your and baby lets them feel your breathing and your heartbeat, making them feel safe and secure. While it gives you an excellent opportunity for cuddling, there are also some health benefits your little one will benefit from. It can improve the baby’s blood oxygen levels, build a strong immune system, and helps to regulate and strengthen their breathing and heart rate. There’s enough evidence backing these benefits that skin to skin contact is recommended by the Neonatal Resuscitation Program, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, and the World Health Organization. This practice is also called Kangaroo Care. For the mother, it will help her produce breastmilk and reduce post partem bleeding and the risk of post partem depression. For those who were not the baby’s birth mother, it’s an opportunity to be a source of comfort for the baby and increase that trust, as well as help the baby recognize that person as a caregiver.
Speaking of Skin to Skin
Touch is a new experience for your little one. Rubbing their back and gently grasping their little toes and fingers is a new sensation. Babies have a reflex to grab things put in their hands, so let them hold her fingers. It’s vital to their development and will increase your closeness. Their eyesight is not that great right at first, and they don’t know what to expect from this crazy new environment they’re in. Gentle and frequent touches will let your baby know that you are still there, and they are still safe, as well as creating more situations for external stimulation.
Sing It, Baby
Not all of us have a lovely singing voice, but you may want to use those vocal cords to sing to your little one often. Babies begin hearing voices while inside the womb. They can recognize their mother’s own voice and the voices of those they often heard during the pregnancy. Singing to the little one will help them recognize or learn your voice, especially during those calm and soft moments. Music has calming benefits, even to babies. By singing to them, you give them something unique to listen to that will soothe and comfort them.
Talk to Your Little One Often
Read to them even though they don’t understand the story. If your voice is what they hear while falling asleep or while eating, they learn that you are someone that will supply them with their needs and keep them safe. They will become accustomed to hearing from you and associate you with good things. You may notice yourself naturally talking in a higher tone without even meaning to when you speak to your little one. Most people will change their tone when talking to a baby, and there’s a reason we do that. Our instincts drive us to change our tones because we know that babies understand tone long before they understand words. Talking in a light and happy tone lets them understand that we are happy to be with them. They also learn rather quickly that this special tone if reserved for them and will listen more because of that. Babies want to communicate with us, so they are learning even before they’re born how to do so.
Feeding Time Can Be Close Time
Eating is a primary need for all of us. Babies quickly learn that need after they’re born. It’s usually what drives their first attempts at communicating. Breastfeeding is the recommended method and is one of the best ways to establish a deep and unending bond with your little one. The list of health benefits to mother and child is long and proven. That opportunity for closeness and bonding is unparalleled. Those who can’t breastfeed for one reason or another don’t have to miss out on some of those beautiful bonding moments, though. Holding your baby close to you will create a wonderful moment of bonding. It also gives you the perfect moment for mutual gazing.
Mutual gazing is in itself a form of connecting on an emotional level. As you feed your little one their bottle, they will want to gaze deeply into your eyes. This instinct is an important one for forming a bond. Babies want to look at faces, and their eyesight can only see so far. When you’re holding them close for feeding is the perfect time for them to look. They will want to study your face. Gazing at each other will help the baby to recognize your face and expressions, and learn how to make those expressions themselves. While the little one is staring at you, use those moments to smile and talk to them. Let them know that you are entirely focused on them.
Babies spent nine months surrounded on all sides, and the more recent of those months were fairly snug. They find comfort in that snug feeling, so swaddling your baby while holding them, rocking them, or feeding them can bring about that sense of safety and peace. That sensation often continues through years after, and even some adults still find comfort in feeling snuggly tucked in. Providing your little one with that sensation will help them associate you with safety and comfort, and will help them relax around you. This is a great way to bond better with babies for those who may not be around them constantly, like grandparents. Cultures from around the world have used swaddling for countless years to help babies feel comfortable and sleep better. Swaddling should always be done with thin, breathable blankets and never so tightly that their legs are forced straight. It’s best if they are still able to move their arms and legs since simple motions are needed for proper development. It’s also important to stop swaddling when they’re able to roll over on their own, as the blanket may become a hazard in their sleep. It’s also important to note that if you co-sleep, you shouldn’t swaddle as your body heat and proximity is all baby needs for be comfortable.
Speaking of co-sleeping, this is another way of increasing the bond with a baby. This is something more for the parents to use and will depend greatly on individual situations. Throughout history, parents have primarily used co-sleeping methods of one kind or another. Some have their baby right next to them while others will have their baby in a separate bed but within arm’s reach. This helps in multiple ways. As mentioned before, close contact has many health benefits for little ones. There is also some evidence that co-sleeping may help children become more confident and independent with daily activities. The benefits parents can experience include easier nighttime feedings, especially for breastfed babies, and more peace of mind. There was a shift away from co-sleeping at one time, and some people still have harsh feelings toward the practice. However, more information has come to light, and as long as it’s done safely, it’s a wonderful way to accommodate your baby’s needs for closeness. Those who are on medications or substances or those who have sleeping conditions should not have the baby directly in bed with them. You can have the baby in the same room, or utilize a ‘side-car’ attached to your bed that will keep the baby in their own space, but keep you close as well. Also, if anyone involved is uncomfortable with the idea of having the baby in bed, it should be discussed. It’s vital that everyone be on the same page.
One of the biggest perks of co-sleeping is something you can do during the day as well to increase a bond with baby, and that is to be responsive. Babies experience bonding through having their needs met. When little ones are first born, they have no concept of the difference between a want and a need. Everything is a need. Either it improves their physical development, or it improves their mental and emotional development. For the first few months, making sure to respond to them when they cry or laugh will let them know that you’re there to take care of them. They will feel less stress from all the strange stimuli and will find comfort in that fact that when they need something, you’re right there. It’s impossible to know the reason they cry every time, and they might not even know what they want, but the fact that you’re right there and trying will let them know that they can rely on you. Knowing you’re there will help them make all those wonderful milestones confidently.
The last bonding experience on this list is playtime. Everything is new to your little one. They are experiencing colors, textures, and most sounds for the first time. Playing with babies is teaching them new things and helping them develop their abilities. There is a massive market for baby toys, but right at first, the best play with your new little one is through simple interaction. They might not even be smiling yet, but simply putting your face closer to theirs so they can see you and talking to them or touching their toes and fingers is all the play they need. Often, you will be able to know how entertained they are by how focused they are. Playing helps them learn to communicate and express themselves and helps them feel safe to explore what they can. Once they begin to show interest in toys, that doesn’t mean you no longer need to play with them. Babies learn so much from simply interacting. Continuing to play with them through their stages of development will increase their connection to you as someone who will teach them things and be there for them. Children who are engaged develop greater confidence and develop faster. Ultimately, playing with your child will keep you as the main figure in their life.
Babies grow quickly. They absorb stimulation from everything around them and use that to develop personalities and traits they will keep throughout their lives. Being an active part of those lives is the only way to maintain a bond with your child. It starts early and only grows from there. Remember to enjoy those moments with your little one, as every moment counts to developing and nurturing that bond between you.