May 29, 2014

Bonding is the intense attachment that develops between parents and their baby. It makes parents want to shower their baby with love and affection. Bonding gets parents up in the middle of the night to feed their hungry baby and makes them attentive to their baby’s wide range of needs.

The strong ties between parents and their child provide the baby’s first model for intimate relationships, and foster a sense of security and positive self-esteem.

Bonding is essential for a baby. It is a process, not something that takes place within minutes and not something that has to be limited to happening within a certain time period after birth. For many parents, bonding results from everyday caregiving—you may not even know it’s happening until you observe your baby’s first smile and suddenly realize that you’re filled with love and joy!

When you’re a new parent, it often takes a while to understand your newborn and all the ways you can interact:

Touch becomes an early language as babies respond to skin-to-skin contact. It’s soothing for both you and your baby while promoting your baby’s healthy growth and development.

Eye-to-eye contact provides meaningful communication at close range.

Your baby tries—early onto imitate your facial expressions and gestures.

Babies prefer human voices and enjoy vocalizing in their first efforts at communication. Babies often enjoy just listening to your conversations, as well as your descriptions of their activities and environments.

Bonding with your baby is probably one of the most pleasurable aspects of infant care. You can begin by cradling your baby and gently stroking him or her in different patterns. If you and your partner both hold and touch your infant frequently, your little one will soon come to know the difference between your touches. Each of you should also take the opportunity to be “skin to skin” with your newborn by holding him or her against your own skin when feeding or cradling.

Breastfeeding and bottle-feeding are both natural times for bonding. Infants respond to the smell and touch of their parents.

Both parents benefit greatly when they can support and encourage one another. Early bonding activities that both mom and dad can experience together include:

Participating together in labor and delivery

Feeding (breast or bottle); sometimes dad forms a special bond with baby when handling a middle-of-the-night feeding or diaper change

Reading or singing to baby

Giving baby a bath

Mirroring baby’s movements

Mimicking baby’s cooing and other vocalizations—the first efforts at communication

Using a front baby carrier during routine activities

Letting baby feel the different textures of mom and dad’s faces

Of course, it’s easier to bond with your baby if the people around you are supportive and help you develop confidence in your parenting abilities.

While taking care of a baby is overwhelming at first, you will benefit from the emotional support provided by your family and your HANDS Home Visitor, and start becoming more confident in your abilities as a parent!

At first, caring for a newborn can take nearly all of your attention and energy. Bonding will be much easier if you aren’t exhausted by all of the other things going on at home, such as housework, meals, and laundry. It’s helpful if dads can give an extra boost with these everyday chores, as well as offer plenty of general emotional support.

Remember, it’s OK to ask for help after you bring your baby home. Use the HANDS Program as your support system. Your HANDS Home Visitor will talk to you, ease your mind about things that might be worrying you, listen to your questions and offer advice while providing you with the knowledge and tools you need to become a great parent, role-model and support system for your new baby.

Bonding is a complex, personal experience that takes time. There’s no magic formula and it can’t be forced. As you become more comfortable with your baby and your new routine becomes more predictable, both you and your partner will feel more confident about all of the amazing aspects of raising your little one!