“Bonding” is the term experts use to refer to the development of a strong relationship of love between a parent and child. This relationship is developed over time and gives babies a sense of security while also helping new parents feel connected to their newest family member. The first three months after birth is often referred to as the “fourth trimester” during which bonding is a vital part of human instinct and development. Human contact makes your babies brain release hormones that help the brain to grow and develop memory, thoughts and language. It creates a foundation for emotional well-being and helps your baby develop both mentally and physically.
· Skin-to-Skin Contact
Physical touch is comforting for a baby and essential for their early development. It encourages thermal regulation, boosts mental development, stabilizes heart rate and respiration, increases weight gain, and improves sleep and immunity. “Kangaroo Care,” another name for skin-to-skin contact, was first used in Columbia in 1979 when neonatologists took inspiration from how kangaroos hold their babies in their pouch to deal with a shortage of incubators.
Babywearing allows parents to hold their baby for extended periods of time while facilitating a closeness similar to skin-to-skin contact. Hearing and feeling your heartbeat and movements is relaxing and comforting to your baby. Having your baby so close also makes it easier to attend to their needs quickly. There are many options for babywearing but not all of them are safe for newborns so it’s a good idea to either do your own research or seek out a babywearing consultant or group who can help you find and fit a carrier that works for you and your baby.
· Infant Massage
Researchers believe gentle massage can help promote better sleep, relieve colic and may even enhance the baby’s immune system, motor skills and intellectual development. Your soothing touch makes the baby’s brain release oxytocin which promotes relaxation and attachment. To learn safe baby massage techniques, you may want to watch videos online, read a book and/or take a class.
· Eye Contact
Regular eye contact helps babies develop a connection with their caregiver. Babies can only see 8-12 inches in front of them so make sure you are face-to-face to facilitate this early form of communication. Talking to your baby while making eye contact will also help them begin to make connections between words and feelings.
· Vocal Interaction
Talk, sing and read to your baby! Your voice is soothing and comforting to them. They will start to recognize your voice and may even begin to respond with coos. This is the very first stage of developing their own vocal communication.
· Room Sharing
Having your baby sleep in the same room as you can give your baby a sense of security as they can sense that you’re nearby. This helps develop an emotional closeness and also makes it easier to attend to their needs during the night.
· Gentle Movement
When holding your baby rock, sway or bounce! Babies love gentle movement because it’s similar to what they experienced in the womb. You may find that you instinctively do this to comfort your baby.
· Respond to Needs
Responding to your babies cries and determining what they need (food, diaper change, comfort, etc.) helps your baby feel safe and secure. It builds trust and establishes their view of your role as their caregiver.
· Create a Routine
Babies love repetition and routines because it creates a sense of stability. Pay attention to your baby’s body language and use these clues to figure out what type and when they need care as well as what they enjoy.
There are many ways to bond with your baby and there are no right or wrong ways. Daniel Messinger, Ph.D., a child-psychology professor at the University of Miami says “Attachment isn’t about acting the ‘correct’ way, it’s really about watching [your baby] and responding sensitively.”