Seven Steps to Bonding with Your Baby
Your little bundle of joy has finally arrived! You look at him, lovingly, as he snoozes in his little bassinette, oblivious to the world around him. You notice his sweet breathing patterns, the little baby noises he makes, his cute little cheeks, adorable little dimples, perfect little lips. Your heart swells with love.
But you can’t help but wonder….
I remember that very same feeling, when my husband and I brought our oldest home from the hospital. He was asleep, wrapped in a blanket on the living room floor. My husband was stretched out in front of him, face propped in his hands, just admiring his brand new son. He looks over at me with a goofy smile on his face and says “Now what?”
Now what indeed!
Parenting starts the same way nearly every adventure begins….by building a relationship.
If you start a new job, you build a new relationship with new co-workers and a new boss.
If you start a new school, you make new friends.
If you move to a new house, you meet new neighbors.
Even if you take on amazing adventures, such as skydiving, you need to first build a relationship – a very trusting relationship – with the pilot and the instructor.
If you get married, you build a new relationship as husband and wife.
And if you have a child, you build a relationship as mother and child.
This relationship is the first thing you tend to as parents – outside of the normal feeding, bathing and changing routine that you will immediately set up, that is.
That may be all fine and dandy, but how in the world do you build a relationship with a brand new little creature that doesn’t even talk?
In the beginning, trying to bond with your baby will seem a bit one-sided.
Remember those crazy moms you’ve seen? The ones doing everything they can think of, and looking absolutely foolish doing it, just to get a tiny little smile out of their baby? They might look ridiculous, but they know the importance of bonding with that baby, and they are working the heck out of it!
When your baby starts to reciprocate social interaction with a little smile or chuckle, you will be so thrilled that you will do almost anything to replay that special moment as well – trust me.
But until then, here are some tips to get you on the road to bonding with your baby:
1. Make Eye Contact. This is tricky at first, since your baby isn’t born with the ability to immediately focus on you. But it is a skill that develops quickly, so be sure to make eye contact regularly, from the beginning. Every time you talk to your baby, hold her, sing to her, change her diaper, or do anything at all with her, be sure to look her in the eye while doing it.
2. Use Skin to Skin Touch. If you are a nursing mom, they stress this in the hospital when your baby is born. They want you to take your baby’s clothing off and nurse with his chest up against yours – skin to skin contact. But this is important for all moms and babies, not just nursing babies. Touch your baby as much as possible. Caress his cheeks. Tousle his hair. Rub his arms and legs. Give him an infant message. Snuggle him up close to your chest, skin to skin, so that he can hear your heart beat.
3. Talk and sing to her often. Even if your baby cannot talk back yet, she can hear your voice and understand the tones and inflections behind your emotions. She will always be in sync to your feelings because she seeks her comfort and security from you. If you appear stressed, she becomes stressed. By talking and singing to her often, in calming or silly voices, you are giving her a sense of comfort and security, even if you are not immediately in her line of sight. This helps her to learn that she, you and everything else is alright.
4. Say his or her name often. Everyone desires to feel loved and wanted. Your baby is no different. Kids love to hear their own name – that’s why personalized songs and stories do so well. Their name is their gateway to an identity all their own; use it often. Throw your baby’s name in to stories, songs and any fun games you are playing. Say his name when you greet him in the morning, after returning from work, and when you tuck him in to bed at night. Using his name often shows him that you love and value him, as a separate and wonderfully complete person, outside of mom or dad.
5. Hold your baby often. Everyone loves to be hugged, touched, held and snuggled. Babies are no different. You cannot spoil a child by holding him too much. You bring security and comfort to your baby when you hold him. Granted, some children want to be held more than others, but you will learn your child’s own comfort level. Respect what your child tells you, just like you would any other adult. If he doesn’t like to be touched all that much, preferring to explore his environment on his own, respect that and put him down. If he likes to snuggle and cuddle a lot, respect that and give him what he needs. He will learn that he can set boundaries and others will respect them. He will also learn that he can request affection, and others will respond. And if you feel like you are holding your baby so much that you cannot get anything else done, enlist the help of others or use tools, such as a hands-free baby sling. Above all, keep in mind that this is just a stage, and it shall pass.
6. Kiss Your Baby Often. Kisses are a natural sign of love and affection and are an amazing tool to bond with your baby. Babies do not have social limitations on their kisses. It might be odd to kiss your teenage son on the back of his hand, but you can plant a smooch on your baby’s hand without a second thought! Kiss your baby often, and not just on the lips. Infants were made for smooching! Kiss her face, cheeks, head, mouth, tummy, toes. You will love the day she finally gives you a wet, open-mouthed kiss back!
7. Meet his needs as soon as you can. One of the best ways to build trust is to respond to your baby’s needs as soon as possible. Trust is the foundation of all good relationships. If your baby cries when he is hungry, feed him immediately. If you respond quickly and consistently, he will learn to trust you to care for his needs. If he trusts you, he doesn’t have to strive so hard to get your attention, because he knows you are coming. His loud cries will slowly quiet down over time, until he simply has to make a certain squawk or grunt to signal his hunger. You can usually tell a child that has been neglected – they signal loud and clear, often inappropriately crying or throwing a tantrum – to get their needs met. This is because they do not trust someone to care for them unless they make a scene.
Bonding with your baby can be easy. Be sure to do these seven steps on a daily basis, many times throughout the day.
Building a loving, trusting relationship with your child is the first step to raising your child.
With a good relationship, every other aspect of parenting will be so much easier.
It is easier to set limits and boundaries within the confines of a good relationship. Your child will love you and naturally will not want to disappoint you.
Down the road, it is easier to give consequences for rules broken, if you have a good relationship. Your child will be able to see the punishment as something separate from your love for her if you have a good relationship.
You can discipline, teach and guide your child as he grows in to a young adult, with ease.
The key: to constantly work on building/keeping that relationship with your child.
It is the most important thing you can do for your son or daughter.
Your child will learn to trust that you love him unconditionally, and that all the rules are there to assist him in his growth, not to punish him.