bond with an infant (2)

How To Bond With An Infant?

Bonding with an infant can be difficult, but it is worth the effort. To bond with your baby, you need to spend time just being there for them. 

Bonding with your infant is a process that takes time. Infants are susceptible to their parent’s emotions and will be comforted by calm, loving interactions. Here are some tips to help you bond with your infant.

Parent-infant bonding is often confused with infant-parent attachment. Bonding is the parental feeling of being connected with the infant, experiencing a sense of unconditional love and closeness. 

On the other hand, attachment describes the infant’s need to be close to a protective caregiver. Both develop gradually during the first year of life, based on biological preparedness and the experience of frequent interactions.

False beliefs about bonding proliferate on social media and the internet, often under the umbrella of “attachment parenting” – suggesting that, for example, early skin-to-skin contact is indispensable for bonding, or that breastfeeding and co-sleeping would be needed – or even the female gender.

But research on infants adopted at around six months after birth demonstrates that bonding within the first few weeks or even months is not necessary for a secure attachment between the infant and a mother or father to emerge. 

Nevertheless, pregnancy, delivery and breastfeeding might help the human mind prepare for the new parental responsibilities.

What Is Secure Attachment?

Attachment or the attachment bond is the unique emotional relationship between your baby and you, their primary caretaker. 

It is a critical factor in how your infant’s brain organises itself and how your child develops socially, emotionally, intellectually, and physically. The quality of the attachment bond varies.

A secure attachment bond stems from the wordless emotional exchange that draws the two of you together, ensuring that your infant feels safe and calm enough to experience optimal development of their nervous system. 

Secure attachment provides your baby with the best foundation for life: an eagerness to learn, a healthy self-awareness, trust, and consideration for others.

An insecure attachment bond, one that fails to meet your infant’s need for safety and understanding, can lead to confusion about their own identity and difficulties with learning and relating to others in later life.

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Why Is Secure Attachment So Important?

A secure attachment bond teaches your baby to trust you, to communicate their feelings to you, and eventually to trust others as well. 

As you and your baby connect, your baby learns how to have a healthy sense of self and how to be in a loving, empathetic relationship.

Secure attachment causes the parts of your baby’s brain responsible for social and emotional development, communication, and relationships to grow and develop in the best way possible. 

This relationship becomes the foundation of your child’s ability to connect with others healthily. 

Qualities that you may take for granted in adult relationships—like empathy, understanding, love, and the ability to be responsive to others—are first learned in infancy.

When babies develop a secure attachment bond, they are better able to:

  • Develop fulfilling intimate relationships.
  • Maintain emotional balance.
  • They feel confident and good about themselves.
  • Enjoy being with others.
  • Rebound from disappointment and loss.
  • Share their feelings and seek support.

A Secure Attachment Bond Is Good for You, Too

Nature has programmed mothers and their infants to have a “falling in love” experience through secure attachment. 

The joy you experience as you connect with your infant goes a long way to relieve fatigue from lack of sleep and the stress of learning how to care for your baby.

The bonding process releases endorphins in your body that motivate you, give you energy, and make you feel happy. 

Creating a secure attachment with your infant may take a little effort, but the rewards are enormous for both of you.

bond with an infant

Bonding Support

A lack of bonding is strongly associated with experiencing exhaustion, burn-out, sleepless nights and postnatal depression. These are things that can mess with our brain chemistry.

Raising and successfully bonding with newborns, therefore, requires all parents to share the workload. 

Mothers are evolved to rely on the support of others to raise their offspring, and children have grown to become attached to more than one caregiver for survival in a dangerous world.

That means there’s no reason to assume that babies can’t become attached to fathers just as quickly as they can be attached to mothers. 

It is also an argument for societies to facilitate (slow) bonding between mothers and fathers through paid parental leave. 

The majority of countries, however, fail to provide paid paternity leave.

There are also tricks to speed the process up. 

For example, many parents benefit from watching videos of pleasurable experiences derived from moments of smooth interplay with their baby. 

Baby carriers might also be helpful to soothe a crying baby and to strengthen parental bonding.

Ultimately, the birth of a baby is a significant life event, and bonding helps parents cope. But it is a process and can take time. 

A lack of initial bonding doesn’t mean you have failed – the vast majority of parents successfully bond with their baby after the first few months of getting to know her. 

And for anyone struggling at this point, talk to a health professional about getting support.

With time, practice and support to learn the new language of the baby, bonding is likely to develop – slowly but definitely.

How to Build a Relationship During Baby Bonding Time

There are several critical factors in relationship building:

Build Trust. 

A noted child theorist, Erik Erikson, talks about the primary task of the first years of life as developing either trust or mistrust. 

Babies who are attended to quickly – who are fed, changed, and cuddled when they indicate a need—form infant attachments and learn to trust those who care for them. 

There is no such thing as “spoiling” a baby—meeting her needs builds trust. 

Conversely, a child whose needs aren’t met on a timely basis learns to question and potentially mistrust others. 

Trusting others could become an ongoing issue for the latter child.

Pay Attention. 

Infants flourish under our attention. They look for eye contact, smiles, holding, and talking from us, and they respond accordingly. 

Reciprocal contact, or back and forth communication and smiles, is best. Our attention to a baby is compelling. 

Even if we aren’t quite sure what to do, making eye contact, talking to him, pausing, and waiting for his response are precisely correct. 

Conversely, babies who aren’t given attention eventually look away, disengage, and stop expecting connection.

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Listen to Baby’s Feelings. 

Before communicating through words or baby sign language, cries are a baby’s primary means of communication. 

Listen and Respond to Her Cries. 

Figure out the differences and what they mean. Don’t say “You’re okay” when your baby is crying and is not okay. 

Sometimes when you are sure she has been fed, changed, and had a good nap, your baby may need to cry about the minor frustrations of her day, especially before she can tell you what they are (just the way we need to vent sometimes). 

Bond with the baby by staying close by, holding her, and talking reassuringly. Say, “I can see you are upset. I am going to stay right here with you while you tell me all about it.”

Treat Your Baby With Kindness. 

Even the very youngest children understand and take in-kind treatment. A child who is treated kindly is more likely to treat others kindly. 

Look at, hold, and talk to your baby lovingly and let your tone of voice convey caring and love.

Provide Caring Touch. 

A fundamental way to build a positive relationship with your child is through caring touch and physical affection. 

You can’t hold a baby too much. Having a baby close to you is suitable for your child and good for you as well. 

We all need the close, caring contact of another human being.

Maximise “Ordinary” Moments. 

There are lots of moments when caring for a baby could seem “ordinary.” Feeding, changing, rocking and bathing take on a sameness that can feel repetitive. 

Conversely, view these little moments as baby bonding time. Maximising these caregiving moments means they become times of special connection between you and your child. 

Say nursery rhymes while you are changing your child’s diaper. Sing while you rock him. Whisper about how much you love him while you are nursing, or talk about the food you are spoon-feeding him. 

These “ordinary” moments go by all too soon and are equally crucial for you as for him.

Building trust, paying attention; listening to your child’s feelings; treating your baby with kindness and providing caring touch is key to relationship building with your baby. 

Ordinary moments are anything but ordinary when your baby’s face lights up when he sees you or when she smiles at your smile. 

All of these interactions build a connection between you and your child that will last a lifetime in big and small ways.

Ways to Bond With Your Newborn

Newborns rely on loving parents to soothe this sensory overload and meet their basic needs. Through this consistent caregiving, the parent-child bond grows. 

The beauty of this phase is that every moment – when you gaze at your newborn, touch her skin, feed her, rock her to sleep, change her diaper – is a part of the bonding process. 

With mindful communication and these simple tasks, the parent-child bond can flourish. 

bond with an infant

Get a Head Start 

Bonding starts as early as those first little flutters in your belly. 

As your baby grows, consider all those little kicks and movements early signs of his personality asserting itself. 

Meanwhile, he’s hanging on your every word. By the time your baby’s born, he’s able to recognise your voice, so talk to him often (partners too!).

Feeding

Breastfeeding provides an incredible opportunity for bonding. While you nourish your baby, she snuggles in close (exactly where she wants to be) and takes in your scent, the sound of your heartbeat, and the sensation of your touch. 

Since your baby can only see roughly 8-12 inches (about the same distance from your areola to your face), it’s the perfect time for soothing talk as you gaze into each other’s eyes. 

This is how babies first learn to trust and be comforted by you. Plus, nursing releases feel-good hormones prolactin and oxytocin, which promote relaxation and attachment.

Excellent bonding happens with the bottle too! Hold your baby close and lavish her with all the same nourishment, attention, eye contact, touching, and talking.

Skin-To-Skin Contact

Babies respond to touch from the moment they’re born. Holding your baby close on your bare chest is known as “skin-to-skin,” and it’s one of the best things you can do for your newborn. 

Early, constant contact with your warm skin helps stabilise his body temperature, heart rate, and stress levels. It also releases oxytocin in both of you. 

Long skin-to-skin cuddles in bed, a rocking chair, or a recliner are the perfect recipe for bonding. 

Babywearing

Whether in a sling, wrap, or carrier, newborns, love being close to their caregivers in this way, particularly during the first 3 to 6 months of life. 

Your heartbeat and movement help them relax, and they adore being able to see and smell you at all times. 

Additionally, it’s easy to attend to their needs when they are right there. Read more about the benefits of babywearing here. 

Sleep With Your Baby Close By

If possible, have your baby sleep in your room in a bassinet next to or attached to your bed. This will make nighttime feedings more accessible and help curb your new baby anxiety. 

Babies tend to be much calmer and sleep better when they sense you nearby. 

Gentle Infant Massage

Research has found that massage can improve the relationship between parent and baby and relieve stress in infants and ease postpartum depression in mothers. 

To learn how to massage your baby most effectively, find a video online, read a book, or take a class.

Eye-To-Eye and Face-To-Face

Your baby gets meaningful communication from making eye contact with you and gazing at your face in close range. 

From early on, he will try to imitate your facial expressions and gestures. Sharing plenty of up-close face time is the best way to begin open communication with each other. 

Form Little Routines

Babies love repetition and routines. It gives them a sense of stability in all the chaos of life. 

By examining your baby’s expressions, movements, and reactions, you start to become the expert on her likes and dislikes – how she likes to be held and what sounds she responds to. 

Once you find something that works, make it a part of your daily routine. 

Talk, Read, Sing 

There is nothing more familiar or calming to your baby than the sound of your voice. By talking to your baby often, you are inviting him to participate in your relationship. 

It also helps him filter all the new information he’s receiving from the surrounding world. 

He’ll love hearing your conversations and listening to you read and sing – and he’ll especially love when you narrate or describe things you’re seeing (cars passing or leaves falling) or doing together (a bath or diaper change). 

Move, Dance, Rock 

Newborns love movement – after all, they’ve just spent nine months swishing around in the womb. They also love rhythmic sounds. 

Put both together in any combination to amp up the fun when your baby is feeling playful or soothe her to sleep when she is tired and restless. 

You can try dancing, swaying from side to side, or bouncing on a birthing ball. 

Attention, Kisses, and More Kisses

Perhaps the easiest way to establish a bond with your newborn is to turn down the volume on the outside world and lavish her with attention and love. 

Kiss all the toes, exchange a thousand smiles, let the laundry and dishes pile up, and relish these tender moments. 

It is impossible to spoil a newborn with too much love and attention, so have at it. You will both be happier, calmer, and more self-assured for it.

You Are Enough. 

Babies need a healthy connection with their parents and caregivers to feel secure, develop self-esteem, and adapt to the outside world. 

But it’s important to know that it’s okay if your bond isn’t immediate. Some parents feel a special attachment as soon as they hold their child for the first time, but the bonding process can take longer for others (around 20% of new parents). 

The excellent news is bonding is not a one-shot deal. It continues to happen as your child develops – so don’t worry if you aren’t feeling that instant connection. 

As you care for your new baby, you may find that your attachment grows. It may not be until your baby shoots you a toothless grin that you suddenly realise you’ve bonded. 

But if you are feeling especially concerned that you and your baby haven’t begun bonding, talk openly with your pediatrician.

When it comes to bonding with your newborn, the most important thing to remember is simply that you are enough. 

By attentively meeting your baby’s daily needs, you are already actively creating a bond. 

And the consistent comfort your baby gets from you is laying the foundation for life-long confidence and self-esteem. All the rest is the sweet, beautiful sugar on top.

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