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How do I bond with my baby?

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Those precious early days you spend with your newborn are magical and so important for the bonding and attachment process. But what does it mean to bond with your baby – and what if it doesn’t happen straight away?

What is bonding?

Bonding is the process where parent and baby form a strong connection, both emotionally and physically. It’s about responding to your baby with warmth and love, enabling your baby to feel safe and cared for. It’s also an important part of their development, helping them to grow mentally and physically.

Any human contact such as cuddling, singing or looking into their eyes makes your baby’s brain release hormones that help their brain to grow. And as babies can’t speak, nor do they know what they need, they look to you, using body language to connect such as a smile, laugh or gurgle. By spending time getting to know your baby, you’ll recognise these signs and strengthen the all-important bond between you.

When do I bond with my baby?

The bonding process can start before your baby is born. Towards the end of your pregnancy, your baby may recognise your voice and find it soothing and comforting. Bonding also occurs after your baby arrives, during those early days and weeks. They need you to look after them and as you respond to their needs, changing, feeding, bathing, settling and soothing them, you will reassure your baby that they’re loved and safe. As you learn their signals and they gain trust in you and feel more confident, the bond will start to build.

What if it doesn’t happen straight way?

While many women fall instantly in love with their baby and experience an immediate gush of love and joy, this is certainly not the case with every mum. For many women, it’s not so easy to bond with their newborn, and the process can take days or weeks – or even months – to come.

It’s important to remember that the lack of an immediate strong bond does not in any way mean that you’re not a great parent. Like any relationship, it takes time, and can’t be forced.

What can I do to bond with my baby?

Here are some simple ideas to help with the bonding process:

  • Touch, cuddle or softly stroke your newborn as they can feel even the gentlest touch from birth
  • Give your baby a soothing bath before bed
  • Try to have skin-on-skin contact with your baby, perhaps when feeding or by giving them a massage after bath
  • Respond to your newborn’s crying to you let them know that you’re always there
  • Hold your baby – try rocking or holding them against you, skin-on-skin, or carry them in a sling or baby carrier
  • Make your newborn feel physically safe with good head and neck support when you’re holding them, or create the secure feeling of the womb by wrapping them
  • Talk to your baby as often as you can in soothing tones.
  • Sing songs, read books to your baby and play simple games
  • Look into your newborn’s eyes while you smile talk, laugh and sing.

Take your time

The first 12 weeks after your baby is born, also known as the fourth trimester, can be a busy and hectic time as you try to establish feeding and sleeping routines and of course form an attachment with your little one. However, friends and family are often desperate to meet your baby too, which adds enormous stress for a brand new sleep-deprived mum. It’s natural to feel overwhelmed, which can make the bonding process even tricker.

Be firm about when and how many visitors you receive, and avoid social media where you might see posts of other mums expressing feelings of joy and happiness. Everyone bonds differently, so take the time you need to let it happen.

However, if you continue to struggle with the bonding process, or are concerned that you’re suffering from postnatal depression, then contact your GP, midwife or maternal child health nurse. There are also organisations you can call for help, such as Pregnancy Birth & Baby or Beyond Blue.

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