Women's Healthcare Topics

Bonding with Your Newborn Baby

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

Some Parents Feel a Rush of Love others Not

Bonding is the deep emotional attachment that you feel for your baby. It is the overwhelming rush of feeling that makes you want to smother your newborn with love and kisses, and protect him or her from all harm.

Bonding is why you get up at midnight and 3AM to feed your hungry newborn, and it's the reason that you automatically turn your head when you hear your infant crying.

The Importance of Bonding

Bonding is essential for your baby's growth and development. Bonded infants feel safer and more secure, and they have lower levels of stress and anxiety. As they age, these children are more independent, have high self-esteem, and they have better relationships with their peers and people in general.

Research on bonding has suggested that the relationship between parent and baby serves as the infant's first example for intimate relationships. In addition, how you respond to your baby's needs can influence their social and cognitive development.

In a series of famous experiments performed by Dr. Harry Harlow in the late 1950s, newborn monkeys were separated into two groups. One group was allowed to stay with their mothers, while the other monkeys were taken away from their mothers at birth and given cloth "surrogate mothers." It's no surprise that the baby monkeys with cloth mothers had more psychological problems. Without real mothers and no social interaction, these monkeys ended up being socially incompetent.

Researchers believe that lack of bonding in human infants may lead to similar problems.

Bonding with Your Baby is a Process

This intense attachment that you have for your child isn't an automatic by-product of carrying a baby in the womb for nine months. Bonding with your new baby is a process that takes time. While some parents feel a rush of love and warmth for their baby from the moment of that first positive pregnancy test, it takes others longer to bond with their new child. Some parents don't feel attached to their baby until after delivery.

For parents with twins and multiples, bonding may take weeks or months. It may also take longer for you to bond with your child if he or she is adopted, or if your baby was separated from you after birth for medical reasons.

If you don't feel immediately bonded to your baby after he or she is born, don't feel bad or guilty. For many parents, bonding occurs as a side product of everyday parenting. You might not realize this bond until one day, you see and hear your baby's first giggle, and then you're suddenly overwhelmed with the need to kiss and snuggle with him or her.

Keep in mind that bonding isn't a now-or-never relationship. As time passes and you get to know your child, your feelings will deepen.

However, you may want to call your doctor or healthcare provider if you don't feel more attached or comfortable with your infant than you did on delivery day. Always contact your physician if you start to feel detached or resentful of your child. All of this may be a sign of postpartum depression. The sooner that you get help, the better it will be for your relationship with your child.

Learn about bonding with your newborn baby in this article.

Tips for Bonding with Your Baby

Bonding with your child is a journey and not an end result. The more that you interact with your child – whether it's responding to his or her cries, showering your child with lot of hugs and kisses, or gazing into his or her eyes – the stronger the bond between the two of you.

Use the below tips to help you bond with your baby:

Room In – Before your due date, make arrangements for your baby to "room in" with you. It's easier to bond with your baby when you can see and hold him or her whenever you want. When your baby stays in the nursery ("rooming out"), you don't get to see the little one that has spent 40 weeks in your womb.

When your baby stays in the same hospital room as you, you can make sure that your baby's needs are met at the first cry. The "mothering" can start right away.

Skin-to-Skin Contact Immediately After Birth – Request for your baby to be placed on your abdomen and chest immediately after birth, or after the umbilical cord has been cut and your baby has been suctioned. Unless there is a medical complication that requires your baby to be away from you, cuddle your newborn against your naked chest in the first hour after birth.

Studies have indicated that skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth stabilizes your baby's temperature, as well as his or her heart and breathing rates. Your baby is happier, and it elevates the hormone oxytocin in your body. Oxytocin is the so-called "hormone of love and bonding."

Breastfeed Immediately – The intimacy of nursing your child, as well as holding him or her against your skin during the breastfeeding session will help you feel closer and more bonded. Plus, breastfeeding increases the love and bonding hormone oxytocin.

Gaze into Your Newborn's Eyes – Newborn babies can't see very far, but they can see clearly from eight to twelve inches away – the space between their face to your face when nursing. When you gaze into your new baby's eyes, you can't help but feel overwhelmed with emotions. Plus, babies love faces, especially their mother's. Don't be surprised if your infant simply stares and stares into your face.

Talk to Your Baby – When you were still pregnant, your baby was comforted by the sound of your voice. After birth, the mother's voice is often the first voice that a newborn recognizes. Throughout the first year of life, you can easily bond with your baby by constantly talking to your little one. In addition, talking to your child helps promote his or her verbal skills.

Baby Massage – Infants love being cuddled and caressed. Baby massage is a great way for mom or dad to bond with their baby. When you give a massage to your infant, it releases oxytocin in your body, and it nourishes your child's emotional development. Infant massage soothes and comforts your baby, and it may actually help him or her sleep better.

You can learn the craft of baby massage from a certified infant massage instructor, self-help books, and online resources.

Baby Wearing – Babies who are carried in a baby sling tend to be less fussy, and they are happier. The rhythm of being "worn" reminds the baby of being in the womb. Your baby will get to know your distinct smell and familiar voice, and he or she will feel more bonded to you. You will also feel more attachment to your infant because he or she is close to you, so it's easier for you to anticipate his or her needs.

Get Some Rest – When you're a new mom, it's tough to get all the rest that you need. But when you're exhausted, you will get frustrated and you may accidentally take it out on your child. When you need a break, leave your baby's care to someone else. Let Dad or Grandma take care of your baby for a little while. When you're happy, your baby is happy.

Be Patient – Keep in mind that bonding is a process. It will take time. Just because you're not immediately bonded to your child doesn't mean that anything is wrong with you! The more time that you spend caring for your child, the more attached you will become.

Fathers and Baby Bonding

When you bring a new baby home, it's sometimes easy to forget about dad's relationship with baby. After all, mom is the one who gets pregnant, feels the baby moving inside her, and gives birth. In many cases, mom breastfeeds the baby. It's often easier for the baby's mother to bond with him or her. Dad can feel left out.

To promote bonding between the new baby and dad, it's important that pregnant women allow their significant others to participate in all the prenatal checkups and birthing classes. After baby arrives, allow dad to get involved. The baby's father can change diapers, give baths, and take care of the baby when mom isn't around. Solo time shared between father and baby can solidify their relationship and help them bond better.

We often think of fathers as bumbling oafs when it comes to caring for a baby, but with practice and experience, fathers can be just as nurturing as mothers.


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