Health & Fitness
Bonding After Birth: Falling in Love with Your Baby
by Mirna Abouzeid
Many expectant mothers fall in love with their baby the minute they feel it move, kick or hiccup in their womb. However, as many a mother has affirmed, this pre-natal feeling of love pales in comparison to the incredible whirlwind of emotions that completely possess a mother when she first holds her bundle of joy in her arms.
Bonding after birth is a continuation of this ‘love relationship’ between mother and baby that begins during pregnancy. Bonding is the vital process of forming that intense attachment and emotional tie with your newborn baby. This biologically sensitive period, when mothers and newborns are uniquely programmed to be in contact with each other and do good things to each other, is an important time for both parents and their infant. Making that initial affectionate contact is the first step in a long journey towards raising a happy and healthy child with a strong sense of trust, confidence, and self-esteem.
The Power of Touch
Baby care is great for bonding, so take full advantage of it. Anytime you perform what you think are the simple tasks of bathing or feeding your baby, you are actually bonding emotionally. Babies are prepared for immediate bonding; they can recognize and respond to your voice, your touch and your smell. Hold and cradle your newborn as much possible. Babies thrive on touch and there’s no such thing as spoiling your baby with too much love. Touching and stroking your baby is a great way to bond and get your baby used to you; incredibly, soon enough, babies can differentiate between daddy’s and mommy’s touch. Skin-on-skin is a great way to bond, especially while your baby is feeding (breast or bottle). Such closeness gives your baby a sense of security and comfort; the sound of your heartbeat also serves to soothe them and stabilize their breathing, thus encouraging longer feedings.
Babies discover the world through their mothers; voice, facial expressions, eye-contact, and gestures all play an important role in this process of discovery. It is also quite common for your baby to start mimicking your facial expressions! Get in the habit of talking and singing to your baby throughout the day and soon enough you will notice how responsive your baby is to the different tonalities of your voice. Similarly, you too will learn to differentiate between your baby’s different cries. How responsive you are to your child’s cries can greatly affect their levels of trust and self esteem. Never ignore your baby’s cries because for the time being this is the only way they can communicate their needs to you.
Generations ago, fathers spent a lot less time with their newborns than they do today. Today, it’s a whole other story as dads take on a more active role in caring for and bonding with the baby. Although, many a dad may be somewhat hesitant about dealing with things like changing, bathing or burping the baby, it’s perfectly alright because daddy time doesn’t mean the baby gets a second mother! Dads can have their own special activities with the baby including cradling in a rocking chair, going for a walk with the baby facing the dad in a baby carrier, even just reading together and letting the baby feel the different textures of dad’s face. Dads can also have singing time with a few special songs that baby will learn to recognize, or just carefree playtime where daddy can mimic baby’s sounds and facial expressions – an early lesson in two-way communication!
Moms Need Support
All mothers, new or not, will likely feel a little overwhelmed when they come home with a newborn. Exhaustion can easily set in from the hourly feedings, diaper changes, and sleepless nights, so a support network of trusted helpers is very important. There is nothing wrong with needing help and admitting that! You are no less of a ‘great mother’ and no less in control of the situation at home if you do face reality and realize that you may need a hand! For the first few weeks, your focus should be on you and your new baby; you need the time to bond together and get used to each other. So whether its husband, family or friends, getting some help with the housework or other kids will work wonders for keeping your energy levels up and free you to give your baby the time, patience, and care they need. That said, don’t be shy to ask for, or accept any help offered!
Sometimes the unexpected happens and bonding with your little one doesn’t quite happen as you expected. Don’t worry too much because bonding is not a ‘now or never’ phenomenon! If you’ve had a long and difficult labor or complications during delivery, you may be too physically and emotionally tired to bond with your baby. During a C-section, or when a baby needs medical attention right after birth, your newborn is whisked away before you’ve had the chance to make contact. Premature babies are immediately placed in incubators, and it could be a while before they become strong enough for you to hold them or try skin-on-skin bonding. The important thing is to keep your spirits up because babies are quiet resilient and you will have the chance to bond with your baby. Sometimes, even under perfectly normal conditions, bonding doesn’t immediately happen. That’s not a reason to worry either, because no matter how adorable little babies are, there’s an entirely new person in your life and it could take a little bit of time to establish true closeness. Don’t allow fears and feelings of guilt to creep up on you, because flashing a cute toothless smile your way could mark the moment you unexpectedly fall in love with you baby!
Love comes naturally, it can’t ever be forced, and the love between a parent and child is one of the strongest and most unique bonds ever created. Your child can feel your love in so many ways, so don’t be afraid in finding your own special formula to bond with your baby because no matter how or when you fall in love with them, it will change your life forever.