Bonding with your baby in the early days after birth
First time parents are in for the experience of a lifetime! After surviving 9 months of pregnancy, a wardrobe of maternity clothes, baby showers, and decorating the nursery with care, you have gone through the exciting, heroic experiences of labour and birth. You are ready to leave the hospital to begin your new life as first-time parents!
Handling the First-Time Parent Jitters
For many first-time parents, bringing a baby home from the hospital is an exciting experience mixed with apprehension. Silent questions such as “How will I know…”, “How will I cope…,” and “But, what if…” mingle with exuberant joy as you look down at the precious bundle sleeping in your arms. You’ve got the first-time parent jitters!
Not to worry! Siblings and friends with children, parents, and in-laws have been waiting for this moment, too. They will offer expert advice on feeding, diapering, and proper baby care. Books galore are also available, written by baby doctors and psychologists offering guidance on parenting, and the latest in child development research.
When it comes to reading material, be prudent about book selection. And, don’t be afraid to set down boundaries on visiting times for over-eager friends and relatives. While you can learn proper baby care from the expertise of others, you and your spouse also need time alone with your baby, to bond.
Bonding with Baby
The bonding process starts within the womb but once the baby is born, skin to skin contact and early breastfeeding can help with that mother- baby attachment. Dads can also benefit from skin to skin contact with their baby to help strengthen their bond.
More frequently than not, bonding with baby will include touch. This is important, because it is through touch your baby will come to know you.
Cradling your baby in your lap, and gently stroking him or her is the most basic form of bonding between baby and parent. Nestling the newborn at your neck is another bonding-touch that provides baby with a sense of security. Support the baby’s head and neck with one hand, and his or her bottom with the other.
Forget the old wives’ tale that holding a baby too much will spoil the child. Yes, perhaps a baby should not be picked up each and every time they so much as squeak but a baby who is crying is communicating that their is a need. It could be a need for food, warmth, touch, love or feeling discomfort.
Quiet moments alone with baby without distractions are necessary to form the emotional connection between parent and child, essential to a healthy attachment. An important bonding process noted by paediatricians in the late 1970s. This process has been proved vital for both parent and child.
Newborns provided the benefit of gentle contact and tender touch by parents feel loved and secure. This sense of well-being impacts both their emotional growth and physical development.
Parents who form this type attachment with their newborn make better parents. They are better equipped and more willing to make the necessary sacrifices to care for their child; during infancy as well as through childhood. Unfortunately some unforeseen circumstances can interfere with this process such as postnatal depression, maternal illness and other major life events.
The Importance of Touch
The importance of touch – gentle, loving contact when holding your baby, cannot be emphasized enough. Rough handing and harsh jostling, especially with a newborn, can not only frighten your baby, but be life-threatening, as well.
Always be careful to support your newborn’s head and neck when you pick them up, or lay them down. If you need to wake up your newborn, don’t startle them by jostling or shaking them. Instead, gently tickle their feet, softly blow on their cheek, or tenderly rub the side of their head while speaking softly and saying their name.
Relish time with your baby. Gently cradle him or her in your arms, and tenderly rub his or her back using slow, wide circles. Or, caress your baby soothingly as you rock them.
Talk in a low, comforting tone, or quietly sing to them. When eye contact is made smile, even if you aren’t sure whether or not their eyesight has developed enough yet to see clearly.
While it is true the importance of proper baby care (bathing, adequate nutrition, a safe, clean environment, play and nap time, and comfortable, warm clothing) cannot be over emphasised, neither can the healthy-bonding process between parent and child and the importance of touch.
Both vital ingredients that say, “You are loved!”