Building a Bond, 12 Ways
As your eyes meet and you smile at the blessing in your arms, you know that this precious child will change your life. Finding ways to communicate your love, adoration and the need to nurture your baby often comes naturally. And many ways to bond with your little one and build a natural connection will develop over the years. From gentle caresses to skin-to-skin feeding, bonding with your baby is a blessing in disguise. Have a suggestion for bonding with baby? Let us know by leaving a comment below.
Feeding Family Time
The main psychological goal of the first 12 months of life is bonding and attachment, says Dr. Fran Walfish, California-based psychotherapist and author of “The Self-Aware Parent.” Whether you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding, bonding occurs when you provide the nourishment your child needs. Enhance feeding moments by gazing into your child’s eyes and lightly soothe him or her with caresses on the skin. Skin-to-skin touching during feeding can help both mom and dad bond with a baby. “Daddy can take the nighttime feeding and while gazing lovingly into his infant’s eyes, bonding occurs,” says Walfish.
Touch Turns to Trust
Bonding is critical for babies to learn trust and know that the world they live in is a safe place. According to Tammy Gold, psychotherapist and founder of Gold Parent Coaching, a development stage for a baby is “trust versus mistrust.” Parents need to build trust by holding babies and responding to their needs, says Gold. Simply holding your child creates a bond between the two of you. Your baby will come to recognize and bond with your scent, the touch of your skin and the warmth your body provides. Combine touching with talking, smiling and singing and the bond will continue to grow, says Gold. “You cannot show enough positive affection to a baby,” she says.
Soothing and Singing
As your baby is finding ways to soothe himself, the sound of your voice will help console and comfort him. Make these moments even more special by singing softly to your baby. As you hold him in your arms, sing a silly nursery rhyme to encourage a smile or rock him into a blissful sleep with a slow lullaby. You don’t have to have a professional singing voice to bond with your baby. As he recognizes your tone and your tunes, he will begin to bond with you and seek the comfort of your sounds.
One common misconception is that parents should lay a baby down to bed once he is already asleep. You may be missing out on a precious bonding moment and an opportunity for your child to learn a key coping skill, says Dr. Fran Walfish, California-based psychotherapist and author of “The Self-Aware Parent.” A key life coping skill is developed when babies are allowed to learn self-soothing in order to fall asleep. “If your infant falls asleep at your breast, before putting her into her crib, gently arouse her so that her eyes open and meet yours,” suggests Walfish. “Say goodnight, kiss her and lay her into her crib.” This bonding moment will warm your heart and help soothe your baby to fall back asleep.
Break Out Silly Faces
The sight of your little one smiling at you is heartwarming. Laughter can help the two of you bond in a fun and playful way. Especially when your baby is fussy or uncomfortable, forcing a smile helps soothe and comfort him. In fact, a funny face or peek-a-boo can change a mood and keep your baby positive, says Dr. Kate Roberts, licensed child psychologist in Hamilton, Massachusetts. Get creative and work on your funny facial expressions to nurture and bond with your little one.
Observe and Be Mindful
An excellent way for parents to build a bond with their baby is to practice mindfulness while holding their baby, says Gina Hassan, San Francisco-based clinical psychologist. Mindfulness involves sensing everything about your baby. “Next time you are holding your baby in your arms, pay attention to all of the ways in which you can sense your baby in the present moment,” says Hassan. Pay full attention to how she smells, how his skin feels, the texture of her skin and hair and the sound and rhythm of his breathing. “Experiencing your baby in this way can bring feelings of both wonder and deepen your sense of closeness,” says Hassan.
Calm the Storm
When your baby is sad, angry, fussy or uncomfortable, she seeks comfort from mom and dad. Be the one who comforts the tears and rushes to her side when she is in need to build a stronger bond between the two of you. “Soothing a crying baby makes the association between the comforter and the baby and builds the connection,” says Dr. Kate Roberts, licensed child psychologist in Hamilton, Massachusetts.
It may be a smelly job, but changing your child’s diaper is an opportunity to bond. Your baby senses that you are the one to make him more comfortable and cater to his needs. When changing your child, you get to talk to him and be a part of an intimate process, says Roberts. Make diaper duty fun, too, by singing silly songs, talking to your child in a funny voice or making faces while encouraging him to stay still during the process.
Splishing, Splashing and Soothing
You may see baby care, such as feeding and bathing, as just a normal part of your daily routine; however, these moments help create bonds with your child. Bath time can be one of the best bonding opportunities a parent can experience with his or her child. As you soak, splash and clean your child, know that you are meeting her primitive needs, a gesture of comfort and care that babies can sense, says Alicia Clark, Washington, D.C.-based clinical psychologist. “Look for as many opportunities as possible to take care of your infant,” says Clark. “Trust that through these intimate gestures of care-taking, you are establishing the bonds of attachment that will last a lifetime.”
When nurturing a baby, it’s common to establish a daily routine. From morning baths, midnight feedings and midday naps to silly songs before bed and dancing at dinner time, your child begins to adapt, appreciate and bond with the rituals you have created. If you sing a little tune to your baby when she goes to sleep or play a game to get her to open her mouth for food, you have offered your baby an opportunity to bond with you. “By offering a familiar something at those times, you’ve been building her trust in you and a sense of security that comforts her even when you’re not around,” says Ekanem Ebinne, early childhood music development specialist and creator of play-based communication training for families at MotherinTune.com
Talking Is Telling
Studies have shown that babies can know who is talking to them and newborns will be more familiar and bonded to the voices she hears the most, says Dr. Kate Roberts, licensed child psychologist. Bring on the chatter and talk to your baby every chance you get. Describe what you see, what you are doing and what you plan to do so your baby can begin to recognize the comfort of your voice. Even the sound of your laughter and a softly spoken word here or there can increase the bond between the two of you.
It is common to neglect your own needs when you are caring and striving to bond with a new baby. However, when you’re in a calm and relaxed state, you become more aware of and responsive to your baby’s attempts to communicate and bond more effectively with you, says Ekanem Ebinne, Texas-based early childhood music development specialist. If you have let your self-care falter, get yourself back on track with some pampering. Ask a friend or family member to care for your little one and visit the spa, get your nails done, play a game of golf or take a yoga class to refresh your mind and your body. “Your care for yourself can help your baby more than you imagine and enhance the bond between the two of you,” says Ebinne.
How Do You Bond With Baby?
How do you create bonds with your baby? Any more suggestions to add? Leave a comment below and let us know. Share how you create bonding moments with your little one.
- Dr. Fran Walfish; Psychotherapist, Author; Beverly Hills, California
- Tammy Gold; Psychotherapist, Founder, Gold Parent Coaching; Short Hills, New Jersey
- Dr. Kate Roberts; Licensed Child Psychologist; Hamilton, Massachusetts
- Gina Hassan; Licensed Clinical Psychologist; San Francisco, California
- Alicia Clark; Licensed Clinical Psychologist; Washington, DC
- Ekanem Ebinne; Early Childhood Music Development Specialist; Houston, Texas