Bonding With Baby: A Connection for Life
Forging a bond with your baby is a rewarding process for both of you. Here are 6 ways to get started.
Your baby can't talk yet, but that doesn't mean she can't interact with you. Long before she says her first "mama" and "dada," you'll start fostering an important relationship with your little one. When you're bonding with baby, you're making an important emotional connection that's as vital as the air she breathes and the milk she drinks. This means creating a strong tie so that your newborn feels safe and loved. "While bonding is as critical to your baby as sleep and food, it's also of great benefit to parents. They'll enjoy a rush of oxytocin, the 'happy chemical' that's released in the brain after a bonding session," explains Dr. Deborah Gilboa, a parenting and youth development expert, family physician and author of several parenting books.
"Bonding is both the motivation for and the result of connecting with our children, so the more attuned we are, the more effective we can be at responding sensitively to their needs," says Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore, a psychologist and creator of the video series "Raising Emotionally and Socially Healthy Kids." However, this process can take some time. "It often takes a few days or weeks to form a bond with your baby," Dr. Gilboa points out, but that bond can be formed in lots of different ways. Here are six ideas to try for deepening that special bond:
- Share a Hobby
Involve your baby in an activity you like, whether it's drawing, reading or working in the garden. "Place your baby on your lap as you read out loud, or put her in a nearby spot while you work," suggests Dr. Gilboa. Explain what you're doing as you engage in your hobby, and she'll learn to look forward to joining you each time.
- Narrate Your Day
It may seem silly to engage your baby in chit-chat, but this kind of talk serves a dual purpose: It jump-starts language development and also helps include her and makes her feel secure. Tell her about the weather as you change her diaper, or relate something happy from the news. Your calm, happy voice will inspire a strong bond with your baby.
- Sing a Song
You don't need to have perfect pitch or even remember the right lyrics. Just look your tot in the eye and start to sing. She'll love the attention you're giving her and will get excited at the sound of your tune, and you'll love having an enthusiastic audience for your singing.
- Sway to Music
Just as with singing, professional dance moves aren't required here. "Bonding takes place through the social act of communication, and dance is a form of this. It's a gestural language of sorts," says Teresa Signorelli, a speech-language pathologist at Marymount Manhattan College in New York City. Plus, it will provide the opportunity for extra cuddles throughout your day.
- Strike a Pose
Yup, you can do yoga with your baby. Practicing this ancient art with your little one can strengthen your bond as well as tone your core, arms and legs. Place your tot nearby as you begin to stretch and describe each movement to her. When you're done with your routine, stretch out your little one's limbs, too -- reach her arms above her head, gently bend and extend her legs and help her roll over from her stomach to her back.
- Try Massage
Follow up that yoga with a nice massage. Infant massage is a great way to connect with your baby. You can probably find a class in your area, or you can just gently rub your baby all over, talking to him about his arms, his legs, his tummy, his shoulders and so on as you touch each part. He'll love the touch, the eye contact and the sound of your voice.
To learn more, read these 3 reasons to try baby massage.
Last but not least, take care of you. "Bonding with your baby can't occur if you feel exhausted or overwhelmed, so let family members pitch in and take care of the baby so you can take a walk, soak in the tub or just curl up with a good book," suggests Kennedy-Moore. When the two of you are reunited, you'll be better prepared to care for your baby -- and she can show you just how much she missed you!
Remember, bonding with baby is not about perfection. "No parent is ever completely responsive and 100 percent attuned, and that's okay -- love isn't that fragile," reminds Kennedy-Moore. Your bond with your baby is undeniably special, and spending special time with your little one will only make it stronger.
Jennifer Kelly Geddes is a New York-based writer and editor who specializes in parenting, health and child development.
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