You wouldn't live on three hours of sleep for just anyone, yet you don't think twice about doing it for your newborn. The bond you share with your baby is one unlike any other, and it has lasting benefits for you both. This bond comes more naturally to some moms than others, but it's one worth working for.
Bonding makes you feel warm and cozy, but don't assume you're the only one feeling the benefits. It also shows your newborn she can trust you to care for her needs says Dr. Mary Beth Steinfeld, a developmental and behavioral pediatrician at the California at Davis Medical Center. Steinfeld says it lays the groundwork for her to form healthy relationships later on in life. And one small study done at the University of Iowa found that children who developed close parental bonds in infancy were less likely to be aggressive or have emotional or behavioral problems later in childhood.
The First Days
The bonding effort begins before birth. Talk to medical staff about arranging for your baby to be placed with you immediately. AskDrSears.com recommends asking for a delay in routine procedures, like the administration of eye ointment, so the baby's first minutes are spent breastfeeding and gazing at you. Depending on your fatigue and emotions, you may also want to have your baby sleep in your room instead of staying in the nursery.
Deepening the Bond
Sharing as much skin-to-skin and eye contact as possible is an ideal way to bond with a baby. Hold her against your bare skin while rocking her to sleep, gaze into her eyes during feedings, and run your hands over her while you snuggle her. KidsHealth recommends trying infant massage, though the site says you will need to learn the proper technique through literature or hospital classes. Responding quickly when she cries will also teach your newborn she can depend on you.
Of course you love your baby, but you may not feel the tight bond with your newborn that you've seen friends experience with their infants. This can be a sign of postpartum depression, according to KidsHealth, or it could just be due to the exhaustion of new parenthood. The site suggests you talk with your pediatrician about these feelings at your newborn's first visit, and keep your cool. Steinberg says a natural bond should be well established after a few months at home. If you don't feel an immediate connection, you may both just need a bit more time.
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