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Ask Dr. Sears: Bonding With Baby

When it comes to parenting advice, I tend to fall into the "Mama knows best" camp. That said, if said advice is coming from Dr. Sears? Well, I'm more than willing to give it some serious consideration.

You probably know Dr. Sears from one of the many baby/parenting books you have lining your shelves at home. These include: "The Pregnancy Book," "The Birth Book," "The Baby Book," "The Discipline Book," "The Breastfeeding Book" and more. Not only has Dr. Sears written about all of these things, but he's also experienced them firsthand as the father to eight (yes EIGHT!) children of his own. Clearly the good doctor knows a thing or two (or three) about pregnancy, birth, babies and the like, which is why I was super excited to be able to pick his brain in a recent interview for mom.me about bonding with babies.

Bonding is something I really struggled with as a first-time mom and I know I'm not alone in my experience, so I was really looking forward to finding out what Dr. Sears had to say on the matter.

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I would love to know and find out the 'why.' Why does bonding matter so much?

Well, bonding—which simply means getting to know and enjoy your baby more—is a wonderful part of parenting. It's how those interactions between parents and baby help to build baby's brain, they build their personality, they help you to have fun with your baby. So bonding is a natural part of parenting and we're gonna talk about how to make it more fun for parents and Baby.

Do you have any tips for parents as they begin facilitating the bonding process? How can they do this while the baby is still in utero?

Here are my top three bonding tips. First of all, for the pre-born baby: Talk to your pre-born baby. Get baby used to the sound of your voice and Daddy's voice. Maybe sometimes we'll move in the rhythm to Mommy's voice. And secondly, feel your pre-born baby. Put your hands on the baby bump and get used to the feel of those adorable little kicks. And thirdly, bond during diaper-changing time. Sometimes we forget that you're going to spend more time diapering than any one interaction. You're going to be changing over 2,000 diapers!

So, here's how to bond during diapering. First, my top diaper changing tip is to enjoy the novelty. Babies love novelty, reserve special antics like facial gestures, songs, actions that you do only during diaper changing time. What I used to do is wiggle my little fingers up and down, walking them up and down the arms and legs and abdomen of my babies during diaper-changing time. The babies then look forward to diaper-changing and tend to lie more quietly because they know fun is soon to follow.

The roadblocks to bonding happen when you think, Now it's time to bond with Baby. No. Just make it natural.

In your work with families, what have you found to be potential roadblocks to bonding?

The roadblocks to bonding happen when you think, Now it's time to bond with Baby. No. Just make it natural. Your natural routine during the day, you narrate what you do. As you're feeding Baby, you smile bigger, you laugh, you get bigger eyes. And here's a little bonding tip for daddies —now, moms pay attention, you've gotta get Daddy to bond with Baby—I call this the "neck nestle" and I developed this when Martha was away for a few hours and I had Baby and he got a little fussy and so I said, "Ah, what do I have? I have a deeper, more vibrating voice!" And so I put our baby's little head in the crook of my neck and I would sing a very deep song to him and they'd drift off to sleep. And so the "neck nestle" is a unique Daddy bonding time with Baby. During bath time, play rubber ducky. When Baby starts to crawl, just crawl around the house playing peekaboo. Babies love these games you play with them all day long.

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My last question is: Having more than one child, it can be hard to just sit and soak up your baby when you have other little ones running around. So, what are some things parents can do to make sure that they're fitting in enough bonding time, or including other children as well?

Well, to include the other children, we love watching how older kids relate to babies. In fact, one of the best ways to improve the behavior of older kids is to get them involved in baby care. And what we used to do, we'd give them a job, and a job title. Like "Dr. Lauren" was one of our kids—child number eight. We'd say, "Aaron has a little owie. Dr. Lauren, would you help me take care of Aaron's owie?" and so they feel special. "Help Mommy change the diaper. You hold the diaper while I get Baby all ready."

So make the older kids feel important. It frees you up a little bit, and I mention that because it's important for moms to get enough rest. I still remember putting a little note up on the window—this is after eight children now, you'd think we'd know better—but Martha would say "Oh, I don't have time to take a shower, my baby needs me so much!" And so I would put a little note, "Dear Martha, remember what babies need most is a happy, rested mom. Take some time for yourself while I do a little bonding with Baby."

Dr Sears will be speaking out our Spring Fest Festival on April 9th. Read more about the event here. We'd love to see you, so please join us if you are in Los Angeles!

If you want to learn more you can visit Dr. Sears' website: AskDrSears.com

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