How to bond with your baby

By Judy Silver on September 17, 2012
“Babies come into the world biologically and behaviourally primed to relate to others who will provide care,” says Howard Steele, a Professor of Psychology at The New School for Social Research. However, for new parents, bonding can be an evolving process.

New parents often face challenges when caring for their baby. They might stress over their new roles or feel overwhelmed by the big responsibilities for which no previous experience has prepared them. Some new moms suffer from post-delivery discomfort, postpartum depression or raging postpartum hormones. They’re tired from nightly feedings plus the chores that still need attending to. Beyond this, “there’s a psychological transition going on that parents have to get used to. They went from no child to pregnancy to delivery,” says Dr. Susan Yabsley, Psychology Training Leader and Head of Infancy Training at the Hincks-Dellcrest Centre, a children’s mental health centre in Toronto. “This takes time.”

Bonding is vital. “Without such care we would not survive,” says Dr. Steele. It ensures that newborn babies are loved, protected and nourished by their parents emotionally, physically and mentally. Benefits are almost immediate. “Babies responded to promptly when crying at three months, cry less at nine months,” says Dr. Steele.

So how do you bond with a baby?

Jenny Jenkins, a Professor of Human Development and Applied Psychology at the University of Toronto, suggests the following tips:

  • Sing, talk gently and play peek-a-boo games with your child. Babies recognize their parents’ voices and find it soothing to hear. In fact, infants prefer the human voice above other sounds. Mimicking your baby’s cooing and squeaking sounds are other effective bonding techniques. 
  • Stroke your baby affectionately. Hold your infant in your arms or carry the child in a baby sling or carrier while you go about your activities. Even if your baby is falling asleep in your arms, they will still know how safe and secure it is to be there. Feeding, diapering, massaging and bathing activities are other natural bonding opportunities.
  • Newborns see best at close range. Let them stare at your face. They can do it for hours, and essentially, they’re memorizing their parents’ features. They’re also learning to communicate with you via facial expressions.
  • Ask for help with your chores so that you have the time and energy to devote to your newborn. Know that while you are gently caring for your newborn, you are forming secure and loving bonds.

Originally published in ParentsCanada: Best Wishes, Spring 2012.

By Judy Silver| September 17, 2012

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