How to bond with your baby

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“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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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.

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