The ties that bind How to bond with your baby

Bond­ing with your new­born is one of the most im­por­tant par­ent­ing mile­stones, says Beth Cooper How­ell. But some­times it doesn’t hap­pen in­stantly

Your Baby & Toddler - - Contents -

IF SEV­ERAL WEEKS GO BY AND YOU DON’T FEEL AN AT­TACH­MENT DE­VEL­OP­ING WITH YOUR BABY, OR YOU BE­GIN TO FEEL RE­SENT­MENT AND ANGER, THEN SPEAK TO YOUR PAE­DI­A­TRI­CIAN

NO TWO MOMS are alike in per­son­al­ity and habit. Each will care for their baby dif­fer­ently and, de­pend­ing on in­di­vid­ual style, man­ner and ap­proach, will ei­ther en­joy or suf­fer the con­se­quences. If you don’t feel par­tic­u­larly at­tached to your baby yet, lose the guilt!

There is enough pres­sure on moms, es­pe­cially in the early days, and you will find your own way to help your baby thrive and feel se­cure.

Sci­en­tific ev­i­dence shows that sen­si­tiv­ity to your baby’s needs plays a vi­tal role in her devel­op­ment. Your child will be bet­ter equipped to de­velop good self-es­teem and to suc­ceed in most ar­eas of her life if she feels a strong, se­cure at­tach­ment with you.

HOW BOND­ING HAP­PENS

Here are six ways to build a healthy at­tach­ment with your baby:

Touch and smell are key needs for new­borns. While your baby is awake, find ways to keep her close and in tac­tile con­tact. Slings are ideal and also help to put a rest­less baby to sleep.

Eye con­tact is im­por­tant to es­tab­lish a lov­ing re­la­tion­ship be­cause it means that you take an in­ter­est in her as a per­son. Look into her eyes from a dis­tance of 20 to 30cm, as that will be the range in which she can fo­cus dur­ing the first month. She will be fas­ci­nated by your face and ex­pres­sions. In­ter­est­ingly, the dis­tance she can see in those early days is the dis­tance be­tween her face and yours while breast­feed­ing. Na­ture is wise, as you can see!

Al­ways re­spond to her cries as it’s her only means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Take an in­ter­est in her cry­ing pat­terns and tones and she’ll have much to tell you. Never leave your baby to cry. It is a trau­matic ex­pe­ri­ence, coun­ter­pro­duc­tive, and will de­stroy any ef­forts you make in try­ing to bond with her.

Talk­ing to your baby is more im­por­tant than we think. The sooth­ing tone of your voice will com­fort and stim­u­late her. Pitch your voice a lit­tle higher than nor­mal to bet­ter en­gage with her. Re­mem­ber that she has lis­tened to your voice ever since she was in the womb.

Smile at your baby of­ten. It’s a way of show­ing your love for her and the hap­pi­ness you feel when look­ing at her. She will reg­is­ter the smile and re­spond when she is ready. It is be­lieved that the smil­ing face of the main care­giver (mom) has a pos­i­tive ef­fect on stim­u­lat­ing and de­vel­op­ing brain func­tion.

Cud­dling gives a new­born much com­fort and an op­por­tu­nity to bond with the mother (and fa­ther). New­borns also of­ten have dif­fi­culty reg­u­lat­ing their tem­per­a­ture and might be colder than you are. Cud­dling and skin con­tact, in par­tic­u­lar, can ef­fec­tively reg­u­late their tem­per­a­ture in this way.

WHAT IF BOND­ING DOESN’T COME EAS­ILY?

Bond­ing will not al­ways just hap­pen. But if you per­sist in ap­ply­ing the tech­niques de­scribed above, your baby is un­likely to suf­fer from not hav­ing had an im­me­di­ate bond with you.

Pae­di­atric psy­chol­o­gist Ed­ward Christo­phersen says moth­ers of­ten feel guilty if an im­me­di­ate bond is not es­tab­lished be­tween them and their ba­bies. How­ever, the process can take longer for some – and this doesn’t mean that there is any­thing wrong with you.

Bond­ing is a nat­u­ral out­come of sen­si­tive care­giv­ing and in time, as you get to know your baby’s habits and char­ac­ter­is­tics, the bond will deepen.

WHAT IF BOND­ING JUST DOESN’T HAP­PEN?

Around 35 per­cent of ba­bies form an un­healthy at­tach­ment with the mother and de­velop feel­ings of in­se­cu­rity and anx­i­ety in her pres­ence be­cause she is not the source of com­fort they ex­pected.

If sev­eral weeks go by and you don’t feel an at­tach­ment de­vel­op­ing with your baby, or you be­gin to feel re­sent­ment and anger, then speak to your pae­di­a­tri­cian or doc­tor as you could be suf­fer­ing from post­na­tal de­pres­sion.

Post­na­tal de­pres­sion is a mod­er­ate to se­vere form of de­pres­sion that usu­ally oc­curs within three months af­ter giv­ing birth. The mother typ­i­cally feels anx­ious, ir­ri­ta­ble, tear­ful and rest­less and may har­bour nega­tive feel­ings to­wards her baby or feel un­able to care for her baby or her­self.

Early di­ag­no­sis and treat­ment will pre­vent your re­la­tion­ship with your baby de­te­ri­o­rat­ing and help you to restart the bond­ing process. It is vi­tal that you seek the help of a psy­chol­o­gist be­cause you can feel bet­ter with help.

ALL ABOUT DAD

Baby bond­ing is not only for moms. Dads have a sig­nif­i­cant role to play too. Re­search re­veals that in­stead of coo­ing, talk­ing or singing, dads like to be phys­i­cally play­ful – leg-jig­gling, soft tummy tick­les and peek-a-boo games. They’re the fun guys in this game of bond­ing and have a spe­cial role to play.

If they stay close enough to the ac­tion they may even be the ones who’ll see the first smile.

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