Here she is in your arms at last. Do you feel overwhelming love, asks Nina Visagie?
IN SOME CASES bonding is instinctive, but often you don’t immediately feel intense love for your baby. Rest assured, it’s quite normal. Bonding is a process that could take months. This is how it works: most babies are ready to bond with their moms almost the minute they leave the womb. Exactly the same could be said of many mamas. Scientists have long believed there’s a window period shortly after a birth when baby and mom are finely attuned to each other, and that a strong bond is forged between them during this time. Meanwhile, scientists have fortunately also found that bonding is not a now-ornever kind of thing. Bonding between parents and baby – developing those deep emotional ties between you – is a process that happens over a long period of time, and often without you even being aware of it. It can actually already start long before baby is born. You might have been blissfully unaware, but that first time you heard her heartbeat in the gynae’s rooms or saw her body on the sonar screen, you were already bonding. It’s not important when and how it happens. What is important is that it does happen, because bonding plays a big part in a child’s emotional development. The absence of a strong bond between a mom and her baby could damage that child’s ability to bond with others later, experts warn. There are some guidelines on how to establish and strengthen the bonds between you and your baby, before and after birth. We share a few…
BOND WITH YOUR BUMP UNDERSTAND YOUR BABY The more you know about your unborn baby’s reaction to the outside world, the more you’ll be in touch with her. Find out how she grows from week to week and what she can hear, see and taste. GET PHYSICAL Massage your belly and press back when she kicks. SONAR BONDING Sonar examinations are not only there to put you at ease that everything’s going well with your pregnancy. It’s also a place to bond with your child – especially for dads. So bring him along for the next doctor’s appointment. CHAT A LOT Greet your baby when you wake up, chat during the day and say good night. Mom’s voice is one of the first things a newborn recognises and one of the things that will keep her feeling safe for a long time. FEET IN THE AIR Take a half an hour or so every day to sit or lie back. Keep a kick tally by holding your hand over your belly and counting how many times your baby moves during those few minutes. It’s excellent bonding time and will also put your mind at ease about his movement. DEAR DIARY… Write what you’d like to tell your baby in a diary or journal. BOND WITH YOUR BABY IN THE HOSPITAL For the past almost 30 years research has been conducted on bonding between mom and baby. The results confirmed, among other things, the importance of mom as baby’s primary caregiver. Maternity wards have acted on these findings, which is why baby is entrusted to mom’s care (rather than a nursing sister’s) a lot quicker following the birth nowadays. Hospital nurseries are emptying, and cots are being moved next to moms’ beds in the wards. SKIN ON SKIN Ask the nurse for your freshly born, unwashed baby, and hold her against your naked chest before she’s taken away for weighing and the routine newborn tests. DON’T WAIT TO NURSE Breastfeeding stimulates the release of hormones that ensure your caring instinct kicks in even faster. Babies are usually more than willing to suckle almost immediately after birth, when their sucking reflex is very strong. QUIET TIME To chat all the time remains a fantastic way to forge a tie between you, but sometimes you don’t need to say a word. Eye-to-eye contact also promotes bonding. ROOMIES Ask the nurses to leave baby in the room with you if she’s healthy and you’re not too exhausted. It has been proven that babies want to be in mom’s company and thrive in it. Give her what she wants! BACK AT HOME PYJAMA PARTY Those first two or three days at home – especially with a firstborn – are very special. Cherish this time, and forget about getting up and dressed. You and baby can spend all day in bed while you hug her and sing and read to her. NIGHT OWLS Cherish the quiet moments with your baby in the wee hours of the morning. Many babies quickly learn to drop their night feeds. START WITH BABY MASSAGE It’s one of the best ways to bond with your new baby, and you don’t have to wait too long before starting. Margo Kilborn, a trained baby massage instructor, says newborns can definitely be massaged – just remember that they can become overstimulated. “Also remember never to massage a sleeping baby.” AGAINST YOUR HEART Carry your baby in a sling or baby carrier close to your body during the day. Your hands are free and you can do what you need to while baby benefits from your proximity. Your movements are also soothing. IF BABY IS PREM OR BORN ILL All these way to bond with baby are easy if she came into this world in excellent health, but what happens if things didn’t go as smoothly? How does a mom bond with her baby if she’s in the newborn intensive care unit (NICU)? Sister Liana Herbst, who works in the NICU at Panorama Mediclinic, explains: “Prematurely born babies are particularly sensitive to handling and noise. They don’t like to be stroked at all, for instance. We teach moms of these babies a specific way of touching them.” It involves holding one hand on baby’s head and the other under her bum. Kangaroo care is another very effective way to bond with premature babies. “It involves baby being carried naked, wearing just a nappy and a beanie, against mom or dad’s chest with direct skin contact. The baby is then tied to the parent’s chest, and covered with a blanket or shirt. In this way, a constant temperature can be maintained – just like in an incubator.” Liana says research has shown that premature babies in kangaroo care gain weight more quickly and experience fewer irregular breathing sessions. And for moms there’s an added benefit: it boosts their milk production. Moms of prem or ill babies are also encouraged to become involved with their little ones in other ways. As soon as the baby is stable, mom can start changing nappies herself, Liana says. “Of course we also strongly encourage breastfeeding because it’s so fantastic for bonding, also with an ill or premature baby. Even just by expressing milk and storing it (babies are given the milk through a tube in the nose), the mom feels much more involved. “If baby is still very ill, we allow her mom to sit with her for as long as she wants to. It’s also very important that she talks to her baby. She can also cosy up the incubator with a soft toy.” YP
BONDING IS A PROCESS THAT COULD TAKE MONTHS