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Five Simple Ways To Bond With Your Newborn

Five Simple Ways To Bond With Your Newborn
By Jill Campbell, Psy.D.

For most of us, when we imagine the moment that our baby comes into the world, we imagine that we will feel this instantaneous bond between our baby and ourselves. We think the very moment that we look into our baby’s eyes we will feel completely connected. The truth is, however, it doesn’t always work that way. The attachment bond is a process that develops over time between you and your baby. This bond happens naturally as you care for, and pay attention to your baby. It is the lasting relationship that is interactive in that both you and your baby participate in learning about each other. But just because it is natural, doesn’t mean it is always easy or stress free. It is very normal to feel uncertain, scared, or even disconnected at first.

Here are five simple tools you can use to start building a secure attachment bond with your baby:

1. Skin to skin touching (also know as kangaroo care): Research on skin to skin touching between parent and infant following birth shows that it contributes to better regulation of arousal, lower stress, more organized sleep-wake cycles, longer periods of restful sleep and overall calmness in young infants. This simply consists of holding your newborn to your chest or abdomen, with bare skin touching.

2. Eye to eye contact: When a baby is born he or she focuses best on objects that are about 8 to 10 inches away. This is the perfect distance from baby’s face to yours when being held in your arms. One of the first communications made between you and your baby is through eye contact. It is important to make eye contact everyday with your baby. When nursing, don’t always be watching TV, talking to someone else, or planning your day in your head. Be present and focused on baby. Very young infants study their caregiver’s faces, focusing especially on the eyes.

3. Mirroring: As you make eye contact with your baby and study one another, you will begin to mirror your baby’s expressions and movements. Baby might yawn or tilt her head, and you might mirror these movements back to her. Repeat the sounds she makes while looking into her eyes. Babies will do this to us as well. We know that a basic mirror neuron system is present at birth. Newborns as young as 18 hours old are able to imitate certain facial movements. If you stick out your tongue, your newborn may copy you. The imitative ability that comes from mutual mirroring builds physical, social and cognitive skills.

4. Narrating: Talk to your baby; tell him what he is looking at and/or doing. Name familiar objects as you touch them or bring them to baby. Talking to your baby will not only strengthen your bond with him, but will help develop language skills as well. Repeat back to your baby the sounds he makes, and ask him questions. Pause and wait for an answer. You may get a smile or a coo back and baby is learning the art of communication.

5. Touch /Massage: Babies are very sensorial. Much of their learning at the beginning takes place through stimulating their senses. Giving your baby a daily massage is a wonderful way to calm and connect to your baby. Research shows that infant massage not only calms and soothes your baby, but babies that are massaged tend to cry less, sleep more and get some relief from gas and colic. Touch and tickles are also very important for building body awareness.