How to build a bond with your newborn
When your baby is born, they will already know the sound of your voice and you will be the most important person in their world.
Some women feel a rush of love as soon as they meet their newborn but for others, this might not happen straight away. Don’t worry if you don’t feel an immediate bond with your baby - building a strong attachment can take a little bit of time, especially if the labour or birth was difficult or you had to be separated from your little one while one or both of you received medical care.
Skin to skin contact
One of the most effective ways of building a bond with your newborn is skin to skin contact. Place your baby on your bare chest so their naked skin is touching yours and your newborn can hear your heartbeat – a comforting sound which will have accompanied their life in your womb.
Put a blanket over you and your baby so they don’t get cold and just spend relax and spend time with each other. Skin to skin is not just a great way of bonding, it also helps regulate your newborn’s temperature, breathing and blood sugars.
It can also help with breastfeeding but skin to skin is important no matter what method you have chosen to feed your baby. Skin to skin is also a really good way for your partner to bond with your baby too.
Just make sure you are fully awake before trying skin to skin so you don’t fall asleep with your newborn on your chest as this can be unsafe.
If your baby is in special care and it is not possible to cuddle them yet, any kind of touch or close contact will help comfort them and build a bond between you. This could be holding their hand or simply touching them – ask staff in the neonatal unit for support in this.
Look into their eyes
Eye contact plays an important part in building a bond with someone and babies are no different. Your newborn won’t be able to see very well at this stage and their eyes won’t be able to focus well for the first couple of weeks.
However, you should still look into their eyes and talk to them as much as you can. Bring your face close to theirs to help them see you.
Some new parents feel self-conscious about talking to their newborn at first as holding a one-sided conversation can be challenging. But it doesn’t really matter what you say at this stage, just that you are talking to them in a positive way and they can hear your voice.
If you can’t think of things to say, try giving them a commentary of what you are doing or reading aloud to them. Keep your chatter calm and upbeat.
As your baby starts to develop, they will start making sounds too. You can mimic these sounds back to them and encourage them to start copying the sounds you make.
Singing songs to your baby can be very comforting and can also help them when it comes to developing their early language skills. You could sing along to your favourite music or sing nursery rhymes and action songs. Many baby groups include singing and may help you get the hang of singing to your baby- remember, your little one doesn’t care if you are in tune, they just want to hear your voice.
Plenty of cuddles
There’s no such thing as spoiling a baby and despite what some older generations might say, you won’t make a rod for your own back by holding and cuddling your infant as much as you want to. Keeping your baby close will help the two of you bond and it will also help them to feel happy, safe and loved.
Try not to feel like you should always be settling the baby down and getting on with tasks. This time of their life will pass quickly and many household jobs can either be delegated to someone else or put on the back burner for a little while. No one should expect a new parent to live in a show home!
However, if there are some things that cannot wait, you may find wearing your baby in a sling works well for you. Babywearing is a fantastic way of keeping your baby in close contact, while leaving your hands free.
Babies often settle really well in slings as the motion of your body will rock them to sleep. It also means they can stay close to you and your familiar smell and hear the sound of your heartbeat.
Have fun together
When your baby is first born, it may feel like all you do is feed them, settle them to sleep and change their nappies. However, you can introduce fun at an early age.
The most important thing is to spend time together. This could be going for a walk with them in their sling or pram, reading a story to them or even gently dancing to your favourite music.
Baby massage can be enjoyable for both of you and a good bonding experience. Ask your midwife or health visitor if there are any baby massage classes in your area. Alternatively, there are resources online so you can try it yourself at home.
Playtime with a newborn doesn’t have to involve lots of toys. Simply stroking your baby, blowing raspberries on their tummy and playing peekaboo can get them smiling and even laughing from about three or four months onwards.
You can also get involved in tummy time – start by placing your baby on your chest and then when they are ready to be placed on a play mat on the floor, get down there with them.
What if I feel I am not bonding with my baby?
If you are worried you are not bonding with your baby or you feel detached or even that you don’t like your little one or they don’t like you, speak to your midwife, health visitor or GP. No one will judge you or think you are a bad parent but they can give you the support you need.
Feeling detached, numb, sad, hopeless or overly anxious can be signs of postnatal depression and the sooner the talk to someone, the sooner you will be able to get help so you can start to feel happy and confident as a new parent.