Dr Jozelle Miller
June 14, 2016
Bonding is essential…

The process of bonding with a new baby is natural for most mothers. Left alone, new mothers will hold their baby next to their bodies, rock them gently, strive for eye contact, sing or talk to the baby and begin to nurse. Often within just hours of birth, mothers report feelings of over– whelming love and attachment for their new baby.{{more}}

A normal, full-term baby is also programmed to initiate and enter into a bonding relationship. Crying and making other noises, smiling, searching for the breast, and seeking eye contact give cues for a caring adult to respond.

When a caregiver consistently responds to an infant’s needs, a trusting relationship and lifelong attachment develops. This sets the stage for the growing child to enter healthy relationships with other people throughout life and to appropriately experience and express a full range of emotions.

There are many benefits to the mother-child bond which extends to every other relationship they would entertain. Research has found that children who had been more securely attached to their mothers, when grown, did better at resolving relationship conflicts, recovering from those conflicts and enjoying stable, satisfying ties with their romantic partners in early adulthood. One author and professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota explained: “It’s often very difficult to find the lingering effects of early life being related to adult behavior, because life circumstances change; people change, but there’s a kernel of stability from early experience in a lot of people.”

Tips to bond with your baby:

1. Birth bonding – The first few weeks of your baby’s life help set the stage for your relationship. I recommend that parents spend as much time in skin-to-skin and eye-to-eye contact as possible.

2. Breastfeeding – Do this as often and as long as possible. Besides providing your baby with nature’s perfect milk, it’s an exercise in baby reading. The intimate contact promotes bonding by teaching you to read your baby’s facial expressions and sense her body language, while the very act of nursing teaches baby that you are a source of care and comfort she can trust. If a medical or lifestyle complication prevents you from breastfeeding, you can make bottle-feeding a time of high touch and high communication too.

3. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies sleep in the same room as mother, on separate sleeping surfaces, to reap the benefits of night-time attachment. When bedding close to baby, try a co-sleeper, a bedside bassinet that attaches safely to your bed, to keep baby within arm’s reach and in a safe sleep environment.

4. A baby’s cry is her way of communicating with you. Listen to it and believe in the value of her “language.” Babies cry to communicate, not to manipulate, so learning how to decipher your baby’s cries and respond appropriately — whether with a feeding, a diaper change or a simple, comforting touch — teaches her to trust you to understand her needs and take care of them. As that bond grows and you become accomplished at anticipating her needs before she becomes upset, you may even find that she cries less.

5. Spend time learning your child and allowing your child to learn you as well. Enjoy each moment, as they slip by so very fast. Cherish the memories.

Dr Miller is Health Psychologist at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital.