For some mums, bonding with your precious new baby comes easily, but for others it can feel like it’s never going to happen! If you or your partner are finding it a bit tricky or are looking for extra ways to strengthen your connection, try out some of these simple tips to help boost the bond.
1. Bump bonding
Why wait until the birth? The relationship you have with your baby can start as early as when they’re in the womb. Even if you don’t know the sex and have no names picked out you can still talk to your unborn baby, sing them songs, read stories, play them music and more. This is a great way for expecting mums to not only bond with their bump, but come to terms with the reality that soon they will be a mother (something else that some women find difficult to get their heads around). Babies are also able to recognise their mother’s voice (and dad’s too) by the time they’re born, so the more you talk to them in utero the better.
2. Make feeds special
Breastfeeding is a wonderful way to build a relationship with your baby with its skin to skin contact, but this doesn’t mean that bottle fed babies miss out. Even if your baby isn’t on the breast you can still turn each feed into an opportunity for closeness and bonding – especially during the day. You can stroke their head or hands while they’re feeding, sing to them, look into their eyes, talk to them softly or even lay them on top of you or lie next to them as they feed (once they’re a bit older).
3. Give a little massage
Human touch is so important for people, especially babies, which is why newborns are placed on their mother’s chest after birth. Massage is one of the best ways to achieve this with your baby and it’s amazing in terms of bonding. Even just a few soft, gentle body strokes a day can do wonders, with massage scientifically proven to help babies thrive. It’s even said to help reduce eczema and allergies and to strengthen the immune system. Amazing!
4. Sleep close to them
A lot of mums choose to co-sleep with their baby for bonding and to make breastfeeding easier (among other reasons), but this isn’t the only way to create a special bond at night time. Some great and safe alternatives are to place your baby in a bassinet or cot and pull it up next to the side of your bed, or try a three-sided cot that you also push up next to your bed. There’s something so magical about listening to and watching your child sleep.
5. Share a bath
Bath time is another great opportunity for skin to skin contact, particularly when they’re past the initial newborn age. Even before they can sit up, you can hold them in the bath with you or lie them across your front, and get nice and close for things like washing their hair. Just be careful to make sure they are supported, or that you have a hold of them at all times. Ideally, have a partner or family member nearby too, especially to help you get out and have towels ready.
6. Carry them close
The first few months of your baby’s life (sometimes called the ‘fourth trimester’) is when they need you the most. They haven’t yet figured out that you and they aren’t the same person and they’re actually their own entity, so wearing your baby in a sling or baby carrier can help with this transition. This way they can still hear your heartbeat, smell you and be close to your skin. It’s great for bonding too (their little bodies always close by for a kiss and cuddle), with heaps of other benefits such as helping babies with reflux, sneaking naps in for those that won’t sleep in the cot, or when you’re trying to multi-task and get other stuff done.
7. Go swimming
This is a great bonding activity for when babies get a little bit older. Babies just love the water and attention they get from you when you’re swimming together. The safest option is swimming in a pool with flotation devices such as a back bubble and arm bands, but attending swimming classes are even better as you’ll learn the best ways to help your little one move in the water and become aware of water safety. Most infant swimming classes start from when they’re around four months old and it’s a great way to meet other local mums too.
8. Read to them
Children love a good story, even when they’re not old enough to understand the words, so make reading a daily activity and it will not only become a lovely bonding experience but help set them up for great literacy skills later on. Before bed time is ideal, but other times of the day are good too. You could even join a free library reading group where parents read books to their babies, sing songs and play games.
9. Learn baby signing
Parents who communicate with their bubs through baby sign language swear by the intense bond it creates. Used before babies learn to speak, it can help them to tell you when they’re hungry, need changing, in pain and more. The idea is that if your baby feels understood and their needs are met more accurately and quickly, it helps them be more emotionally connected to you.
10. Sing your heart out
All babies love music and especially being sung to by their mums – even if you can’t hold a tune! Lullabies, commercial songs, made up ditties – whatever takes your fancy! Just get humming and watch their little eyes light up in delight.
11. Relax and don’t panic
Experts claim that true emotional bonds between mothers and their babies don’t really become established until around four to five months, so if you’re not feeling much in those first few hours or even weeks, don’t panic! A relaxed, happy mum is the best thing for your baby and they will respond well to this. Being stressed about not feeling much of a bond does no good to anyone, so don’t worry about it and you might find that it naturally happens of its own accord when you least expect it.