Some parents feel intense love for their child the minute they first hold them. For others bonding takes time, as they get to know their new baby. Here are some top tips on how to get to know each other
Some babies are active and alert, some seem very relaxed. Others are hard to reassure, sensitive to changes in routine and restless if you’re uneasy. Of course, the baby who could win first prize for being laid back is no more ‘good’ than an easily upset baby, it’s really just the way they are.
Feeding, cuddling, talking, singing, massage, bathing together or even just looking at each other all help parents and babies to bond. Your baby will tell you if they’re ready to interact: when they’re looking at and reaching out to you, your little one wants you to talk to them.
Young babies are reassured by voices they know, and they’ll be comforted by hearing you chat to others as well as enjoying you talking directly to them. Give your newborn plenty of time to reply with gurgles, coos and arm waving. Keep what you say simple, or copy your baby’s sound. This is often called ‘motherese’, but all the family can do this.
Newborns like to feel physical boundaries – after all, their life up till now was spent in an increasingly tight space! – and they like to be held close. Some pedal their legs in happiness when their clothes are removed, while others fling up their arms in panic and cry until they feels a soft cloth over them. At bathtime many babies stiffen anxiously unless you hold their feet against the end of the bath, so again just do what feels right for your child.
A very young baby is still curled up and it’s not until about six weeks that you’ll see them open their little fists and play with their hands. They’ll soon be able to hold their head up too, if you keep their body steady, your baby’s ability to control their body then develops steadily from the top down. Nearing the three-month milestone they’ll be busy finding their hands and feet. Their movements may begin to look more deliberate but they are still trying to get their eyes and hands to work together.
Fun and games
Your newborn needs simple play resources and a companion – if it’s an older sibling, show them how to be gentle. They haven’t yet learned how to grip objects, so try these ideas:
Hold a book steady, so your baby can scrabble with their fingers
Show them a smooth wooden spoon so they can look, feel and try to grasp it
Shake a simple sound-maker such as a bell in a cloth cube. Tie it securely to a ribbon, and let your little one try to swat it
Buy toys with a range of textures and colours, especially red, black and white*
Finding it tough?
There are many reasons why bonding may not happen immediately, including you having to spend time with older kids, lack of sleep (on both your parts!) and colic. Talk to your health visitor or GP if you are concerned.
*Source: Dr Robert Steele, St John’s Clinic Paediatrics, Missouri, USA