- Bonding with your infant is a wonderful experience. It is the intense attachment that develops between parents and their baby. It makes parents want to shower their baby with love and affection and to protect and nourish their little one. Bonding gets parents up in the middle of the night to feed their hungry baby and makes them attentive to the baby's wide range of cries.
- Scientists are still learning a lot about bonding. They know that the strong ties between parents and their child provide the baby's first model for intimate relationships and foster a sense of security and positive self-esteem. And parents' responsiveness to an infant's signals can affect the child's social and cognitive development.
- Bonding is essential for infants. Most infants are ready to bond immediately. Parents, on the other hand, may have a mixture of feelings about it. Some parents feel an intense attachment within the first minutes or days after their baby's birth. For others — especially if the baby is adopted or has been placed in intensive care — it may take a bit longer.
- But bonding is a process, not something that takes place within minutes and not something that has to be limited to happening within a certain time period after birth. For many parents, bonding is a byproduct of everyday care-giving. You may not even know it's happening until you observe your baby's first smile and suddenly realize that you're filled with love and joy.
Making an Attachment
- Bonding with your baby is probably one of the most pleasurable aspects of infant care. You can begin by cradling your baby and gently stroking him or her in different patterns. If you and your partner both hold and touch your infant frequently, your little one will soon come to know the difference between your touches. Each of you should also take the opportunity to be "skin to skin" with your newborn by holding him or her against your own skin when feeding or cradling.
- Babies may respond to infant massage. Because babies aren't as strong as adults, you'll need to massage your baby very gently. Before trying out infant massage, be sure to educate yourself on proper techniques by checking out the many books, videos, and websites on the subject. You can also contact your local hospital to find out if there are classes in infant massage in your area.
- Breastfeeding and bottle-feeding are both natural times for bonding. Infants respond to the smell and touch of their mothers, as well as the responsiveness of the parents to their needs. In an uncomplicated birth, caregivers try to take advantage of the infant's alert period immediately after birth and encourage feeding and holding of the baby. However, this isn't always possible and, though ideal, immediate contact isn't necessary for the future bonding of the child and parent.
- Adoptive parents may be concerned about bonding with their baby. Although it might happen sooner for some than others, adopted babies and their parents can bond just as well as biological parents and their children.
- The Welcome Baby Program can provide you with helpful information and resources to strengthen your bond with your infant. If you are interested in infant massage we have handouts and instructions we can provide you with so you can give your infant a proper massage.