If you've just welcomed a newborn, you're probably wondering how to strengthen your bond with this new family member. Well, the good news is, you're probably already doing almost all of it.
Suzie D'Angelo and Courtney Durfee of Hudson River Doulas work with parents before and after birth to empower them with confidence and knowledge so they can bond as a family. Here, the doulas and moms share their personal and professional findings on the everyday things parents can do to deepen the trust and love between them and their babies.
1. Cuddling her against your bare skin. "Skin-to-skin and cuddling is vital to emotional trust," says D'Angelo. "Babies want and need to be near our hearts, milk, and warmth. It's not often in nature that you'd see a baby too far from their mother. I always tell my mamas that baby clothes are cute, but baby should be skin-to-skin on mama and daddy as much as possible so they stay warm, calm, happy, and nurtured. Skin-to-skin contact also helps to establish a healthy nursing relationship."
Your heartbeat and warmth are familiar and comforting to your baby, adds Durfee. "Skin-to-skin contact can also ease the discomfort of any shots or blood work for baby."
2. Looking into her eyes. Eye contact is a form of communication with our babies. "Babies take in their new world visually along with their other senses. The world is amazing to them, and parents and caregivers are their favorite sights to see," says D'Angelo. It builds trust and is "one of those incredible powers that we mammals use to fall madly in love with our babies." D'Angelo adds that eye contact can be very stimulating to a baby, so you may want to do a little less of it during late-night feedings and diaper changes.
3. Feeding her. Whether you're breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, feedings are a time to be calm, nourish our babies, and bond. You can even strip baby down and hold her close for extra skin-to-skin contact. D'Angelo says, "I look at it as our built-in break to sit calmly with our babies and feel them nuzzling into you. Feeling their body shift from hungry to milk-drunk is a serious reason to feel accomplished and proud of your hard work, love, and dedication."
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4. Babywearing. When you wear your baby in a carrier or sling, you don't just have the advantage of being hands-free. You feel the warmth of each other's bodies. This keeps the bond when you're on the go. "My husband has found with our second son that cuddling him close in a baby carrier soothed all fussiness," says Durfee. "It definitely helped get baby to sleep more easily, and it allowed him to bond with baby while still getting things done around the house."
5. Sleeping close. "Moms who co-sleep, in the same bed or a side car crib, actually get more sleep than moms who don't. Babies are less fussy and can be more quickly soothed and fed which quickly adds up to more sleep, more bonding, and a happier mama and baby in the morning," says Durfee. "We're better able to quickly respond to our newborn's cues if we're in the same room as them. The immediacy of their needs being met is what helps to build trust. Trust is a key developmental stage that every human deserves."
If you decide to co-sleep, it's extremely important take every safety precaution, adds Durfee. "Co-sleeping is not for everyone, and care should be taken to ensure that everyone is safe in every sleep situation."
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6. Comforting baby when she cries. "Responding to baby's cries builds trust, fosters communication skills, and creates a strong emotional foundation for baby," says Durfee. "The only way they can communicate is through body language and eventual cries. Babies are sensory creatures who rely on us to provide those needs and comforts which can help lead to a lifelong foundation of trust and bonding. It's worth every sleepless night, too."
7. Giving her a massage. D'Angelo feels that baby massage is "one of those beautiful rituals that we can do to slow us down and just be with our baby."
8. Singing. It doesn't matter if you're a skilled vocalist or if you can barely carry a tune. "Our babies are born knowing our voices and heartbeats," says D'Angelo. "Especially during the newborn period, our gift of music is nothing short of amazing to use as a tool for bonding with our littles."
"I've seen babies stop mid-fuss for a good tune," she adds, "so if all else fails, sing to your baby. Just today while protesting an afternoon diaper change, my 3-month-old quieted and then started to laugh as I sang our normal good morning song." Now that's bonding.
Image via iStock.com/castenoid