Whilst some parents report falling in love with their baby the first time they set eyes on them, for others, healthy bonding and a strong parent and baby attachment can take weeks or even months. The good news is that there are certain things that you can do to secure a strong attachment with your baby, starting from the moment they are born.
The so-called ‘golden hour’ directly after the baby is born is a critical time for maximising the healthy bonding experience. A surge of the so-called ‘love or bonding hormone’ oxytocin is experienced after giving birth, which intensifies a mother’s senses as she holds her newborn for the first time. Skin-to-skin contact causes both the mother and the baby to release more oxytocin which also helps with the mother’s milk release. In this way, the act of having their skin in contact helps to initiate the healthy bond between them, and also lays the foundations for an easier transition to breastfeeding, if the mother chooses to do so.
Studies have shown that skin-to-skin contact also helps decrease stress on newborns as their body adapts to the changed environment – going from a warm, dark womb to a well-lit, wide-open world is quite a journey after all! Of course, there are sometimes medical reasons why a mother and baby are separated after birth. In these cases, beginning skin-to-skin contact between a mother and her newborn when it’s possible will help to build the special bond. It’s never too late!
Skin-to-skin contact isn’t just for the birth parent either. Babies can also benefit from spending time in close contact to other parents and caregivers too.
This doesn’t just stop at birth either. Studies show that ‘baby wearing’ or having you baby close for the first period of their life can reduce colic and help soothe a fussy baby.
Delay Your Baby’s First Bath
Whilst it used to be common practice to give babies their first bath relatively soon after they were born, the World Health Organisation now recommends that the first bath should be delayed for at least 24 hours. There are several reasons for this.
Firstly, as we have already discussed, when possible, a newborn should be placed on its mother’s stomach for skin-to-skin contact.
Secondly, the white substance that babies are covered in when they are born is called vernix and it’s there for a reason! Vernix is made up of cells from earlier development, and rather than being something gross that should be removed soon after birth, actually helps fight infections and acts as a natural germ barrier for the newborn
Thirdly, bathing a baby too soon, and subjecting them to cooler temperatures they are not used to can increase their stress hormones. A newborn with high stress levels, who is no longer attached to the placenta, may have difficulty in maintaining normal blood sugar levels. A drop in blood sugar levels can make a newborn tired, and less likely to breastfeed, and in severe cases cause neurological damage.
Massage Your Baby
This is similar to the baby wearing and skin-to-skin contact theory. The more you are touching, feeling and sharing with your baby they better potential for a strong connection to develop. Massage is particularly useful to calm an irritable baby or helping a baby to settle. There are a few theory’s for this including: helping with bowel and gas movement, increasing oxytocin release or simply reminding the baby that a parent is near and close.
It is often recommended to perform the massages during likely irritable times, such as before or after bath, before or after nappy change or before bed. The positive effect of the massage can reduce the negative effects that the baby may feel during those moments. Eventually, like Skinner suggests, they may eventually like those moments.
Talk, Eye Contact and Play with your Newborn
Studies report, that when ever you are with your baby it is always good to demonstrate good body language, much like you would at an interview or meeting. You are getting to know your newborn and they are getting to know you. Where possible maintain good eye contact particularly when feeding, playing or talking with your newborn.
When they are awake show your interest and love in them by playing with them. Not only does keeping them active develop their gross motor skills, help with bowel movement and stimulate neuron growth, but it shows them you are engaged and love them, strengthening your baby’s attachment.
And if it isn’t possible to be in same room with your newborn. Its a good idea to speak to them to remind them you are still there and around. As a newborn they are used to the enclosed space of the womb and hearing your voice all the time. When they are in a room alone, sometimes this can increase the anxiety they feel, so talking to them and reminding them you are there is important for the strong baby attachment.
Learn your Baby’s Cues
According to the American Phycological Association responding to your baby’s cues, is critical for a strong baby attachment. This can be difficult, particularly for first-time parents. But it is important to take note of your baby’s body language to see if they are tired (jerky movements, yawning, whining), hungry (opening mouth, hands in mouth, whining), hot or cold.
According to studies, one of the main drivers for postpartum stress is the parent’s perception of their baby’s temperament. Not necessarily the baby’s temperament, but how the parent perceives it. By learning, your infant’s body language you can mitigate one of the main drivers of postnatal depression.
This is the main reason we developed Goldilocks. We think having a newborn should be a time of wonder, joy and appreciation. Goldilocks helps parents understand what their baby is trying to tell them. It also allows parents to be there when their newborn is waking which is another important aspect of your baby’s attachment. Goldilocks is all about improving communication, attachment and comfort.
Myths About a Strong Baby Attachment
Is Bonding and Attachment is the Same as Love?
FACT – Healthy bonding and attachment are what happens when you consistently respond to your newborn with love, warmth and care. Having their needs met, (e.g. getting enough sleep, being fed, being comforted,) not only teaches a baby that they are safe and loved, but it’s also vital to their development. Fostering an early bond with your child gives them a sense of security and wellbeing that allows them to see the world as a safe place to play, learn and explore!
Can I Spoil my Newborn?
FACT – Human contact, such as touching, cuddling, talking, singing and making eye causes a newborns brain to release hormones. These hormones help the brain to grow and make neurological connections that will lay the foundations for development and wellbeing throughout childhood.
So, don’t worry about ‘spoiling’ your baby. Taking time to get to know each other is important for you both.
Isn’t there a Strong Attachment Naturally, I Birthed Them?
FACT – No, a strong, lasting relationship is never built off one action. It requires numerous (often small) actions to develop trust, confidence, love and connection. Every baby is individual and every baby developments relationships differently. You need to learn your baby’s ‘love language’ and model your behavior appropriately.
I’m Cant Always Read My Baby’s Cues, Does This Mean We Don’t have a Strong Attachment?
FACT – every baby is different, it can often be hard for parents to pick up on their newborns cues. Particularly at 3am when you are sleep deprived and stressed. This is why we developed Goldilocks, its has the ability to monitor and record your baby’s sleeping patterns, breathing, feeding, skin and core temperature to help parents to respond to their child’s needs, stress less and have more time for bonding.
What Age Does Baby Attachment Begin?
Disclaimer: This article is for general information only and not intended as a substitute for medical advice. All information provided on this website is not intended to diagnose or prescribe. In all health-related matters we recommend consulting with your local healthcare professional.