Whether you're expecting a baby or just brought your newborn home, you may be thinking of ways you can feel bonded to this brand new little human. Bonding with your baby is a deeply personal experience and yours may look different from what others have described to you.
Feeling bonded to your baby comes from a few different interactions in those first few weeks and these are some of the most reliable and the sweetest ways to build an attachment with your infant. Bonus: they're so simple, even sleep-deprived new parents will find them doable.
What Does Bonding With Your Baby Mean?
Being bonded to your child is a powerful sense of attachment you feel for your baby that often feels stronger than any relationship attachment you've felt up to that point. This might be an instant feeling you have immediately after your baby is born and could even start during pregnancy, but it doesn't work that way for everyone.
While the bonding process is important, don't despair if you don't feel bonded right away. This is common and not at all representative of the future relationship you'll develop.
You've just met this brand new little person and it might take time to develop that deep connection you're hoping for. Bonding with a baby is often a gradual process, so don't stress. This can be an opportunity to try some bonding activities that parents have relied on.
Traditional Ways to Bond With Baby
There are some trusted ways to start developing that strong bond with your little one that parents have turned to time and time again. Many of them involve tasks and activities that you'll already be doing with your newborn as you meet their basic daily needs.
It's widely known that breastfeeding can be an excellent way to bond with your new baby and it's why many parents choose to move forward with breastfeeding (nursing). If you choose to breastfeed, you'll most likely start this journey shortly after the baby is born. Many hospitals even encourage and enable you to start nursing within the first hour of your baby's birth.
Breastfeeding can be a wonderful way to bond, but don't feel discouraged if it's not the bonding experience you expect. I didn't enjoy nursing as much as I hoped, and it wasn't a source of attachment for me. I found other ways to bond with my baby and continued nursing simply for the comfort it provided her. We have a very strong attachment today because of those other experiences.
Those first snuggles after birth might be the first time you feel bonded with your baby. If so, lean into them and be present in those moments. You'll have plenty of opportunities to experience skin-to-skin contact with your baby in those early weeks of newborn life, so soak them up as often as you can.
After your baby's bath, during feedings, or those late night snuggles are perfect times to enjoy some skin-to-skin moments that help you and baby bond.
Bath time for a baby can be a slow and relaxing process for both of you and might help you calm your mind enough to focus on how much you love those ten wiggly toes.
You'll have plenty of opportunities to embrace this bonding time throughout the week, so plan to do bath time during the time of day that you feel the most relaxed. This is a great way for your partner to bond with the baby as well.
Giving Your Baby a Bottle
I've shared my breastfeeding struggle and a surprising part of that journey was discovering how much I felt bonded to my daughter during her bottle feeds. Because this process was much more calming for me than nursing, I was able to relax and actually enjoy feeding her.
I would tell any mom that you can bond just as easily with a bottle full of formula as you can while nursing, based on my own personal experience.
Playing With Baby
Playing with your baby can be a great bonding activity for a mom. Getting to just enjoy their coos and laughter without the pressure of feeding or changing or bathing might feel like a much needed break and help you and your baby feel closer to one another. Invite your partner into this experience as well so you can enjoy a lighthearted time of bonding as a family.
Other Ways to Bond With Baby
You might find some of the traditional bonding experiences you try with your baby are more about meeting your little one's needs than feeling an emotional attachment, and that's okay. I found other ways of bonding with my baby felt super special and helped develop the strong attachment we have now.
Get Outside Together
A little sunshine and fresh air can change your entire day and help you feel close to your baby. This bonding experience is especially helpful on those long, trying days of motherhood.
Pop outdoors for just a few minutes and bask in the sunshine for a bit. Close your eyes and breathe deeply, and then focus on watching your baby enjoy the outdoor environment as well. You'll get a mood boost and a sweet, slow experience together that brings a little spark of joy to your day.
Cover Them With Kisses
The night my daughter was born, I couldn't stop planting gentle kisses on her forehead. My husband even asked me at one point why I kept leaning down to kiss her through the early morning hours and I couldn't quite put into words how addictive it felt to kiss the top of her sweet little head.
Turns out that those little kisses are very much instinctual and can help mom and baby bond emotionally. I also read about how those early kisses can help breastfeeding mothers produce milk.
Any sort of affection you give your child helps build on that emotional attachment - so snuggle, hold their little hands, and kiss that irresistible forehead, even if your partner finds it a little odd.
Try a Baby Massage
Did you know that babies love massages as much as we do? They might even need that extra help releasing tension from the pregnancy and birth process. Baby massages are beneficial to your little one, for sure, but they also create an opportunity for you to share a special moment.
As you're giving your baby a sweet and gentle massage, think of how much you love those little hands and those kissable cheeks. As you're practicing a little gratitude for the gift of your child, you might feel the emotional bond between the two of you start to increase.
Have a Dance Break
This was one of the most surprising bonding moments I experienced as a new mom and still experience with my daughter today as she's working her way through toddlerhood. As I was pacing around my home in those new mom days, just trying to move in a rhythm that soothed my baby, I just started dancing one day. A slow, sweet dance while holding my daughter close proved to be just what she needed to fall asleep and just what I needed to feel calmed and confident as a tired and anxious mom.
These days, we have regular dance parties in the kitchen if one of us is having a particularly frustrating day. We crank up the tunes and dance it out. If I'm playing classical music while making dinner, she runs to me with her arms straight up, ready to be my dancing partner. These dance breaks have helped us bond, cool off, calm down, and even laugh.
When you're exhausted, there isn't much else for your mind to focus on besides your desperate need for sleep. When my daughter hit her sleep regression at four months old, I was exhausted beyond what I thought was humanly possible. One night, in pure desperation for sleep, I safely curled up next to her so we could both get some rest. The next morning, I felt like a new person and realized how much I loved sleeping with her safely near me.
Late night snuggles and contact naps have become a constant in my motherhood journey and a key component in my bonding experience with my daughter. These days, I linger just a little while when helping her settle into bed at night just to enjoy some of those sweet snuggles like we shared in her first year of life.
Make Feeding a Relaxing Experience
Whether you're nursing, pumping, or bottle feeding, the process of giving your baby nutrition can sometimes feel stressful. I learned, after many stressful feeding sessions, that I needed to feel comfortable and relaxed to bond well with my daughter while she ate.
I recommend designating a space in your home that you love to be in, making it extra cozy, and keeping a basket full of snacks, water, and extra blankets nearby so you can actually sit back and enjoy the feeding experience.
Talk to Your Baby
Talking with your baby throughout the day is a wonderful way to bond. The sound of your voice is comforting and communicating your loving feelings toward the baby is a great practice to start as early as possible. Your little one might not be able to talk back yet, but every time you speak to them you are helping them develop the necessary skills to one day be able to hold a conversation with you.
Don't discount the power of all the simple acts you do for and with your baby day to day. In a study on the importance of infant attachment, things like pacifying, cuddling, calling baby's name or talking to baby, and eye-to-eye contact were shown to help babies feel secure and build bonds.
The True Bond of Parenthood
There's no right or wrong way to bond with your baby. In fact, the truest bond you share with your baby is being their parent. It's a special role that no one else can fill and you specifically were chosen to step into. Whether you've carried this baby for nine months and they are the only person who knows what your heartbeat sounds like from inside your body, your partner has carried the baby, or you've adopted, just being your baby's parent is a forever connection. You're giving your baby the love and care they need. That's a truly unbreakable bond.