Bonding with your baby doesn't always come easily and naturally, despite what we're told. It can be a challenge, especially if you're a first-time mom or have had a difficult birth. With my older son, I was a first-time mom with a deployed spouse and recovering from a C-section. With my second son, I was also an exhausted mom of a 21-month-old toddler.
Bonding was something I had to work at, but it was worth it. Here are a few things I did to bond with my babies in the first year of their lives.
1. Skin-to-skin contact
Skin-to-skin contact is most often emphasized immediately after birth and during breastfeeding, but you can use skin-to-skin contact to bond with your baby even if you bottle-feed (I did). Having my baby nuzzle into my bare shoulder while he drifted off to sleep was a special time for both of us. And doctors are now recognizing the benefits of skin-to-skin contact for mothers, as well.
2. Sing a song
Unfortunately for my children, I'm not much of a singer. But having a song that I sang to them at bedtime, naptime or any time they needed soothing was comforting for both of us and reinforced our bond. Our song is "You Are My Sunshine" and my 6-year-old not only still asks me to sing it, but he also sings it to me and his 4-year-old brother at bedtime.
3. Find your place
Find a special place, whether it's in your house or yard or somewhere you go regularly, that belongs to just Baby and you. For me, it was the couch in front of my bedroom window, where I would take my babies to cuddle in the early morning light. It was "our" time and "our" place, where we could have quiet time for just Mama and Baby. Instead of dreading those pre-dawn wake-ups, I started looking forward to those moments of bonding time.
4. Spend time alone together
Having a spouse and family to help out with a new baby is a blessing to be sure, but sometimes it can interfere with your bonding experience. If you find yourself being nudged aside so some well-meaning loved one can feed, bathe or cuddle Baby, speak up. Time alone with your baby is important for both of you, and it's OK to tell everyone (nicely) to leave the two of you alone for awhile.
5. Talk like you're friends
Forget the baby talk—talk to your baby like you'd talk to a friend. Talk about your day, your childhood, your hopes and dreams. As a new mom, I constantly had to remind myself to talk to my baby. But I found that just talking—and having him respond with coos and baby babble—helped me feel like he was a real person, with his own thoughts and interests. And hearing my voice would have him craning his head to watch me, which made me feel special.
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