Bonding with your baby begins even before birth. From the moment you decide to try to conceive or you find out you are pregnant, you are beginning to think about your connection with your baby.
Everyone feels those first ties differently. As someone who has had two pregnancies and is in the third trimester of the third, I can tell you that the way you experience that bond varies not only from person to person but even from baby to baby. You have a lifetime to build a bond with your child so take it at your own pace!
At birth, mothers can bond with baby right away through skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding. Whether or not you are able to have this immediate experience with your baby, there are plenty of ways for parents, siblings, and caretakers to bond with baby once you settle into a family routine.
Here are some more simple ways our family bonds with baby:
- Baby Talk: Use a mix of adult speech and "baby talk" to communicate with your baby. When your baby makes his first coos and "gaga" sounds, imitate those noises. Your baby will love the reaction he got from Mom or Dad and will begin to learn that sounds are a way to communicate.
- Musical Games: Music-making is a basic human, social instinct—which means it is a great way to bond. Infants pick up on rhythms and tones far before they understand language. A great game for infants is "I've Got Rhythm": Get your infant comfortable and place a soft ball on her tummy or back. Gently pat the ball to the rhythm. With older toddlers, you can clap hands.
- Bath Time: Tub time is also bonding time for your baby! For many babies and parents, this can be a highlight of the day. As you wash, name the parts you are cleaning, "Mommy is washing your hand...now Mommy is washing your arm!" Sing special bath time songs. Make the experience an enjoyable moment for you both!
- Baby Massage: After bath is perfect time to give a relaxing baby massage. The skin-to-skin contact is a great way to bond. Use a baby-safe lotion and make sure your baby is relaxed and open to this experience. Begin with the legs and try out different gentle touches to see which your baby likes the most.
- Peek-a-Boo: This classic game helps baby learn "object permanence" (that objects are still there, even if you cannot see them), which helps baby understand that his parents don't "vanish" when they aren't visible. If baby is too sensitive to you disappearing, you can use a favorite toy, like Scout or Violet, to play peek-a-boo!
- Babywearing: When done properly, babywearing is not only safe, it is one of the most effective ways to build a secure attachment with your baby. Newborns get the comforting smell and sounds (heartbeat, voice) of being close to the caretaker. Older infants get a safe perch for checking out the world. Bonus: parents can actually go places and do chores around the house with baby comfortably worn in a sling or appropriate carrier.
- Nursery Rhymes and Finger Plays: There is a reason why the popular nursery rhymes are the same ones you heard as a baby--and that your grandparents shared with your parents. These classic rhythms and rhymes fascinate baby long before they comprehend the words. Once baby can sit up, she will imitate your finger play. And imitation is not only the sincerest form of flattery, it is also a great way to bond!
- Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall, Who's the Cutest of them All?: Babies love looking at themselves in baby-safe mirrors. Sit down with your infant and enjoy some mirror time--your baby will get a self-esteem boost from all the attention. You can also do a modified peek-a-boo: cover the mirror and ask, "Where's the baby?" Then pull off the blanket to reveal, "There's the baby!"