Becoming a parent is a feeling beyond compare. Few things are as pure as a young infant, but with their cuteness comes plenty of pressure and responsibility. Feeding, clothing and keeping their kids safe instantly becomes a top priority for new parents, so much so that their time for intentional bonding with their baby might seem scarce. Babies might not come with instruction manuals, but there's lots you can do in their first few months to build up your bond and help them feel secure in their place in the family.
Below are ten top tips for cultivating a relationship with your baby through intentional bonding. By following these tips, you'll be ensuring that the time you spend with your infant is intentional and that you are setting a foundation of a relationship that will only strengthen in the year to come.
1. Create Skin to Skin Contact
You carry your baby in your belly for nine months, and young children often struggle with the transition to the outside world and the loss of a constant physical connection. You can restore your baby's sense of security by enjoying some skin on skin contact time together. Nurse your baby under your shirt or snuggle her right on your tummy; the connection to your warm skin and your heartbeat will sooth and relax them. Not only is this method of “kangaroo care” great for preemies, it also improves a baby's ability to breastfeed.
2. Wear Your Baby
Make it effortless to take your baby everywhere you go by letting her accent your wardrobe! At least that's the idea behind ever popular baby wraps and backpacks. Wearing your baby brings you back to the time when she was growing inside you, and it helps the two of you cement your bond together. Perhaps more importantly, it gives your child the chance to see the world through your eyes, which increases the number of things they are exposed to and helps create a curiosity and desire for learning.
3. Listen Carefully to Those Cries
Crying is the language babies are born speaking, and we can all learn a lot by paying attention to the cries of our babies. Listen careful to the different sounds your child makes in order to interpret his language and understand when he is hungry, poopy or just plain fussy. You'll build trust between you and your baby by proving you'll always be close by when he needs you. Paying attention to crying has some big impacts later in life, too. By taking the time to take your baby's cries seriously, you'll be starting a precedent within yourself to listen to what your child is saying to you, no matter how old he is.
4. Give Her a Back-Benefiting Massage
Infant massage has been practiced for generations as a way to relax your child and increase circulation throughout their small bodies. The practice of giving a massage reduces stress levels for both mom and baby and can help your child fall asleep faster and for longer. Best of all, skin to skin contact through a massage triggers the release of oxytocin for you and your baby, helping you both feel happier and more in tune with each other. The best way to learn how give an infant massage is to read a book about beneficial techniques or take a class at the local hospital.
5. Take the Time to Breast Feed
New mothers often find themselves spending six or more hours a day breastfeeding their babies, and all this quality time really adds up! Breastfeeding is a great time for skin to skin contact between you and your baby, and it also helps your child get used to what your voice sounds like from outside the womb. Make the feeding sessions take as long as your baby needs to ensure the ritual helps them learn to trust you and feel comforted.
6. Sleep Close To Your Kid
It's long been recommended that mothers sleep close to their babies for their first few months of life. You could choose to move bassinet next to your bed or co-sleep (after doing some research in how to do it safely).
On a side note: if your baby goes to bed at 7pm, don't be ashamed to follow suit! Rest is essential for mothers and babies alike, and you'll be a better parent if you can spend your days feeling relaxed and refreshed.
7. Look Into Baby's Eyes During Bottle Time
Feeding is an important bonding time between you and your child, but you can continue to strengthen your relationship even when using a bottle. This means you need to turn off the TV and get rid of any outside distractions. Simply make an effort to make eye contact with your baby and keep a warm expression that allows your baby to trust you. When you catch him looking back at you, make sure to flash a smile. Soon enough, your baby will returning your smile with a grin of his own.
8. Look In the Mirror Together
It takes many months before a baby has enough of a sense of self to recognize herself in the mirror, but you can speed up this process by looking in the mirror together. Babies love looking at human faces, and they'll be delighted to see a tiny human acting exactly like them. By being present, you allow yourself to be an important part of this process of self discovery.
9. Take in His Smell
Humans process a lot of their memories and emotions through their sense of smell, so taking the time to give the top of your baby's head a good sniff. Not only will find your own child's scent more intoxicating than any other, you'll get a rush of oxytocin in your blood stream that will boost your mood and help you bond.
10. Relish Feeding Time
You'll spend hours doing it anyways, so make sure the time you spend feeding your baby is special for both of you. This is especially important when you wean your baby onto solid foods. Forget about the mess and instead enjoy the process of watching your little one experience so many tastes and textures.
The first few months of your child's life is a precious time you'll want to take full advantage of. By following these ten tips for bonding with your baby, you will begin to foster a connection between you and your infant that will keep your bond strong throughout the stages of life to come.
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