Feeding a baby is not the only way to form a bond with a newborn or older baby. Any way in which you can take care of a baby and nurture them can be an amazing bonding experience.
When a person decides to breastfeed, the people closest to them may wonder how they will bond with the baby. We know breastfeeding can be an extremely bonding experience between a mother and child. The very act of breastfeeding releases the hormone Oxytocin (known as the ‘love hormone), giving a feeling of closeness between mother and baby. Does that mean other people in the baby’s life, such as the Father and Grandparents, can’t form their own bond with baby? Of course not!
Let’s look at some of the different ways to bond with a breastfed baby!
1 – Do skin to skin (it’s not just for the mama’s!)
Skin-to-skin doesn’t have to just be between mother and baby. Others can practise skin-to-skin and it can be a fanastic thing for a father to do to feel close and connected to their child. Newborns especially crave this closeness. They are just out of the womb and want to feel that warmth and closeness now that they are out in the world. Try holding your baby next to your bare chest after bathtime or after they’ve had a feed and need settling. It’s a wonderful way for your baby to get to know you and your smell. You’ll instantly feel a connection together.
2 – Discover baby wearing
Second to skin-to-skin contact is babywearing. This means using a sling or baby carrier to hold your baby against your body. Again, babies love this close contact and it’s a great activity for Mummy, Daddy, Granny, Grandad, Auntie, or Uncle to do! Being close to you and hearing your heartbeat is soothing and calming for baby. Lots of newborns find it hard to settle whilst in a cot or car seat, but as soon as they are lifted and held in a baby carrier by their caregiver, they feel instantly safe and reassured. Baby carriers are great to use when going out for a walk, on a trip to the shops, or just about the house. They allow for an immediate closeness but your hands are free to do other things! Don’t be surprised if your baby falls asleep as soon as you start walking with them in a carrier.
3 – Make bath time your time
Bath time can mean major bonding time! Bathing a baby takes soft strokes and gentle touch. Seeing a baby’s face react to the water can be a wonderful experience. Then wrapping baby up in a towel…well there is nothing cuter! Your heart will soar. Make the feeling last by moisturising your baby’s skin, giving them a gentle massage, brushing their hair and then getting them dressed whilst talking and singing to them. Soon bath time will be your special time to bond and be together.
4 – Have some playmat fun
If you want to stimulate your baby and in the process bond with them, then get on the floor and play! Hold out baby toys for them to touch and feel, and encourage them to grasp on to. Have them practice tummy time and play some music in the background. You can even pull funny faces, tickle them or read them a story. All this will stimulate their body and brain and have them think happy thoughts! Seeing your baby’s reactions will be a really rewarding and bonding experience for both of you!
5 – Chat, sing and be silly!
You may worry about feeling or looking silly, but chatting and singing to your baby can be a wonderful thing. They may not be able to talk or sing back, but they will love all the attention. If you’re not sure what to start with, just say out loud what you are doing there and then. Or sing your favourite song or a favourite nursery rhyme from when you were a child. You’ll be amazed at how good this will feel and how positively your baby will react to your voice. Already, you’ll be helping their language development and voice recognition.
6 – Give baby a massage
Babies love massage just as much as adults do! They respond really well to gentle strokes as it helps relax and soothe them. Not quite sure where to start? Begin gently rubbing their feet, with one hand supporting their ankle and the other hand rubbing the skin. Then work your way up their body. You can even give their earlobes a gentle rub! After bathtime, after a nappy change, or before naptime can all be great times to fit in a gentle baby massage using baby oil or baby moisturiser. If you’d like more guidance about how to give a great baby massage, then take a look at online videos, or book you and your baby in for a baby massage class.
7 – Burp and change baby!
Two very basic but essential skills for baby caregiving are burping and nappy changing. They are also excellent ways to fit in bonding time! Breastfeeding baby can take a lot of time so it’s nice for you to give mama a break by burping/winding the baby after their feed, and then changing their nappy, or getting them dressed. Pretty mundane tasks you might think, but make the most of it by talking and singing to baby. You’ll be surprised at how useful you feel and how connected you begin to feel to the baby.
Hopefully, you can see that bonding with a baby can come in all shapes and sizes. The very act of spending time with them will allow you to get to know their little personality, and in turn, you’ll develop your own special bond together. Feeding a baby is most certainly not the only way to bond with a baby. They need love, care and attention in other ways and you can help provide this. Plus spending time with your baby in these ways helps support the mother and give them a much-needed break – especially in those early days and weeks of breastfeeding, when they can be feeling tired, sore and emotional from giving birth.
Can you think of other ways to bond with a breastfed baby? Please share in the comments!