How Do You Build An Attachment With A Baby?

Published: 16th July 2009
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For some parents, building attachment with their babies comes naturally. They instinctively know what to do and how to bond with their babies from birth. For other parents, the process of building an attachment with a baby is a learning experience. Not surprisingly, since for many individuals these days, their baby is very likely one of the first or few babies they have ever had to deal with in their lives - unlike the past when having many children was common, many people had the benefit of experience from helping to look after younger siblings.



If you are a new parent feeling at a loss regarding how to build attachment with your baby, we will examine some effective ways to help you get started. Many of these can begin from as early as birth and most involve physical touch and spending time in close proximity to your baby. If you want to build a bond with another individual, you need to get to know them. One way of getting to know them is to spend lots of time with them. Likewise, if you want to form an attachment with you baby, it follows naturally that spending as much time as possible with your baby will help. Any activity you can do with your baby that fosters closeness will assist in building attachment.



1. Breastfeeding



Breastfeeding, especially in the early days, offers mothers plenty of opportunity to be close to their babies and to build up a relationship of trust. More than simply providing nourishment to the baby, breastfeeding helps to build a bond due to the frequent close proximity and skin contact between mother and baby. Nursing babies derive more than physical nourishment from breastfeeding as nursing also offers babies emotional comfort.



Through breastfeeding, a mother can learn to read her baby's cues and non-verbal attempts to communicate his (or her) need for food or comfort. Additionally, the act of breastfeeding triggers the release of hormones which affect mothers on an emotional level. The strong emotional connection between mother and baby involved in breastfeeding can be observed when a mother nurses her baby versus when a mother attempts to express milk with a breast pump. The letdown reflex (the process by which matured milk moves from the back of the breast to the front) often comes quite easily when the baby is suckling but can be quite difficult to achieve when expressing milk with a breast pump.



2. Feeding



For Dads and mothers who have opted to bottle feed their babies, it is still possible to build attachment with a baby, although the benefits of the hormonal reaction and the natural bond that forms between a nursing couple (the mother and baby in a breastfeeding relationship) are missed. Here are some practices that can help:



  • Cuddle baby during feeds. There is a tendency with bottle feeding to prop baby up with a cushion or pillow and offer the bottle from a distance. To build an attachment, touch and closeness is required. To help foster that requirement, hold the baby as if you were intending to breastfeed.


  • Increase skin to skin contact. Bottle feeding without a shirt on can help to mimic the skin to skin contact between parent and baby similar to the nursing situation.




3. Co-sleeping



It is a natural survival instinct for a baby to seek the close proximity of a parent. In the wild, infants who are separated from parents become prey to predators and the risk of death is very high. Babies aren't born with the awareness that the environment around them is safe and naturally seek the closeness of their parents, even at night. Co-sleeping offers babies the comfort and feeling of security of being near a parent.



Sleep studies have also shown that co-sleeping mothers respond to the movements of their babies even while sleep. It is evident that co-sleeping not only allows mothers to provide comfort and security to their babies, but at the same time mothers are also unconsciously developing an attachment to their babies.



4. Baby wearing



Babies also need to be near parents during the day as a baby makes no distinction between day or night. One way to keep your baby close to you during the day without physically immobilising yourself is to "wear" your baby in a baby sling or carrier. Baby carriers and slings allow parents to cuddle their babies while leaving their hands free.



Having your baby's face close to yours fosters communication (from parent to baby and baby to parent). Parents can share observations and keep baby updated about what is happening. This is more likely to occur when your baby is being carried than when your baby is lying in a pram. Imagine trying to talk to your baby through the noise and commotion in a shopping mall - it would definitely be easier for your baby to listen to you when being carried rather than when lying in a pram.



5. Talking and Singing



Babies respond most eagerly to the sound of a real person's voice, and even more so if that voice belongs to a parent. Babies can recognise their parents' voices having heard them while in the womb. Sometimes the sound of a mother or father's voice can be enough to calm a stirring baby. Studies have also shown that babies can be soothed more easily with songs that they heard their mothers sing to them during the pregnancy.



Some first time parents find it awkward to ramble to a baby who doesn't appear to understand them, but don't underestimate your baby who is absorbing a lot more that you think. Babies who have been spoken to a lot during the early months often learn to speak earlier than their peers. Learning to talk and sing to you baby takes time. While uncomfortable at first, remember that practice makes perfect.



6. Playing



Babies love to play. Play is one of the ways that help them learn about the world around them. Play is a special interaction between parent and baby that involves touch, physical closeness, and laughter - all ingredients for fostering a strong attachment.

Games that parents can play with babies might be bouncing games on the lap, rolling on the bed, tickling, learning about hands and feet and features of the face. As your baby grows older, you can play games such as rolling a ball, shaking noise-makers, or exploring cloth books.



7. Primary Care Giver



Don't underestimate the bond that is being built as you bathe your baby, change his (or her) diapers, and respond to his (or her) other physical or emotional needs. By being the primary care giver to your baby, you will inevitably build an attachment with your baby as you learn to read his (or her) cues, body language, and attempts to communicate with you. This is evident with babies who express closeness to nannies or carers who look after them while their parents go to work.



Summary



Building an attachment with your baby is like making friends with a person who only speaks a foreign language. At first you may find it difficult to understand what your baby needs but as you spend more time with him (or her) you will begin not only to understand him (or her) but to build an attachment. While you do not necessarily have to follow each and every suggestion above, all of them will assist you in forming an attachment with your baby. The most fundamental part of bonding, however, is time spent together. It takes time to build an attachment with another person, likewise, with a baby, the more time you can spend, the better.



Shen-Li is a stay-at-home-mum dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in parenting. She has a formal educational background and former work experience in healthcare. If you enjoyed this article, visit her blog Babylicious and follow her as she learns how to raise a happy, confident and successful person.

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