Bonding with your newborn
A newborn baby sleeps for most of his first days, so you should spend all of his waking time with him. Research has shown that physical contact with you, the sound of your voice and the smell of your body are very important during the first few days of life. During this time your baby forms a bond with you which, if encouraged, is unique and unbreakable.
This bonding process is nature's way of ensuring that children are nurtured and that the human race, as a whole, survives. However, in the normal course of events, whether you are breast- or bottle-feeding your baby, he will automatically get the close contact he needs while you are feeding, changing and holding him. He will get to know you, your smell, and the sound of your voice.
If, for any reason, your baby is taken away to the nursery for observation, or to the neonatal (special care) unit, make every effort to visit him as often as possible. Even if he has to be cared for in an incubator, you can touch and caress him through the portholes, talk to him and, if possible, feed him. It is important to take all the steps you can to reduce the time you are separated from your baby.
Eye contact is essential for bonding
All research points to the fact that physical contact between mother and baby should start as soon after birth as possible. Furthermore, eye contact should follow immediately after birth wherever possible. Most child development experts used to say that babies could not see properly until their eyes could focus, but babies can interpret shapes and outlines. The shape and outline of your face will be recognized by your baby within 36 hours. Research has shown that it is your eyes that your baby searches for and concentrates on once he has found them. Furthermore, babies can do this within a few hours of birth. Certainly when my second son was born and I lifted him on to my stomach and called his name he opened his eyes instantly on hearing my voice and flicked them around the room until they came to rest on my face.
It has been shown that mothers who make early eye contact with their babies and continue to do so, particularly during feeding times when they face their babies and look deeply into their eyes, are much more likely to be mothers who are sympathetic and understanding. These mothers tend to solve problems calmly and by logical discussion. They rarely resort to physical punishment of their children.
Early physical contact for bonding
Following on from the first few days you should try to keep your baby in contact with you as much as possible. By contact I mean on your body, for instance in a sling. It has been known for decades that the children who are carried on their mother's backs, such as those in Indian, Inuit and some African tribes, rarely cry. The newborn infant finds the close physical presence of the mother very reassuring. She is soft and warm, her smell is familiar. When the baby lays his head against the mother's body he hears the familiar heartbeat that he has been hearing for nine months in the womb. The baby feels secure and at home in his surroundings. It is more natural for your baby to be jogged about on his mother's body especially as it could bring back memories of his cushioned ride in the womb, than to lie completely still on a mattress in a cot.
The importance of smell with bonding
We know that your smell is one of the first associations that your baby makes with you. You give off a smell to which your baby is very sensitive and to which he responds biologically. Whenever you go into your sleeping baby's room he wakes. When other people, even your partner, go in he stays asleep. This is because the baby's very sensitive sense of smell picks up your chemicals called pheromones, and he wakes because he recognizes you as his main source of comfort, pleasure and food.
Sounds and their effects
Newborns do not like loud noises. While your baby is becoming used to your voice, speak or sing in a gentle, soothing, cooing voice. Research at Oxford University has shown that babies respond better to the high-pitched female voice rather than to the lower-pitched male voice. To a baby the mother's voice is almost like therapy. You should chat, sing or croon to your baby whenever you are with him. Even young babies enjoy nursery rhymes and simple songs, particularly if they have a pronounced rhythm and rhyming sound. Research suggests that children who were sung to early in their lives rapidly develop a feeling for and a facility with words and tend to speak and read slightly earlier.
Get more on this subject…