Love Your Baby! Bonding with your newborn and making the moments count
As we heard from Busylizzy mum Rebecca, immediate bonding with your baby at birth doesn’t always come naturally. Whether a birth that doesn’t go to plan means you can’t spend those first few hours with your new baby, you just don’t get that immediate flood of love that you’re expecting, or the shock of being responsible for a tiny, totally dependent, crying baby sends your stress levels through the roof, it’s something that lots of new mums go through, and you should not feel alone!
“Some people give birth, be it vaginally or via c-section, are elated and have huge waves of love rolling over them. Some, more than you think, are just relieved it’s over. They don’t have big feelings. Of course they care about their baby, but it can almost feel a little matter of fact rather than warm, bubbly love. This comes as you get to know one another. This unconditional love happens, it sneaks up on you!” says postnatal doula Lea Mara. “My most important piece of advice to new mums is to not expect too much of yourself. You are good enough! No one is perfect. Making mistakes is part of life and it’s how our children learn how to correct mistakes and how to deal with difficult situations.”
No matter how hard things might seem in those early days and weeks, don’t despair – there are things that you can do that can help establish a special bond.
“When bonding can be hard to nurture the two things that really help are lots and lots of skin to skin (and you do not have to be breastfeeding to achieve this) and having a well fitted sling!” continues Lea Mara.
No doubt you’ll have been told by your midwife about the importance of skin to skin after birth. A key part of the UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative standards, it helps your baby to adjust to life outside the womb, can support breastfeeding, and the development of close, loving relationships. But even if you aren’t able to maximise that skin to skin time immediately after birth for medical reasons – persevere with it during those early days.
Many of us are also taught about the importance of oxytocin, the love hormone, in childbirth. Stimulated by loving touch, it plays a vital role in the physical and mental wellbeing of children and adults alike. Physical touch also increases levels of dopamine and serotonin in the body – two neurotransmitters that help regulate your mood and relieve stress and anxiety. So skin to skin, as well as other forms of loving touch – such as massage, or just holding your baby close – can really help to bolster those feel good feelings in both you and your baby.
Of course, it’s not practical to hold your baby all the time – but finding a sling that you can use to keep your baby close while being able to do other things can really help to foster those positive feelings, and will often soothe a baby who doesn’t like to be put down, mirroring the feeling of constant movement that they’re so used to from being inside.
“There are sling libraries where you can get support in finding the right sling for you and your baby. Having a sling gives the baby closeness and you a free hand at the same time. A baby in a sling is often more settled, and this leaves you feeling less stressed and overwhelmed,” says Lea Mara.
Seeking out activities that focus on that parent-child connection of touch and being held can also be an enormously beneficial experience for both you and your baby. Baby Massage is a great example of this kind of loving touch-based activity. Learning and engaging in baby massage routines can be a wonderful experience for your baby – but can also really help mums who might be struggling with PND, or a lack of connection to their baby. It’s also great for teaching nervous new parents how to handle their babies – learning that they’re not made of glass!
Even after you feel your baby has grown out of Baby Massage, any kind of shared activities will strengthen the bond between parent and child through loving touch and interaction – whether that be a music class, Baby Yoga, or learning a new skill together like Baby Signing to leave you feeling empowered.
Baby groups also provide a safe space to bond with their baby – away from the distractions of day to day life. It’s so easy to get side-tracked by that pile of dirty washing or the list of life admin. But if you set aside dedicated time to participate in a session together – whether you’re doing a class online at home or getting out to something locally – the focussed attention you can create as you are guided through the class by an instructor will really help you learn about your child, and strengthen your relationship no end.
The importance of finding a new support network and getting out and about so that you don’t feel isolated at home should not be ignored. Empathy and advice from people who are understand what you’re going through cannot be underestimated. It’s not just the session you attend – it’s the chat afterwards, the swapped number or the walk in the park & coffee another time. These are the little things that can keep us sane at a time of enormous change in our lives.