As soon as babies are born, they need and want you to hold, cuddle, touch, kiss, talk and sing to them. These everyday expressions of love and affection promote bonding. They also help your baby’s brain develop. Just as an infant’s body needs food to grow, his or her brain benefits from positive emotional, physical and intellectual experiences. Relationships with other people early in life have a vital influence on a child’s development. Some parents feel an immediate connection with their newborn, while for others the bond takes longer to develop. Don’t worry or feel guilty if you aren’t overcome with a rush of love at the very beginning. Not every parent bonds instantly with a new baby. Your feelings will become stronger with time.
During those first weeks, most of your time with your new baby is likely to be spent feeding them, changing diapers, and helping them sleep. These routine tasks present an opportunity to bond. When babies receive warm, responsive care, they’re more likely to feel safe and secure. For example, as you feed your baby and change diapers, gaze lovingly into their eyes and talk gently to them.
Babies also have times when they’re quietly alert and ready to learn and play. These times may only last a few moments, but you’ll learn to recognize them. Take advantage of your baby’s alert times to get acquainted and play.
- Talk, read and sing to your baby: these early “conversations” encourage your baby’s language capacity and provide an opportunity for closeness. Babies generally prefer soft, rhythmic sounds.
- Cuddle and touch your baby: newborns are sensitive to changes in pressure and temperature. They love to be held, rocked, caressed, cradled, snuggled, kissed, patted, massaged and carried.
- Let your baby watch your face: soon after birth, your newborn will become accustomed to seeing you and will begin to focus on your face. Allow your baby to study your features, and provide plenty of smiles.
- Play music and dance: put on some soft music with a beat, hold your baby’s face close to your, and gently sway and move to the tune.
- Establish routines and rituals: repeated positive experiences provide children with a sense of security. Be patient with yourself in these first weeks. In time, your skills as a parent will grow, and you will come to love this little one far more than you could have imagined.
- Don’t worry about spoiling your newborn: respond to your child’s cues and clues. Among the signals babies send are the sounds they make, which will be mostly fussing during the first week or two, the way they move, their facial expressions, and the way they make or avoid eye contact. Pay close attention to your baby’s need for stimulation as well as quiet times.
Adapted from Mayo Clinic Guide to your Baby’s First Year