5 Ways to Bond With A Newborn
(that don't include feeding!)
It can be really hard for expectant parents to envision living with a newborn. Most people can picture what it might be like to push a baby swing at the playground, or have a toddler munching on a teething toy in their stroller, pointing out puppies or birds, and generally looking cute.
Newborns on the other hand can’t sit in swings or hold objects, they don’t even smile intentionally for the first six weeks – and sometimes, let’s be honest – they’re not even that cute. (We said it!)
How do you entertain a newborn? It can be challenging to bond with a tiny, tiny human who does little more than eat, sleep, poop, and cry. Especially if you have no particular experience with or affinity for babies – and feel a tad insecure around them!
With some time and some intentionality, there are really simple ways you can encourage bonding, connection, and confidence – even in the first few weeks. Here are our top five tips for helping new parents become more “in sync” with baby.
Whether you’re instinctively drawn to it, or not, carve out some time to hold your baby close. If you’re able to hold your baby “Skin-to-Skin” meaning their chest is bare and your chest is bare, there’s additional benefits since you’ll both release oxytocin - our love, trust, and bonding hormone!
While there can be a mental pull “to be productive,” we really encourage new parents to relax and enjoy the slower pace of sitting and holding a baby for a few hours at a time! Perhaps you can notice their tiny feet, or fingers. Dive into a new show, or binge an old favorite to keep your mind occupied, or put your feet up and close your eyes (if your baby is secured safely in a baby carrier).
Wearing a baby in a carrier throughout the day is a lovely way of keeping babies cuddly, while also having your hands free to attend to personal needs, the dishes, or even emails. Babies who are held throughout the day, also cry less.
2. Communicate With Your Baby
Remember Wilson? Sometimes we need a buddy we can talk to!
It’s easy to leave newborns out of the conversation since they don’t talk back, but they are primed and ready to take in language. Talking to your baby – narrating your day – is a simple and easy way to boost connection. Discuss the daily routines around unloading a dishwasher, brushing your teeth, preparing food. If you’ve considered reading baby books to your baby, feel free to read your books out loud (they love hearing your voice, and can’t understand the story yet, so it’s a win / win). You can put on an interesting podcast and instead of having headphones in, play the podcast outlaid and tell your baby what you’re thinking, or explain what they’re talking about. This is a great habit to get into! Using ASL is another tool to boost communication. It’s never too early to start talking and it’s never too early to start signing.
3. Move Your Baby (+ Yourself)
Your tiny human might seem like a sack of potatoes, content to move from bassinet to swing, but they really need movement! Consider this: your baby won’t get awesomely strong, coordinated, and flexible, unless they’re given the chance to become awesomely strong, coordinated, and flexible. How can you help? Consider your body or a Play Gym space as your baby's first playground!
Newborn Playtime: Give your baby a massage, have a dance party, do some exercise together!
There’s great research that shows babies and caregivers benefit from infant massage. Comforting touch can become a lovely ritual after diaper changes or before bed and can enhance bonding and self-esteem, neurological development, insulin production (which promotes healthy weight gain), improved sleep patterns, digestion, and muscle tone.
Check out Birthsmarter’s On-Demand Comforting Touch for Babies Class to learn more about infant massage!
Dancing and moving our bodies can help us produce endorphins and produce feelings of joy! Happier parents make for more connected families. Dance parties can be particularly helpful when babies are looking for a little more stimulation, typically in the early evening during what some people call “the witching hour.”
Paying attention to your babies cues during activity can help you learn to understanding their rhythms.
4. Bring Baby Into Your Life
It’s common for new parents to feeling starved for adult connection and intellectual stimulation during the fourth trimester. While newborns are only tiny for a short amount of time, the days can really feel like they drag on at the beginning. If and when you’re physically and emotionally up for it – our best advice is to take advantage of the small window you have before they’re crawling, running, and sharing their own opinions!
Bringing your baby on outings that will help fill your cup! Strap your newborn into a baby carrier and walk to grab a coffee, meet a friend for lunch, go visit your office or work colleagues and show off what you made. In most places, you can even sit at a bar and enjoy a cocktail if that’s your jam.
Just talk to your pediatrician, and maybe your therapist, about when and where it makes sense to start bringing your baby out in public.
5. Embrace (and master) the Repetition
Diaper changes, swaddling, getting them to sleep… So much confidence, and beauty can be found in mastering the art of repetition. Consider approaching these tasks with the interest and dedication of an artisan. You can both perfect the craft… “How few wipes can you use while getting your baby’s bum perfectly clean?” “Which genre of music seems to help them fall asleep?” “What’s the best way to organize a diaper bag for a quick outing?” and observe how your baby responds!
Tuning into your baby’s non-verbal cues during repetitive activities can increase your feelings of competence and highlight your intuition. As your confidence increases, your ability to relax might increase your feeling of connection – where you can celebrate victories and share the sense of accomplishment with your baby.