There are so many ways to bond with your baby! When people talk about bonding, the first image that jumps to mind for most people includes feeding their baby. With one of the most prevalent themes of the “breast is best” agenda precisely being “breastfeeding is the best way to bond with your baby,” it can be really disheartening.
In most cases, a dad will not be breastfeeding. In many cases, a partner will not be doing any kind of chestfeeding. For women who choose not to, or cannot, breastfeed/chestfeed, this message can create anxiety, stress, depression, and even guilt and shame. These parents all worry about how they can possibly create a strong bond with their baby.
For breastfeeding families, there is immense pressure on the breastfeeding parent to manage this bond, as if it is some ethereal, fragile silk strand that dangles on the precipice of doom at any moment. This can create its own cycles of fear and angst.
There are a million reasons to worry as a new parent. And I assure you: “How can I bond with my baby?” should NOT be one of them. Because there are dozens of ways to bond with your baby.
Let’s place the big, obvious elephant in the room right on the kitchen table: bottle feeding is bonding every bit as much so as breastfeeding. But that’s not really the point, here.
Babies learn a valuable lesson when they learn that love is not only expressed through food.
They understand that they can receive love and build attachment with other caregivers than their primary source(s) of food. When parents start focusing on bonding instead of focusing on not bonding, there is a powerful mindset shift that helps them to attune to their baby and enjoy them on a deeper level.
Here is a list of 5 simple ways to bond with your baby that aren’t feeding:
Bathtime is so much fun! Okay, so in the earliest weeks, it’s kind of like learning to wrestle an octopus with one hand tied behind your back. But the bath provides a lovely opportunity to connect with your little and strengthen the bond.
Until you’re comfortable, both parents – or the parent and a trusted support person – can tag team bath time and get in the swing of things. After a few scrubbies in the tubby, a la Ernie and his rubber ducky, bath time becomes full of giggles and silly antics. Plus, the parent in charge of bathtime gets the added bonus of those sweet, fresh-smelling snuggles and some skin-to-skin time.
Get your mind in baby mode. CLEARLY, I meant “spit” which becomes a bit of a cuss word if you hate laundry. Really, though, a great way to bond with your baby is after the feeding. Their little belly is full, they’re a happy camper. Urge a few burps out (don’t forget the burp cloth or bib if your little is prone to spitting up), and then enjoy a baby who is prepared to enjoy you right back.
Babies love movement. For 9ish months they were rocked and rolled all day long, and they look forward to it out on dry land, too. Hold your baby close so they can hear your heartbeat, pump up the jam (anything you like! Babies aren’t picky.), and get your groove on. Be sure to support your baby’s head at all times, and stick to moves like swaying, rocking, and gentle bouncing as opposed to a mosh pit in your living room, and you’ll be good to go!
This time, I meant what you think I meant. Babies are like little poop factories with eyes. With dirty diapers making an appearance several times a day, use the changing table as your personal playground. Make eye contact, talk and sing to your baby, narrate how nasty their “gift” to you really is. All of these little things add up to make a very big bond.
Missed me, missed me, now you gotta kiss me!
This old playground taunt rings true as a parent. After being away from your baby (and sometimes even after they’ve just taken a solid nap), you long for them. Let your baby know that you missed them with lots of kisses, baby massage, and stories about your day. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. You can even bond with your baby over your favorite football team – tell them what’s going on with each play and let them know who to root for.
Bonding isn’t any one action. You bond with your baby as you develop your relationship with them in all the little ways. Of all the things to worry about as a new parent, don’t let this one become the mountain you can’t climb. Make eye contact, talk and sing, and touch your baby. These are the cornerstones of building a lifelong bond.