Babies are born sociable and respond to others as soon as they are born. They have heard their parents’ voices whilst in the womb and love to look at faces.
Your baby is utterly dependent on you to provide all his basic needs for sustenance, warmth, and safety. However, beyond that, you and your baby co-exist inside a loving bond which provides both of you with love, joy, and stability. A loving and sensitive bond is crucial to a baby’s optimal emotional and social development. That is not to say that you have to be a perfect parent but newborn babies who form a loving bond with a caregiver in the first two years of life are happier and more robust and resilient well into adulthood. Furthermore, they are more able to have loving and warm adult relationships when they grow up.
If you are worried about your relationship with your baby and you’re worried something isn’t right, remember that feeling worried and being concerned something isn’t the way it should be is a normal part of parenthood. However, if your instincts are telling you that you need some help dealing with your feelings, your health visitor and GP are there to support you and they are very used to talking to new parents about their worries.
Bonding is a process not a one-off event so make lots of time to chat, cuddle, share books and have face to face contact with your baby.
In the early hours and days with your newborn baby, skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding are like a fast track to bonding. Having your baby lying on your chest in skin-to-skin contact causes you to release oxytocin which calms you down and promotes bonding in humans and other mammals.
Smell is a very powerful sense and evidence suggests that humans just like other mammals will use smell to help them identify with and bond with their baby.
Yes! From the moment your baby is born to spend lots of time in face-to-face contact. When you talk to your baby he will look intently at your face and will respond by moving or smiling or making a noise. This is called ‘serve and return’ and is a really important way you can support your baby’s emotional and social development in the early months before your baby can talk to you.
Having a new baby is a time of great upheaval, stress and sleep deprivation. Low mood is very common but the good news is that spending lots of time bonding with your baby is very good for your mental health. Instead of trying to keep on top of the housework and rushing around to lots of social engagements and events it can really help to go slow and keep things simple and realise that bonding with your baby is your most important job as a new parent and something that will give you increased joy and calm.
If you are concerned that you may be suffering from postnatal depression it’s really important to talk to your family, friends, midwife, health visitor and family doctor. The more practical and social support you can get the better and your doctor will be able to put you in touch with community support and discuss treatment if needed. All of the parents we filmed with spoke about how overwhelming being a new parent is so please watch this video and remember that you are not alone: