· By Tiny Hearts Education
Bonding With Your Little One; A Must Read Before your Baby is Born
Bonding With Your Little One
Written by Jade | Midwife, Mama of 3 & Tiny Hearts Educator
As a Midwife, I get soo many questions from mamas and papas about bonding with their bub. So we've written this blog around the most common questions we get and all the info you need to know about bonding with your baby. 🤍
what is bonding?
Bonding refers to the development of a close relationship between a mama/ papa and their bub. Often, there will be a strong sense of attachment, feeling protective over bub, wanting to be close by and a sense of unconditional love.
when does bonding begin?
Bonding isn't an instantaneous, isolated event that occurs as a once-off. Instead, attachment is created over time. Some parents feel bonded to their bub towards the end of pregnancy. For others, shortly after birth, they feel a strong sense of attachment to bub. However, many parents may not feel this and instead create attachment through the everyday care for their little one, such as changing, feeding, dressing etc. and don't even realise until their bub does something like smile or laugh that they are, in fact, bonded. For some, bonding may occur later due to things like traumatic birth or a mama or bub being unwell after birth. The most important thing to know is that it's never too late to initiate bonding and create attachment.
why is bonding important?
Bonding and attachment are important for a little one's growth and development. When a bub is held by a parent, their body responds by releasing hormones and chemicals that help their brain grow and develop rapidly. It's also important for emotional and social development when bub is older by giving them a safe place in the world and supporting them to explore it.
things to encourage bonding for a mama
- Take it back to basics; skin to skin.
- Do something you enjoy together like the beach or a picnic.
- Get outside. Go to the park. Feed the ducks. Fly a kite. Doing things together makes special common memories.
- One-on-one time. Whether it's storytime before bed, or a babycino date on Sundays, spending time together will naturally make you closer.
- Let go of those feelings of inadequacy. Feeling guilty about not bonding with your bub isn't going to make bonding any easier.
- Look deep inside your heart of hearts- is there something else impacting your bonding, and can you address it?
things to encourage bonding for a papa bear
- Skin to skin. After birth, once a mama has had skin to skin with bub and is ready to get up for a shower, this is a perfect opportunity for a papa bear to have some skin to skin. But in this hospital isn't the only time - after going home, a papa bear can have skin to skin with bub before or after bath time, when changing bub, when bub is unsettled or when a mama needs a break. There's no limit.
- Have a set time that is purely for bub and their papa bear. For some papa bears whose bubs are formula feeding, doing the feeds is their special time. For breastfed bubs, bub and papa bear's special time could be bath time. It could also be storytime.
- Spend time with bub. Taking your little one for walks, do activities with them or take them to the park to kick a ball. Some papa bears also find babywearing helps them bond with bub.
- Talk to bub. Some papa bears are not used to newborns or young babies. It might feel strange at first to talk to this little person who is staring back at you, but pretty soon, it will become like second nature. If you're finding it really difficult, start small by reading them a book or singing them a song and work your way up from there.
- Play games. When bubs are little, it might be tricky to know how to play with them. Some games you can play with a young bub include peek-a-boo, this little piggy went to market, row your boat or pat-a-cake.
Some papa bears bond with bub straight away, while for others, it takes time. Regardless of what you do with bub, the best way to bond involves spending time with them, smiling at bub [and they will eventually smile back], physical contact, looking in their eyes and talking/ singing to them. If you need support to bond, chat to bub's MCH Nurse or GP for some more ideas.
bonding + the golden hour
The first 60 minutes after birth is a magical time known as the golden hour. During your golden hour, most parents continue to bond with their baby through skin-to-skin, getting to know their little one and initiating feeding [particularly if BF]. In this time, your birthing team will inspect and potentially repair your perineum or c-section wound, perform observations, check your blood loss and monitor bub. These checks can be done while skin to skin unless there is a medical reason, regardless of vaginal or caesarean birth.
A mama's endorphins and hormones [including the love hormone, Oxytocin] are at high lifetime levels during golden hour, making it the ideal time for initiating or continuing mama-infant bonding. Unless medically necessary, try not to let anything disturb The Golden Hour. Weighs and measures can wait. So can cuddles from other relatives. You've waited nine whole months to meet this little person. This is the time to stop, turn off distractions and just be. And health professionals, it's our job to help mama and baby soak up every second of that first hour together.
Benefits of an undisturbed golden hour:
- Being skin-to-skin helps newborns regulate breathing and temperature control
- Being skin-to-skin after birth promotes bonding and milk production hormones [Oxytocin and Prolactin]
- Allows for delayed cord clamping
- Feeding shortly after birth speeds up delivery of the placenta, reduces the risk of a postpartum haemorrhage and promotes maternal-infant attachment
- Successful breastfeeding is more likely with bubs who have early feeding initiation.
If mama becomes unwell, place bub skin-to-skin with a co-pilot and take lots of photos and videos for a mama to look back upon.
when bonding isn't happening
Having a baby isn't a linear experience, and it's not the same for everyone. Some parents are obsessed with their bubs while still growing in their tummy. Some parents experience love at first sight. But for others, bonding doesn't happen until much later due to things like pregnancy anxiety, birth trauma or unexpected pregnancies. And guess what; all three experiences are so so normal.
A while ago, one of our Tiny Hearts stories saw lots of messages coming in where parents said they felt like they weren't bonded to their bubs, and instead, they felt like they were babysitting. While it breaks my heart that they feel that way, I also know that it can be normal. Not everyone feels that instant connection. Of course, you care about them and want to protect them, but it's not what you thought it would be, YET.
Parenthood is a journey. You'll go up some mountains and feel the highest of highs. When your bub is sick, or you're having a tough time adjusting, you'll experience the lows too.
Everyone's journey through parenthood is so different, and there are no time limits or rules about bonding with your littlest love. The only expectations are the ones you're putting on yourself. Some people feel happy in their new role as a parent, while others aren't. Just like some parents bond immediately with their bubs, others don't. But don't forget, it's never too late to start the process.
baby in the nursery
The truth is, nothing can ever totally prepare you for the ride that is having your newborn in a special care nursery or NICU. Even if you've lived it with another bub, it's heartbreaking watching your new bub through that incubator, unable to take them home just yet. Here's a few practical tips that may help:
- In our birth course, we teach mamas about antenatal expressing. This is collecting colostrum and freezing it before your bubba is born. If you're separated from bub they can still receive your liquid gold, even if they need a feeding tube!
- Skin-to-Skin is everything! 'Kangaroo care' promotes bonding, boosts bub's immunity, your milk supply & their development. A gown or robe can make it easier.
- Capture memories. Whether it be creating stamps of your tiny bub's hands or feet, taking videos of their sleeping face or writing down moments you observe or feelings you have, these tiny mementos can help process and recall your experience later when it all may seem a blur.
- If you know in advance you'll be a NICU or SCN mama, you can organise an octopus teddy! In your tummy bubs grab their umbilical cord so ted's tentacles provide familiar comfort and help avoid bub pulling on wires or tubes. Wear ted against your body for a night or two before so that it smells like you too!
- Remember you too have just been born as a parent and your body needs rest and nourishment too.
- Many mamas will have never imagined they'd end up in the nursery, but if you know in advance, it may help if you've seen it. Ask for a tour before bub enters the world as being familiar can make things less scary when you arrive.
- You do you. Think ahead about boundaries around visitors to the hospital AND once you're home. Reassure friends and fam they'll meet your little one when YOU are ready. This is the time to do what's best for you, your co-pilot and your lil bub.
Remember, although it feels like a lifetime, it'll be your turn to go home soon.
worries about parenthood
Some parents are concerned about how tough parenting is and that it may impact bonding. Yes, there are absolutely tough parts of parenthood, but for every dark moment, there are 10 more of light. These are just some of my favourite parts of being a parent:
- When this little person is born and put on your chest, and you know this is the beginning of everything you dreamed of coming true.
- When you hold your bub for the first time. Even though you've got shaky hands and no idea what you're doing, you never realised until this moment that you could love someone so much.
- When you take bub home from the hospital and get to show them where they'll be growing up.
- When your older baby meets their newborn sibling, and you see their bond already forming.
- When your bub says "mama" or "dada" for the first time.
- When you see them walk into a room and scan for you, then watch their face light up when they see you.
- When you tuck them into bed at night, and in their sleepy voice, whisper to you, "I love you, mama".
- When you see them achieve something they are proud of, like riding a bike without training wheels. Take the pride they feel, multiply it by 100x, and that's how proud you'll be of them.
- When you look back at photos and see how much they've grown, even though it feels like the days were one big blur.
- When you see them do something kind, knowing you taught them that.
- When their baby hands wrap around your neck and hold you tight.
It's in these moments that you'll realise how attached you are to bub, more than you ever realised.
Parents, I hope this has answered your questions about bonding, but if it hasn't, leave any questions, you've got on the original post on Facebook or Instagram. While you're there, tag your loved ones expecting little ones, or share your experience of bonding with your kiddos in the comments.
bump, birth and beyond
The Bump, Birth & Beyond course will educate you and your co-pilot (support person) on what to expect during pregnancy, birth and the first trimester with your new little love.