North London Massage, Doula, Pregnancy Massage, Baby Massage

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8 Ways To Deepen The Bond With Your Baby

As I spend more and more time with new-parents and babies, I thought to write about the transition into parenthood. Now that a new life is with you, you most likely need to learn a new way to be together and flourish.

In the womb your baby is in total synchronicity with the mother. The baby directly experiences his/her mother’s own life rhythms. After birth, you all need to re-establish the rhythms of your life in what can be called a ‘dance’ between chaos, balance, action and relaxation.

BONDING

Bonding is the love, connection and intimacy that two human beings share. It is an ongoing interactive process that changes and evolves with time. It is a process and not a single event. It is a personal and individual experience that requires time, dedication, patience, acceptance and willingness to share emotions.

Bonding is the quality of physical and emotional energy flow between two human-beings, as well as it’s development during a life time.

THE 8 ELEMENTS OF ATTACHMENT.  TO DEEPEN THE BOND WITH YOUR BABY:

1.   Touch. Skin-to-skin contact.

Touch is the very first sense your baby develops in utero between 7/8 weeks of pregnancy. It is the most developed sense at birth. Touch is literally the first language a human-being specks. Through touch, your baby learns about the world. A positive, gentle but firm touch contributes a great deal to showing your baby love, building trust and security.

Interesting fact: A firmer touch has been proved to be more pleasurable for babies. A gentle but firmer touch helps them feel secure.  Too light a touch can be hyper-stimulating, causing them to feel irritable. 

Interesting fact 2: It has been proved by research that premature babies need still touch. While still touch gives them a sense of serenity and security, other types of stroking are too overwhelming for the infant (negatively affecting breathing and oxygen supply).

Interesting fact 3: Skin-to-skin contact releases the hormone oxytocin, which in turn helps develop a deeper sense of love and bonding as well as stimulating positive synapses in the brain.  

Interesting fact 4: Body contact each night can deepen the bond between you and your baby. This can also help the mother to produce breast milk for longer. Also, mothers sleeping next to the baby after birth, can help baby to breath regularly throughout the night.

2.   Eye contact

Vision is the last sense your baby develops completely, a few months after birth. At birth he/she can only see clearly 7 to 12 inches away (18 to 30 cm). This is the distance between the two of you during breast-feeding/feeding. Through eye-to-eye contact you can provide positive feedback, effectively building the infant’s emotional system. Your baby will love spending hours looking at your face.

Interesting fact: At these early stages the baby can only distinguish bright colours: red, orange, yellow and green in particular. It takes a little longer for them to be able to see blue and violet. To help stimulate your infant’s vision in the months ahead, decorate their room with bright, cheerful colours using contrasting colours and shapes.

3.   Odour

Your baby loves and thrives around your natural scent, especially the mother’s. This is the first odour he/she recognises and it gives the baby a sense of security, a safe place to be.

Interesting fact: It has been proved by research that, right after birth, babies prefer to latch on to a breast that has not been washed. It is also interesting to consider that the amniotic fluid’s smell is similar to the smell of breast milk. A baby that has not been washed after birth, placed skin-to-skin on mum’s chest will naturally be guided by his/her on hands, leading a pathway towards the breasts, as well as by mum’s scent (Breast Crawl).

4.   Hearing/Speaking

Your baby begins hearing in utero in the third trimester of pregnancy, by listening to the mother’s heartbeat and voice first and outside sounds later. This is why your baby loves to listen to your voice. Also, listening to you contributes a great deal to building his/ her ability to speak at a later stage.

Interesting fact: When a baby seems to be ‘fussy’, hearing your calm voice singing can be all he/she needs. And the good news is that it does not matter if you sing in tune or not. :)

5.   Crying

This is the most natural way your baby has to communicate with you. It’s important to listen to his/ her cry as well as smiling with him/her when calmer. Crying is a way of communicating as much as a smile.

During crying, your baby (but also adults) can reduce stress thanks to the natural physiological reaction by which human-beings produce relaxing hormones and expel toxins through tears. This is a powerful unconscious tool to regain a sense of calm and serenity. In fact we often do feel better after crying. However, in a state of prolonged crying the baby’s arousal state increases significantly and stress levels (cortisol) go up. Whether it is an emotional or physiological cry, your baby’s ability to self-soothe is NOT yet developed and he/she needs your total emotional and physical support to bring her dysregulated body and brain systems back into balance.

Interesting fact: For emotional regulation to take place it is important to trigger the body’s ability to release ‘happy hormones’ such as oxytocin and endorphins. Some things that stimulate this type of reaction are: touch, massage, sucking and warmth. Of course rhythmic movements such as rocking are also helpful in calming your baby down as they associate it with the security of the womb. 

Interesting fact 2: If your baby is crying for an emotional reason, she/he needs to feel that her distress is the only thing on your mind in order to connect with you and find peace again. Therefore you may want to feel centered and calm yourself before picking her up. Breathing techniques can help a great deal in sending positive signals to your brain and kick-starting your own self-soothe abilities. 

Interesting fact 3:When you help your child to regulate its body and brain back into balance, you are guiding her towards a future where she can think under stress and calm herself down as a grown-up, be socially confident and able to problem-solve. Ultimately the way you are with your infant and child will have direct effects on his/her brain development, shaping self-motivation, ability to deal with stressful situations as well as happiness and zest for life. 

6.   Smiling

Hormones play a huge part in our bodies and smiling is one of those things that triggers loving emotions associated with the release of opioids, the happy hormones.

By smiling with your baby, you help him/her to build positive synapses in the brain, providing a life-long benefit.

Interesting fact: You can hold your baby at a short distance from your face and begin a ‘conversation’ made of smiles and facial expressions. While doing so, consider that babies are slower at elaborating responses, so be patience and wait for a reaction before you go ahead. This will engage the child more and you can have ‘proper’ communication going on. The more engaged your baby becomes, the more excited he/she gets because of the release of opioids in the brain.

Interesting fact 2: Although sometimes people feel a baby is not very communicative, the first 6 months of his/her life can be the most sociable ones!

Interesting fact 3: By positively engaging in smiling and excitement you are contributing in your child’s ability to seek out pleasure and satisfaction such as pursuing a goal or following a dream in later life.

7.   Nursing/Feeding

At birth your baby has a strong sense of taste that begins in the womb during week 13-15 of gestation. By feeding your baby, you are not just providing nourishment, but also building the basis of a solid bond between the two of you. Use this as quiet time for you both. Breast-feeding is always suggested and is the most natural way to feed your baby, but if you are bottle-feeding you can still have quality time with your baby by being cantered, present, calm. Making eye-to-eye contact and smiling. So dads, there are not exuses to to get involved! J

Interesting fact: The action of sucking releases the antistress hormone oxytocin. This can be effective in helping an upset child to soothe (be careful not to use this technique as a ‘stop-gap’ when baby is not distressed)

8.   Imitation

Imitating your baby’s ‘talk’ and facial expressions all contribute to making them feel secure. This is a powerful tool to enhancing positive feedback. Your baby will also naturally want to imitate you, in what can become a ‘dance of intimacy.’

Interesting fact: Observing your baby in a quiet/alert state is a powerful way to listen to his/her needs. By observation you will soon learn all your baby’s cues, dos and don’ts. It may help to remember that you are the expert and your baby is the teacher.

See this page for baby massage courses in the comfort of your home in North London

Have an empowering parenting journey. 

Posted in Attachment bonding, Baby Massage, Bonding with Newborn,Bonding and Attachment, Infant Massage

Author Info

Eleonora Lawson

Deep tissue pregnancy and postnatal massage specialist. Birth and post-natal doula. Baby massage instructor and Sling consultant based in North London. CThA, Doula UK, AIMS, IAIM