The initial bonding time with your newborn is very special. It is indeed a time that passes all too quickly. How can you promote and protect the early bonding time with your newborn? Here are five ideas for you.
1.) Get Naked.
Well, at least a little naked. There has been much research on the benefits of skin to skin contact with your baby. As soon as your baby is born, if possible, put your baby’s bare skin directly on your own bare skin. Let baby smell your chest, hear your heartbeat, and feel your warmth. Remember, he’s been in the womb, safe and snug, for around 40 weeks now. The exit into the wide world is probably quite shocking for your little one, and it’s important that he is still given the same secure feeling now that he’s outside. Besides emotional benefits for both of you, there are also health benefits of keeping your baby skin to skin- it helps regulate his temperature, breathing, and heart rate.
2.) Snuggle Up & Check Up.
Unless your baby needs immediate care in the NICU, most routine checks on a newborn can be done right on mom’s chest. Make it a point to ask for this from your doctor and nursing staff so as to avoid unneccesary separation. Note the order I put these in- snuggle first, check later. Once baby is deemed stable (which, again, can usually be determined in your arms!), ask the staff to delay routine procedures for an hour or two while you snuggle with your little one.
3.) Fall in Love.
Some mothers (myself included) find it difficult to know how to relate to the baby once he is born. Try to recall what it feels like to fall in love, and encourage those same behaviors. Talk to your baby. Put your face against his. Hold him close, stroke him, kiss him. Tell him how pleased you are to meet him, how you could hardly wait for this moment, how you will love him forever and always nurture him. These loving actions help both you and the baby to get accquainted to one another, as well as to foster motherly feelings.
4.) Room In.
I have heard some books and mothers say to give the baby to the nursery as much as you can so you can sleep in the hospital. I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure that I would be able to sleep if I didn’t know where my baby was. Yes, you will be tired. But these first few days are so fast and so precious- don’t throw them away by handing your baby off for long periods of time. Rooming in allows for more skin to skin time, talking to your baby, and getting to know him. It also encourages breastfeeding- you’ll be able to start picking up on your baby’s hunger cues faster if he’s in the room with you, and it prevents the staff from giving unwanted bottles.
This point is often overlooked. It’s very important for dads or other close family members to take part in getting to know their baby! Fathers, you too should hold, rock, kiss, and cuddle your newborn. Sing to him, walk with him, lie skin to skin with him. You too should enjoy this early bonding period with your child.
Finally, if you must be separated…
Sometimes, for medical reasons, a mother and her baby must be separated for a time. If that’s the case, adapt these points to your own situation. If baby must go to the NICU, send dad down to be with him. Make sure that mom has a picture of her newborn by her bedside so that she can at least enjoy looking at him that way until she can see him in person. If baby cannot be held, talk to him and admire him. If baby cannot room in, make frequent visits and stay as much as possible. When you are reunited with your baby, remember that it is a sacred time that should not be inturrupted if at all possible, and request that your baby be kept with you and procedures held off until your snuggle time is finished. These situations are ones where mom really needs for dad or another support person to advocate for her and help protect the bonding time.
Remember that even if you cannot have the immediate bonding you desire, you CAN play “catch up” later. Whenever you finally get to be with your baby, start back at the beginning and savor each moment of getting to know him. Bonding at birth is very special, but if for some reason that is not possible for you and your baby, all is not lost. The best kind of bonding continues on for a lifetime, no matter when it started.