Bonding with your baby. Everything you need to know about those special moments.
Does bonding with your baby affect his or her development for the rest of their lives? Are there any benefits for mothers as well? These are questions many psychologists have researched and continue to produce innovative findings.
What is bonding?
Bonding or “attachment” is all about that special connection between a mother and father with their newborn baby. An emotional attachment is formed and provides a newborn with their primary needs. These needs become the engine of subsequent social, emotional, and cognitive development. The early experience of the infant stimulates the growth of neural pathways that will influence the way they respond to many things.
The attachment experience affects personality development, in the sense of security. Research has proven how the lack of attachment in the early stages of a child’s life, influence the ability to form stable relationships throughout life. Most often, parents form a bond immediately; they fall in love instantly from the moment they set eyes on their baby.
Bonding with your baby: Insecure and secure attachment
Attachment styles are important in order to understand how bonding with your baby is important. Secure attachment can be classified by children who show distress when mothers leave but are able to relax and distract themselves with something else, knowing their mother will return. Children who have secure attachments feel protected because they can depend on their mother to return. This form of attachment is developed during infancy to early childhood.
A child with an insecure attachment will avoid or ignore their mother showing little to no emotion when she departs or returns. These children tend to show anger, anxiety symptoms, or fear. They may sometimes avoid other people and refuse to interact with others. This form of attachment negatively affects the child’s social, emotional, and cognitive development. Read more about child developmental theory.
How does bonding with your baby happen?
• The touch of their skin becomes an early and first language as babies respond to skin-to-skin contact, which becomes soothing for you and your baby
• Feeding the baby
• Rocking/swaddling your baby to sleep
• Singing to your baby, your voice is likely to be very comforting
How do you benefit from bonding with your baby?
There are many benefits to bonding for newborn babies. However, the question is, can you benefit from bonding with your baby as a new mother? The answer is yes!
Studies have found that breastfeeding your newborn has many psychological benefits not only for your little “bundle of joy” but for you too! Your baby generally benefits from the physical closeness of nursing. For mothers, breastfeeding releases hormones into the body that promote mothering behaviors.
It’s well known that when a baby is nursed, the nipple stimulation causes a hormone called oxytocin to be released in the mom, which in turn triggers milk discharge. Oxytocin is also known as the “love hormone” because it’s produced during orgasm and other affectionate moments. Oxytocin behaves in the brain the same way morphine does; it eases the pain, makes us feel good, and causes us to crave that emotional high again. For women who do not breastfeed, and choose to supplement with formula, still, produce the “love hormone”. Gazing into your baby’s while bottle-feeding, or snuggling will unleash the feel-good hormone in both of you.
What happens if a bond isn’t formed?
Studies have also found that 20% of parents do not form an emotional attachment to their newborn. It’s okay, these things sometimes happen. It takes time for some parents, do not feel guilty!
Bonding can be difficult for mothers who had a C-section or couldn’t see their baby right after birth. It can also be difficult for mothers who have a premature baby and had to spend time in the neonatal intensive care unit, or if their child is adopted.
After experiencing much pain and exhaustion during delivery, mothers may feel overwhelmed with a new baby. Hormonal changes may trigger symptoms of postpartum depression, which may prevent them from completely bonding with their newborn. When you are pregnant, the hormones, estrogen, and progesterone increase significantly. In the first 24 hours after birth, your hormone levels go back to its normal state. Researchers believe this change could possibly lead to depression.
Tips on how to bond and form a secure attachment with your baby
1. Have a single primary, regular caregiver during the baby’s first six months. Although mom is usually the primary subject to a baby’s attachment, the likelihood of a secure attachment happening is equally strong with whoever provides consistent and affectionate care of the baby. One consistent person produces a more secure attachment rather than divided attention being distributed as, some mom, some dad, and a babysitter.
2. Keeping synchronized routines for eating, sleeping, and stimulation, especially during a baby’s first few months. Adjust baby’s feeding and sleeping schedule according to the baby’s rhythm for the first six months.
3. Regularly smile, touch, and show affection to the baby. As Harry Harlow’s famous Rhesus monkey experiments shows that when baby monkey chose a soft mother surrogate rather than a wire mother figure even if the ladder offered food, demonstrated in the 1950s that not even food or shelter, is more important than the touch and comfort between mother, or a mother figure, and baby.
4. Act consistently in response to your baby’s distress with comfort, warmth, and competency. Research shows that when super-attentive mothers responded instantly to their baby’s every gurgle, cry, and hiccup, their children became less securely attached. The lesson: children react poorly to smothering. It hampers their independence and inhibits the process of learning and self-soothe.
Now that you know how bonding affects a child’s development and its benefits to mothers. I hope you have learned something you didn’t know about this well-known topic. Feel free to leave me a comment!
Forming a Bond with Your Baby — Why It Isn’t Always Immediate. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/forming-a-bond-with-your-baby-why-it-isnt-always-immediate#3
Attachment Security: Born or Made? January 06, 2009. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/family-affair/200901/attachment-security-born-or-made
Depression during and after pregnancy fact sheet. Retrieved from https://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/depression-pregnancy.html
Five Ways to Create a Secure Attachment with You Baby, Without Sharing Your Bed. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/lib/five-ways-to-create-a-secure-attachment-with-your-baby-without-sharing-your-bed/
Jennifer is currently a senior at Mercy College from the state of New York, majoring in psychology with a minor in criminal justice. Jennifer is also an intern at a private practice in Midtown Manhattan. She aspires to be a clinical psychologist in the future working with inner city teens and adults who lack mental health resources. She also, enjoys learning anything and everything about human behavior.
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