Is it love at first sight?
It’s February, the month of love, so what better way to think about love than the special bond you and your baby can create together to form a lifelong relationship built on trust, affection and security?
Did you know that oxytocin, often referred to as the love hormone, has a huge role to play in how securely your baby bonds with you? Levels of oxytocin in a mother are extremely high during birth to help establish contractions and after to help breastmilk flow, and it is so strong that it is even sometimes used synthetically to induce labour.
It’s not just for mums though – research shows that levels of oxytocin are just as high in dads during the months after their baby is born.
The connection between a parent and child is one of the strongest bonds witnessed in nature. Yes, you may feel that connection growing during pregnancy, but what happens if you don’t feel that rush of love as soon as you hold your baby in your arms?
It’s not always love at first sight
If you don’t feel that immediate rush of love that so many parents describe, you are not alone. Around 30% of new mums don’t fall in love with their baby right away.
I was one of them. I had a fairly long and exhausting journey before my son was placed onto my chest, so I could barely recite my name let alone fall in love. It took several weeks for our bond to really start to form, and possibly even months before I felt that deep, unconditional love. Nearly 5 years on, I can’t imagine life without loving him, but it definitely took a while to get there.
Even though I had been working with children for many years before he was born, it has only been since I have opened up about my experience to other parents that I have realised just how common it is.
There are many reasons why a bond may take time – stress, exhaustion, birth complications and health worries to name but a few. Love takes time for both you and your baby, so just remember there’s always time to create that connection.
Skin to skin
One of the first ways to start connecting with your baby is through skin to skin. I may not have felt it at the time, but oxytocin was already there working it’s magic. With their baby on their chest, a mother’s temperature rises to create a warm place to snuggle. Babies are calmer during skin to skin, all the while starting to familiarise themselves with Mummy’s smell and kickstarting the bonding process.
What’s great is that the practise is now routinely carried out following a birth, and even better, dads can be part of this too. Research has showed that cuddles with Daddy not only reduces crying, but also helps induce sleep.
Ways to bond with your baby
There are so many ways you can nurture the attachment relationship between you and your baby as they grow. What’s more, it’s often things that you are naturally drawn to doing anyway. And if you’re not confident? The more you practice at these techniques, the more at ease you’ll feel and in time you’ll find yourself doing it without thinking!
Taking a bath with your baby is a great way to spend time skin to skin whilst having fun…and getting clean!
Making eye contact whilst engaging with your baby sounds simple, but it’s amazing how, when rushed, we often overlook this. Take the time to truly gaze at them when you can, to help deepen that bond.
Called echolalia, the action of repeating your baby’s gurgling, babbling noises back to them is perfect for early language development. But more importantly, it demonstrates to your baby that you’re listening, and trust is one of the main things you’ll need for a secure attachment.
Simply being available and attentive to your baby’s needs shows them that you are someone worth relying upon.
Lots of close contact with your baby, especially in the early weeks and months can be hugely beneficial not only in them bonding with you, but to also prepare them for independence later on. This can be done through baby-wearing, or just having frequent lap time for games such as peek-a-boo.
Whether as part of your baby’s bedtime routine, or at another time during the day, baby massage has been shown to be a great way to build the parent-child bond and can help your baby feel calmer too.
When your baby cries or initiates a connection or a need, ensure your response is warm, quick, positive and caring. These early exchanges are so crucial to your baby’s emotional understanding for both your relationship, as well as future ones with other family members, friends and partners.
Your baby loves nothing more than the sound of your voice, and reading, singing and talking to your baby are great for bonding as well as learning and development.
As parents, we are nurturing our little ones attachment from early on by being emotionally available and responding physically to their needs. As they grow, babies need a great deal of help exploring emotions but given the right tools they can flourish into emotionally healthy children and adults. You can help them by identifying their emotions and labelling them. From a sleep perspective, you can help them in this way in a variety of ways as they grow including:
- feeling frustrated when sleep training
- feeling scared of the dark or other fears
- feeling anxious about a change in routine
- feeling overwhelmed from overtired-ness
There’s so much more to attachment and sleep…
So now you know, bonding with your baby often takes time. But knowing how to help nurture that special attachment can definitely help you on your way if it doesn’t come immediately or naturally.
Want to know more about how this attachment relationship can be developed alongside sleep? Following February’s Love, Bonding blog, there’ll be more on the role of attachment in sleep published next month. Sign up to the HushaBoo email updates to be the first to find out. Or follow HushaBoo on social media…
Blogged by Emma Osborne, Pediatric Sleep Specialist, founder of HushaBoo & Mum to one little boy who definitely has captured my heart!