Bonding time with your baby isn’t just a beautiful way to experience love with your little one, it’s an important part of your child’s growth and development. “Did you know that lack of proper bonding during even part of a babies development can cause a lifelong battle of bonding with others in an intimate manner?” says Dr. Michele Paiva, a licensed psychotherapist.
“Focus on all activities with your baby as not only tasks such as bath time or sleep time, but opportunities of emotional and mental growth,” says Paiva.
So, “put the phone down, turn off the TV and have intentional time with your baby,” encourages Paiva. Not sure how to get started? Try the following tips for creating special bonding moments for you and your baby.
Make mealtime special
“Bonding and attachment occurs with newborns primary during feeding,” says Dr. Fran Walfish, family relationship psychotherapist and author of “The Self-Aware Parent.”
“Most often it's the mother who feeds by breast or bottle. During feeding, the eye-to-eye sustained, warm, adoring gaze builds attachment between mommy and baby,” adds Walfish.
Read to baby
“When parents talk, read and sing with their babies and toddlers, connections are formed in their young brains. These connections build language, literacy and social-emotional skills at an important time in a young child’s development. These activities strengthen the bond between parent and child,” advises the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Reading to your little one also provides a welcome opportunity to cuddle and be close to one another.
Create bath-time rituals
Tub time is a great time for you to bond with baby. The warmth of a comfortable bath not only relaxes your baby, it gives you an opportunity to talk and practice eye contact with your little one (the latter of which is a skill that will help your child throughout his or her life). “Babies who are given opportunities for safe eye contact — meaning, trusted and loving eye contact — are more apt to be able to carry this habit into their later years and it can relay into confidence and forming healthy friendships and partnerships,” says Paiva.
Diaper time is also another opportunity to actively engage with and communicate with your baby. Make diaper time special by maintaining eye contact with your baby. “Take time to create opportunities for eye contact that is about a foot or so from the newborns eyes … look at them, acknowledge them with a loving tone and expression, and continue to engage,” says Paiva.
Also, use this time to talk with your little one. “It doesn't have to be anything special or magical, you can just narrate what you are doing,” says Paiva.
Massage your baby
We all know how important gentle touch is for not just babies — but all of us. Holding hands, a hug — and massage — all feel good, no matter the age of the giver or receiver. “Loving touch teaches your baby that love is healthy, not harmful,” says Paiva. During massage, both you and baby experience a rise in the hormone oxtocin, the “cuddle chemical.” According to Paiva, this is incredibly powerful and allows trust to develop between parent and child — “and allows the baby to grow and develop into a person who is able to trust.”
Go for a walk
Baby needs a change of scenery, too. Put your child in a stroller and be sure to get outside as often as you can. Venturing outdoors with your little one provides a shared experience for you both. Talk with your baby as you walk and point out plants, people, cars and more. Take breaks to kneel next to baby, make eye contact and connect with her during the course of your walk.
Prior to naptime and bedtime, be sure to take a few minutes with your baby to cuddle close and wind down before tucking your child into bed. Use this time to sing or read to baby, and enjoy this wonderful opportunity to simply hold your child.