How to Play and Bond With a Newborn Baby
February 9, 2016
Although they’re quite limited in their size, attention span, vision, and verbal capabilities, newborns are still super fun to play and interact with. Establishing a strong bond with baby early on is vital to the development of your baby, and will make your life as a parent much easier. A strong bond will help you endure long nights of feeding, endless days of diaper-changing, and cause you to feel overwhelming joy at the first smile your baby gives you. Both you and your spouse can benefit from spending some time interacting with your new baby to strengthen that special bond.
Here are some ways to play and bond with your new baby, beyond the basic feeding, changing, and rocking to sleep.
Skin to skin
You were likely encouraged to have skin-to-skin bonding time in the hospital, but you shouldn’t stop once you get home. Try to incorporate some skin-to-skin bonding time into a nursing or feeding session, probably in the morning or at night for convenience. The benefits of skin-to-skin bonding are vast, and include preventing postpartum depression, helping baby sleep better, and making breastfeeding easier.
No, not like you do with your husband at work or your mom who lives far away. I’m talking about getting up close and personal with your baby, whose vision only extends to about 8-12 inches in front of his/her face – the perfect distance to study a face. Babies love to study faces and have been known to look at a face longer than any other object. Look your baby in the eyes, make funny faces, respond to their coos and noises, stick out your tongue, or just talk to them like you would a friend. You may not realize it, but your conversations with your baby are already helping him/her develop language skills.
While you change diapers, while you nurse, while you drive, while you rock them to sleep – sing! Singing has been shown to be more effective at increasing cognitive development in babies than classical music or recorded music. Not only are you aiding their development, but watching their reactions to your voice will boost your endorphins and make you gush over your little one’s adoration for you.
It’s never too early to get in the habit of reading to your baby. Start with simple books with high-contrast pictures that will capture your baby’s attention. Even just books with one word on each page will help your baby get used to the activity. Eventually, as your baby gets older, he/she will be used to story time with mom and dad and develop a habit and fondness of reading.
There is substantial research that highlights the benefits of baby-wearing. From mimicking the conditions of the womb to ease the transition at birth to giving dad a chance to be close to baby, investing in sling, wrap, or other baby-carrier is a fantastic way to bond with baby. Your baby will feel calm and secure being held snug and close against your body, and you will be able to get more done with your hands free and your baby snoozing or relaxing in the comfort of his/her parents’ embrace.
Keep a journal
A great way to strengthen the bond with your baby is to journal your experiences and feelings. This will also help you to learn about your baby and his/her needs. If you sang to your baby and noticed a happy expression or an instant calmness, write it down. If you forgot to swaddle your baby and nap times were shorter and less restful, write it down. Not only will a journal give you fond memories to look back on, but also a record of what works to soothe your baby or what seemed to irritate your baby that day.
It’s important to recognize that bonding is a process, not a moment. A strong bond is a result of ongoing love, nurture, affection, and anticipation and meeting of the needs of your newborn over time. If you feel that bonding with your newborn isn’t going well or isn’t happening at all, talk with your doctor. Sometimes this can be a sign of postpartum depression, or even can signify a problem with baby. Your doctor can help you determine the best way to ensure smooth sailing with your new baby.
In what ways did you bond with your newborn? How did you get your spouse involved in the bonding process?
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