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5 ways to bond with your baby (and why it’s good for everyone)

Bonding with your new baby is supposed to come naturally, right? Society makes those first moments look so magical and easy. But what happens if you and your baby just don’t click right away? After all, not every parent instinctively knows what to do with a tiny, hungry, screaming, squirming bundle of joy. And to be perfectly honest, those first couple of months can be just downright hard.

But forming a bond with your baby is important, even if it doesn’t come naturally at first. Research has shown that forming a strong bond with your baby and toddler is fundamental to his or her future success. A study published by The Sutton Trust in March 2014 that reviewed a variety of international studies of parental attachment revealed some remarkable statistics. They found:

  • 40 percent of children fail to develop strong emotional bonds with their parents.
  • One in four children avoid their parents when they are upset because the parents ignore their needs.
  • Another 15 percent of children resist their parents when they are upset because the parents cause them distress.
  • If a strong bond is not developed before age 3, children are more likely to suffer from aggression, defiance, and hyperactivity.
  • Children who do not form secure bonds are more likely to have reading problems later in childhood.
  • Children growing up in poverty have a much greater chance of success with fewer behavioral problems if they feel a bond with a parent.

If you haven’t developed that automatic bond with your little one, don’t despair. Here are a few tips to help you and your baby connect, which will not only benefit you now but will help ensure security in the years to come.

1. Skin-to-skin contact. Whether you are breast or bottle-feeding, all babies benefit from skin-to-skin contact. Both mom and dad can increase their feelings of parental attachment by placing their little one skin-to-skin.

2. Sleep close. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping your baby in the same room where you sleep in the early weeks and months. This allows you to respond quickly and easily to your baby at night, further enhancing your baby’s feelings of security.

3. Learn your baby’s cry. A crying baby looks to his or her caregiver for reassurance. By getting to know your baby’s unique cries for hunger, discomfort, and pain, your baby will feel more secure as his or her needs are attended to quickly.

4. Realize the power of touch. Infant massage is a great way for both moms and dads to bond with their babies, allowing the power of touch to strengthen the feelings of security. The more you interact with your baby by touch, the closer your bond will be.

5. Sing, talk, and play. Whether it’s diaper-changing time or feeding time, anytime is good to talk and play with your little one. The actual words and songs don’t matter, but your baby will be delighted to hear your voice, further developing that close bond.

Your early bond really does have an impact on your child’s social and emotional development. If you find yourself having difficulty bonding with your baby despite these techniques, talk to your OB or your baby’s pediatrician about the possibility that you may be suffering from postpartum depression. By getting the help you need, it will benefit both you and your little one for years to come.

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About Dr. Kristie Rivers, Bundoo Pediatrician

Dr. Kristie Rivers is an Attending Physician, Assistant Medical Director of the Pediatric Hospitalist Program, and Director of Pediatric Medical Education at a children’s hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. She cares for hospitalized children and also teaches pediatric residents and medical students.

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