Bonding with your baby is one of the most important milestones as a new mom. But that doesn’t mean it will come naturally…

For many new moms, bonding with their newborn is natural. Having carried their baby for nine months, they adapt easily to breastfeeding, nappy-changing and baby-shushing.

But, this isn’t the case for all new moms.

Some moms simply find it difficult to bond with their babies. And that’s okay.

I’ve had two very different bonding experiences with my children. Both premature, my daughter spent one night in the NICU while my son spent eight nights in NICU being cared for by his nurses. My daughter was bottle-fed and my son was (actually, still is) breastfed. Even though they had different starts, with my son’s bonding process being ‘delayed’ by medical issues, I wouldn’t say I’m closer to the one than the other.

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The mother-child bond is natural, whether it’s there immediately after delivery, or takes a few days or even a few weeks (yes, that’s OK too!), you will, in time, feel it. And when you do, you won’t remember the days you didn’t.

In the meantime, talk to other moms you know. It may surprise you to find other new moms who are struggling with the same things you are. They may be able to give you pointers and great advice that will prove helpful. Besides that, it will feel good to talk to someone.

So, what can be affecting your bond with your baby?

  • Too many caregivers handling your baby
  • Preemie babies who have a lengthy NICU stay
  • Babies who encounter problems in the womb or during delivery
  • Babies who are separated from mom at birth and miss out on skin-to-skin time.
  • Babies whose nervous systems are affected or compromised

How can you encourage a bond?

  1. Keep your baby close. Touch and smell are key senses that newborns depend on.
  2. Use eye contact. Babies are fascinated by our faces and expressions. Eye contact helps establish a loving and trusting relationship.
  3. Respond to cries. Babies use crying as a means of communication. Leaving your baby to cry will make him or her feel insecure and will destroy any bonding efforts.
  4. Smile! It is the universal language of love. Plus, it is believed that smiling has a positive effect on stimulating and developing brain function.
  5. Chat to your baby. Your soothing voice will not only comfort your baby, but stimulate him or her at the same time.

What about dad?

According to Dr William Sears (father of eight, childcare expert and author) dads can become just as nurturing as moms – they just have to be given the opportunity.

Here are three ways you can create special bonding moments between dad and baby:

  1. Involve dad in bath time. Encourage him to get in the bath with baby (so that they can spend some time skin-to-skin) or divide the bath-time duties between the two of you; so if you bath baby, have dad cream and dress baby!
  2. Dads are known to be better baby-burpers (must be their big hands!) so reel him in after a feed, and give him the opportunity to snuggle once he’s relieved baby of any wind.
  3. It’s no secret: Newborns give the best cuddles! Give baby to dad for an hour in the evenings for some cuddle time, while you enjoy a warm plate of food, bath or even a power nap!

Becoming a mom can be very rewarding. The struggle to bond is frustrating for those having difficulty, but it can be overcome. Know that there is a reason why you are having bonding issues and work on them. Before you know it, you’ll be forging a special relationship with your newborn that will last a lifetime.