In a world that is constantly on the go, bonding with other humans is often the last thing our minds. True, intimate connections have been replaced by social media and surface level relationships It somehow seems easier and safer that way.
But, is safe and easy best? Should we avoid connection and bonding because it's inconvenient? Not at all. Humanity needs true connection now more than ever. Adults and children alike are designed to need healthy attachment - it's a part of our DNA. It begins with pregnancy and continues to birth, childhood, marriage and beyond. Simply put, bonding is essential for our survival.
HOW TO BOND WITH YOUR BABY
Bonding comes naturally to some, but others may need to work at it. A first-time mom may have to make conscious efforts at forming an emotional connection with her baby during pregnancy. It can be a challenge because pregnancy can be somewhat abstract, especially in those early days. Even if you're feeling the physical effects of pregnancy via morning sickness, your brain can take time to catch up with your body.
If you're looking to form a deeper bond with your baby during pregnancy try talking to your baby. Tell him about your day. Read her a story. If you're experiencing something that is causing you stress, tell your baby that it's ok.
Prenatal Yoga is another wonderful way to bond! Not only does it help you feeling healthy and vibrant through your pregnancy, it provides space and guidance to meditate and create affirmations for pregnancy and birth. Prenatal yoga instructors are magicians when it comes to getting you connected the squirmy little love inside your womb.
During labor and your birth your body will produce a virtual cocktail of hormones. These hormones directly affect your ability to bond not only during the birth of your baby, but immediately postpartum as well. Boosting this hormone cocktail is key to getting your body to relax and creating a safe space for vulnerability and attachment.
When contractions begin your body naturally produces oxytocin. Oxytocin is the love hormone or the bonding hormone. It causes the uterus to contract during labor and after birth the contractions continue in order to shrink your uterus to a smaller size. Contractions are necessary to bring your baby into this world, so the more oxytocin you have flooding your system, the stronger and more consistent your contractions will become. Not to mention that this oxytocin will help you bond with your baby post-birth. More on that later!
To boost your oxytocin cocktail try dimming the lights, turning on soft music, or getting in the tub. Have your partner add some encouraging words, kisses, and comforting massage and you'll be floating on cloud nine with all the loving goodness that will be surging through your body.
When your freshly born baby is brought immediately to your chest, you'll get a huge rush of oxytocin. In addition to causing your uterus to continue to contract, it will also trigger milk production along with prolactin - the mothering hormone. This powerful hormone cocktail is what causes you to find your baby to be completely irresistible and turns on your instincts to nurture and protect your sweet baby. Oxytocin & prolactin are key to helping you take on their new role as a mother.
If you're eager to facilitate bonding in the best way possible, immediate skin-to-skin contact and on demand breastfeeding is the best way to stimulate your body’s natural oxytocin production after birth. As your baby suckles at your breast it will signal your body to release more oxytocin and will encourage to connect to your baby. Skin-to-sking contact and latching at the breast also helps your baby to release his or her own oxytocin.
The benefits of skin-to-skin contact go beyond those first few hours and days. We recommend continuing skin-to-skin for several weeks, whether or not you choose to breastfeed. This direct contact helps regulate your baby's temperature, breathing, and cortisol levels. Additionally, it can help promote lactation, hormone regulation, and feelings of euphoria in your body too!
The Fourth Trimester
While there is plenty you can do to aid bonding through stimulating oxytocin and positive thoughts and emotions, externally you have even more influence. Your choices with your time, your environment, and your attention have lasting impacts on the bond you will have with your baby. This is true for adoptive parents as well!
It is for this reason that we encourage you to put down the cell phone and shut off the TV while you are bonding with your baby. The blue light that emits from these electronic devices can actually inhibit oxytocin flow and create more stress in your life. Creating a calming, relaxing, oxytocin-promoting cave is one of our favorite tips to share with our postpartum doula clients. Find a serene space in your home with a comfy chair, some natural light and make this your bonding spot. This is a place where you can get away from the noise and just chill with your baby.
Be gentle with yourself as you adjust to the realities of having a new baby. Go at a slow pace as you allow your body to recover from birth and allow your baby to acclimate to his or her new surroundings. Be mindful of external sources of stress and do everything you can to eliminate those from your life... at least for the time being.
HIRE A POST-PARTUM DOULA
If you want extra help in bonding with your baby, consider hiring a postpartum doula. Our vision in providing postpartum support is not simply taking care of your baby for you (although that does happen at times), but in doing all we can to help you facilitate an environment for healing, recovery, and bonding. Your doula is there to support you through breastfeeding and pumping. She can give you suggestions for boosting your milk supply and storing breastmilk. She can walk you through soothing and calming techniques, bathing your baby and more. Her presence provides you with opportunities to just focus on your new baby while she fills in the gaps around the house.
Sometimes the bond comes on really strongly from the moment you pee on the stick. But don't worry if it takes a little while for your heart to catch up with your head. It's not uncommon for some women to have a delay in bonding and for it to even take a few days or weeks after birth. There is nothing wrong with you or your baby is you don't bond immediately. But doing everything we've suggested here will ultimately help you get there.
In the end, we just want you to know that your body was made for this connection. Your hormones and your baby's hormones work together to create the most beautiful and tender relationship. Early attachment will help you create a strong bond to your child for years and years and years to come.