I will admit that I didn’t think I would have to worry about how to bond with baby, I thought it would just happen. But sometimes, it doesn’t just happen.
When you found out you were pregnant, you probably imagined the moment you would meet your baby. You probably daydreamed about how it would feel when the nurse sat your baby on your bare chest.
You may have assumed you and your new baby would have an instant bond from the moment you laid eyes on her. You and your newborn would be two peas in a pod, you just knew it.
Now you may be realizing that is not always the case. The first few weeks with a new baby is brand new for the both of you. Baby is trying to adjust to life outside the womb, while you are trying to adjust to being a new mom.
Maybe you are surprised by how little your newborn feels like your baby and how much she feels sort of like a stranger. (This is normal, don’t sweat it.)
When I had my daughter, I felt as if I had just been handed a strangers baby. Luckily, we were able to bond pretty quickly. It does get better, rest assured.
Weather you are really struggling to bond with baby, or you just want to bond a little more, these simple tips can help you.
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SKIN TO SKIN
I’m sure you have heard about the benefits of skin to skin contact for your baby, but I still think it’s worth mentioning here.
When you go to the hospital to have your baby, they should ask you if you want to do skin to skin immediately after your baby is born. (They normally ask while you are filling out a series of forms.)
If that is something you feel comfortable with, I definitely recommend you do it!
It may sound a little gross to not have your newborn baby cleaned up before skin to skin, but I promise, that will be the last thing on your mind.
If you choose to do skin to skin immediately after birth, feel free to stay that way for as long as you want, or as long as they will let you. This is the perfect opportunity to try breastfeeding if you want.
If not, just lie back and enjoy your new baby. Bath time, weighing, and etc can wait.
Skin to skin doesn’t have to stop at the hospital. Even at home, it can be super beneficial for bonding.
The easiest way to do skin to skin is to just do it when you have the spare time. Lounging around the house, in between loads of laundry can be the perfect time to just sit down and bond a little with your baby.
TALK TO BABY
From the moment that your baby became able to hear from inside the womb, he has heard your voice every time you spoke.
Maybe you even took the time to sit down daily and talk to your belly to help him recognize your voice. Nonetheless, your baby has been hearing your voice for a while now.
He has spent all this time relaxing in the womb, hearing your voice and your heartbeat. So naturally, these things comfort him and point that big arrow that says “hey, this is my Mama.”
Now that he is out in the world, it’s time to help him make the connection between your voice and your face. The easiest way to do this is simply talking to your baby.
Now, you may feel a little silly or awkward at first having a full blown conversation with a baby who just stares back at you (I did), but it gets easier with time.
Try sitting down and telling your baby about your day, or narrating what you are doing if you are up fixing a bottle or grabbing a diaper.
Tell baby that you are running low on paper towels and will need to run to the store soon.
Look out the window and tell him that it looks like it may rain today. Just say whatever feels right in that moment.
You can also try singing, if you want! I have a terrible singing voice (confirmed very harshly by anyone who has ever heard me sing.) But regardless, my baby seems to really enjoy me singing to her.
You don’t have to sing twinkle twinkle little star over and over again, just sing whatever song pops into your head.
Maybe you will sound like Adele, maybe you will sound like a dying animal, either way it will help your baby learn your voice and bond with you. Plus, it is kinda fun.
EYE CONTACT DURING FEEDINGS
Breastfed or bottle fed, making eye contact with baby during feedings is super helpful! Looking into your baby’s eyes during feedings helps her to make the connection between you and food.
It goes without saying that babies find being hungry uncomfortable. I mean, don’t we all? It will not take long for your baby to realize every time she is hungry, you show up and make that feeling go away.
This is a big part of the bonding process and looking into babies eyes during feedings just helps to reinforce to your baby that you are there to comfort and nurture her.
If you just had your baby, it is likely that you are swamped with people who are just dying to meet your new addition. If you’re not feeling up to it, those people can wait! If you are reading this while you are still pregnant, take my advice and limit the visitors from the start.
It seemed like every time I tried to bond with my baby at the hospital, someone was knocking on the door ready to meet her. I felt like a baby hog if I didn’t hand her over to whoever wanted to hold her, which is silly since it was my baby.
Visitors at the hospital can be great if you are feeling up to it, just don’t feel obligated to allow visitors if you don’t want to. Especially if you are struggling with bonding or breastfeeding.
The same goes for allowing visitors at home. It is normal for people to want to come visit the new baby and look at the adorable nursery.
If you are struggling with bonding and someone offers to come hold the baby while you do the dishes, laundry, etc, it is totally okay to ask them to do that task while you sit and hold the baby. Most people are glad to help a new mom in any way they can, even if it doesn’t involve sweet baby cuddles.
Sitting around holding your baby all day is great and all, but eventually, you will have to do the dishes, go grocery shopping, or sweep the floor. This is where a great baby carrier can come in handy! I consider a baby carrier one of my must have baby items.
Keeping your baby close is great for bonding because it helps you spend time with your baby while being hands free. If your baby loves the carrier she also may take a nap in there, which is just an added bonus.
I had a cheap little one that my daughter hated, so I recommend getting one like this that can grow with your baby.
LEAVE THE HOSPITAL EARLY
Personally, I was in no hurry to leave the hospital. I was a nervous first time mom and was anxious about taking my baby home.
However, I know there are some moms who absolutely cannot wait to get out of the hospital and back in their own beds at home.
Either way, I’ll admit being in the hospital can make it a little harder to bond with your baby.
Nurses and doctors coming in periodically to check on you and baby can make it hard to do any serious bonding.
Add that on top of visitors, learning how to breastfeed, and just trying to learn how to be a mom in general can make the hospital a less than pleasant environment.
(I’m in no way saying that doctors and nurses are doing anything wrong by checking on you or baby, that is their job and it is important that they do so.)
Hospital policies will vary a little based on where you give birth, but as long as you or baby aren’t having any serious problems, they should have no objections to letting you go home early.
It’s ultimately your decision and something you can talk to your doctor about if you want.
GIVE YOURSELF TIME
If you are somewhere in the fog that people call the newborn phase, it’s very possible that you don’t feel 100% like yourself right now.
It is normal for new moms to struggle with becoming new moms. It does not mean that you are a bad mom or that you don’t enjoy being a mom.
So I recommend that you take a little time to yourself. I know this whole post talks about spending time and bonding with baby, but you may struggle to do so if you feel completely out of touch with yourself.
You could try heading to bed a little early one night and getting some much needed rest while your husband watches the baby and handles the first night feeding. You’ll be asleep, but this is still good “me time” in my opinion!
You could also try having your mom come over during the day and taking a nice long shower without peeking your head out every two minutes to see if you hear the baby crying.
Another good option is to leave your little one with someone you trust and get out of the house and do something. This can be especially helpful if you’ve been stuck in the house on maternity leave.
You may be surprised how much better you feel after taking even just fifteen minutes for yourself.
I put this at the bottom of the post specifically because it is not necessary for you to breastfeed if you want a good bond with your baby.
I did not breastfeed, nor did I even try, really. I just didn’t really want to.
It is important that you know that even if you can’t (or just don’t want to) breastfeed that you can still have a great bond with your baby.
With that being said, breastfeeding will certainly help speed the process along.
Pretty much everything that we mentioned earlier about the baby learning to associate you with comfort and care is reinforced through breastfeeding.
Especially in the beginning when your baby is nursing practically all day, it can help to make bonding a little speedier.
But I assure you, breastfed vs. bottlefed does not make or break the bonding experience. Just something to keep in mind.
IMPORTANT THINGS TO REMEMBER ABOUT BONDING WITH BABY
At the end of the day, regardless of how you became a mother, weather through the traditional way, adoption, or surrogacy, you are still that baby’s mama.
Nothing is going to change that. It may not seem like it now but there will be a day very soon where that little baby turns into a toddler that comes running to you every time they fall down and hurt themselves.
Why? Because you are mama. You are everything to them and they are everything to you. That bond is there. You just have to work at it.