by Sarah Levoy, PsyD.
You have just brought home this little bundle of joy. Now what? Your newborn will spend the next twelve weeks or so just eating, sleeping, and eliminating. This time of adjustment to the world is often called the fourth trimester because your baby's brain and central nervous system are still maturing. Although you may be all consumed trying to meet the basic needs of your baby and yourself it is also important to remember to try and connect with your baby and find joy in simple ways. This early bonding will be rewarding for both of you later on.
Experts all agree that early bonding with your baby is very important for both the parents and baby. Try these easy ways to enjoy your time together:
Wear your baby in a carrier or wrap as much as possible throughout the day. There are so many choices for how to wear your baby these days from a fabric wrap such as a Moby Wrap or front pouch carrier such as the Beco, Ergo, or Bjorn. Baby will benefit from your warmth, closeness, smell, and heartbeat, which calms baby down. Not only will you get more done around the house, but baby may even get a nap at the same time.
During feeding connect through eye contact, touching, and playing. Of course breastfeeding is a great way to bond physically and emotionally, but if your circumstances don't allow breastfeeding, or dad is feeding remember the importance of staying present during that time and enjoy the closeness you have while it lasts. Look into each other's eyes, sing, whisper, and touch your baby.
Read to your baby. Read baby books, your favorite magazine, the newspaper, or anything else (baby appropriate). Your baby loves to hear your voice and be close to you so why not make the best of it. Studies show that the more you read or talk to your baby the better vocabulary your baby will have.
Massage your baby. Take time to learn basic infant massage before baby arrives if possible. You can take a class at many hospitals or with private educators, or get a DVD or book and practice on a doll. Light gentle touch is very soothing and settles your baby and gives you time to look at each other and smile or make silly faces. Both mom and dad can give infant massage.
Get involved in a parent group or class. There are so many great options these days for classes or activities for you and baby. Some start as early as newborn. A great local parent support group is called PEPS (Program for Early Parent Support), which meets weekly for about 12 weeks with a volunteer and then on its own. You are matched with others in your area with similar aged babies and talk about different topics. There are also many parent and baby classes such as yoga, swimming, or play groups. Try and choose something you enjoy and can make regular time for. You also get to connect with other new parents in your area to keep from feeling isolated.
If you are having difficulty bonding with your baby after a few weeks talk to your doctor at your post partum follow up visit. You may also consider finding a counselor in your area for extra support. If you feel sad and overwhelmed and are having trouble caring for your baby you may be experiencing some degree of Postpartum Depression. To learn more about Postpartum Depression go to Postpartum Support International.
Sarah Levoy, PsyD, has worked in the field of healthy child development and parenting for more than 15 years. Her path has taken many turns -- helping families of all cultures, backgrounds and life experiences, through private sectors, volunteer work and within the television industry. Dr. Levoy's focus and joy in helping future families improve their mental health, happiness, and quality of life resulted in the founding of The Prepared Mom, a practice dedicated to helping couples prepare for parenting their baby and caring for themselves as new parents.
Copyright © Sarah Levoy. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.