A common concern of breastfeeding women is that the baby’s father, sibling, and/or grandparents won’t be able to bond with the new baby because they will be the only person feeding the baby. This usually leads to early pumping and bottle feeding so others don’t feel “left out.” If done too early, this can cause a drop in milk supply because the supply-demand relationship is being tampered with. From a parenting perspective, I completely understand this struggle. As a lactation counselor, my professional opinion is that this needs to stop. While breastfeeding is one way to strengthen the bond between a mother and her baby, family does not have to feed the baby to bond with him.
As a society, we have come to associate food with affection – grandparents feeding us although we insist we aren’t hungry, boxes of chocolate on Valentine’s Day, dinners out for anniversaries. For each of these situations, we can come up with food-less ways to show we care. Showing affection and forming a bond with a baby should be no different.
How to Bond with Others
Let’s think for a moment about how you formed a strong bond with your partner or best friend. While sharing food and drink was likely one component in forming a bond, unless you met freshman year of college, there was probably more to your interactions than that. Talking, going for walks or shopping, snuggling, or singing karaoke are all ways to form or strengthen bonds. How can this translate to bonding with a baby? Good question!
Bond with Baby without Feeding
- Talk to the Baby – Babies need to be exposed to a variety of sounds from an early age to stimulate their brains. Though it may seem silly to talk to someone who can’t respond, it is extremely beneficial to a baby’s development. Family members can tell the baby about their day, talk about the show they watched the night before, or describe what they see out the window. The baby will soon learn their voice and react when he hears them.
- Go for a Walk – Fresh air is great for everyone – even new babies! The motion of the stroller can be very calming for a baby. To further improve this bonding experience, tell the baby about what you see and talk about the sounds you hear.
- Skin-to-Skin – It is no secret that babies thrive from skin-to-skin contact. Not only does it help them feel secure, but it helps them regulate their body temperature and respiratory and heart rates.
- Hold the Baby or Babywear – Everyone knows that babies love to be held; some even sleep better this way. What a great way to help the baby relax while sneaking in some newborn snuggles. I especially like babywearing as a way for older relatives, or those with limited mobility, who may otherwise hesitate to hold the baby to bond. The carrier adds a layer of security and they can get to know their newest family member without worrying. Benefits of babywearing for both the baby and other family members extend beyond the newborn period, too!
- Sing to the Baby – Whether at naptime or in the middle of the day, this is another way to bond with baby. And you’ll be happy to know that the baby doesn’t care if you’re a terrible singer!
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