Bonding happens when you and your baby begin to feel a strong attachment with each other. You may feel great love and joy when you look at your baby. You may feel very protective of your baby.
It is this first relationship with you that teaches babies to feel secure and good about themselves with other people. They learn to trust you because they know you are paying attention to them and taking care of them. Babies that have strong bonds with their parents are more likely to trust others and have good relationships as adults.
Bonding is a process.
You and your baby may bond within a few minutes, over a few days, or a few weeks. Bonding may take longer if your baby needed intensive medical care at birth, or if you adopted your baby. Know that you can bond with your adopted baby as well as biological parents bond with their children.
Don't worry or feel guilty if it takes more time than you expected to form a close bond with your baby. This does not mean that you are a bad parent. As long as you are taking care of your baby's basic needs, the bond will form.
Tips for bonding with your baby
If the birthing process went smoothly, your baby may be very alert at birth. Take this time to hold and look at him your baby. This is a great chance to bond. Other bonding moments can occur when you:
- Breastfeed. If you chose to breastfeed, your baby will become attached to your smell and touch during feedings.
- Bottle-feed. During bottle feedings, your baby can become acquainted with your smell and touch, as well.
- Hold your baby, especially skin to skin when you can.
- Make eye contact with your baby.
- Respond to your baby when he cries. Some people worry about spoiling a baby. But you won’t spoil your baby with too much attention.
- Play with your baby.
- Talk, read, and sing to your baby. This helps him become well acquainted with the sound of your voice.
Accept help from others.
When you bring your newborn home, your job is to take care of your baby and bond. This is easier if you have help at home. You may become very tired from all the new responsibilities that come with having a new baby. Let friends and family take on routine chores like laundry, grocery shopping, and cooking.
Obstacles to bonding
You may have trouble bonding with your baby if you:
- Had a long or difficult birthing process
- Feel exhausted
- Experience mood swings or hormonal changes
- Suffer from postpartum depression
- Have a baby who needs special medical care
Again, this does not mean that you are a bad parent or that you will never form a bond. It just may take more time and effort.
When to call your doctor
After a few weeks of caring for your newborn, if you don't feel like you are bonding or you feel detached or resentful of your baby, talk to a professional. If you have postpartum depression, be sure to get professional help for yourself as soon as possible.
Bonding With Your Baby. US Department of Health & Human Services Web site. http://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/guide2012/bonding.pdf.Accessed July 30, 2013.
Robinson L, Saison J, et al. Building a secure attachment bond with your baby. Helpguide.org. http://www.helpguide.org/mental/parenting_attachment.htm.Accessed July 30, 2013.
Update Date 1/17/2013
Updated by: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.