It is no surprise that bonding with a tiny human who does not yet talk or do very much can feel a little awkward or challenging at times. This can feel especially true during the first few months after bringing your baby home. There will be days of awkward silence, days of misread baby signals, and days of “all these cries sound the same!” As you navigate your days together, you are getting to know each other more and more. Here are 4 simple, yet powerful ways of bonding with your pre-verbal, pre-mobile baby from the very beginning.
Research has shown that touch can help babies calm down and sleep better. Skin-to-skin contact can regulate the nervous system. It has benefits for the parent as well, as it is shown to reduce stress levels and relax Mama too (which makes sense when the baby is calmer & sleeping better!). Touch will help the parent read the baby’s signals better.
Talk to your baby about what you are going to do to them (“I’m going to take off your diaper now”) and with them (“We’re going for a walk to the park”). Talk to them about their feelings (“You really don’t like the carseat, huh!”). Talk to them about yourself (“I’m making my own breakfast and then I’m going to play with you.”). Talking enhances both language development and connection.
Imitate your baby’s tones and expressions. Reflect their emotions and desires back to them (e.g., when changing a crying baby’s diaper, you can reflect back to them (in an empathic tone) that you see their protest. “I know, baby girl, you don’t want to be put down without your clothes. You’d much rather be in Mommy’s arms right now. Mommy will be all done soon.” Another form of mirroring can be you looking in the direction that your baby is pointing, and responding back to them. This helps your baby understand that their communication has power - the more you respond back, the more they want to communicate with you!
Play is a child’s universal language…from birth! Play doesn’t have to be with toys. Play is just an enjoyable experience that you both can share. Shared joy has been found to create really strong connections between humans. Tickle your baby’s feet, make silly faces, sing songs with them, throw them up (safely) into the air. These are simple interactions, considered play, that you can incorporate into your daily routines.
Creating space for bonding doesn’t have to be as intimidating as it sounds and can be done through staying present with your baby primarily through these four steps. The more present you are, the better you will get at reading and responding to their cues accurately. Happy bonding!