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Bonding with Baby:
Alleviating Your Fears

There are countless fears floating around about what it takes for a successful bonding with baby. Fortunately, many of these fears can be clarified and cast away.

What fears, exactly?

  • Why don't I feel that overwhelming excitement other mothers talk about? Is there something wrong with me? When exactly is bonding supposed to happen?
  • I have to work outside the home. This means my baby is in daycare. Will my bond break?
  • If I don't immediately respond to my baby's cries, will that hurt our ability to bond?
A newborn is really just a tiny little ball of need. Like all the other mammals on the planet, she has physical needs (food and diaper changes). She also has complex emotional needs. You meet those emotional needs by bonding.

As a social worker, I've seen many mothers who chose, for whatever reason, not to bond with their babies. I've seen the results of those poor choices. See how to avoid making the same mistake.

What is "Bonding with Baby"?

Bonding is the emotional connection a baby makes with his caregiver when his needs are consistently met. The baby learns to trust that when he cries, he will get those needs provided for.

Whether that is physical food or emotional love given by holding, slowly the infant learns that Mommy (and Daddy) give him a secure environment where he can trust that his basic needs will be cared for. (Erik Erickson's stages of social development provide great insights here.)

Bonding with Baby...Fear #1

If I don't feel bonded before I leave the hospital, I've missed my chance.

Bonding through Infant Activities

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I have a friend who was swept away the instant her baby arrived. I've noticed that for myself, I'm extremely pleased when the baby arrives, but at overwhelming feeling of deep attachment doesn't really develop until we are interacting with each other. That's when the "this is my child" realization really kicks in for me.

Consider some of these different factors:

  • Different personalities bond at different rates.
  • Labor may have been particularly difficult, making childbirth bitter-sweet.
  • If there was abuse in the family, there may be a struggle to bond with a child of the abuser's sex.
  • An infant in NICU or with mental health problems, may also require additional patience in bonding.
If you don't feel you have actually bonded with your baby yet, be patient. Continue to give her the best of yourself, meeting her needs consistently. It will come.

Bonding with Baby...Fear #2

Failing to hold my baby all the time, or not responding to a cry immediately,
will shatter the bond.

First of all, if you are consistently caring for your baby's physical and emotional needs, you should have no fear of the bond breaking. The bond depends on your continual care for your baby. If you do that, you'll be all good.

With that said, your baby will need to learn that needs are not always wants.

Does she need to be held while you are cooking over a hot stove? Chances are she wants to be held while you are cooking, but is that safe for her?

bonding with baby 2
{Photo by Chey n}
The same can be applied to late-night crying. If you've fed her, changed her, rocked her and she's still whimpering (not the "I'm hurting" cry, but a "I want to be held" cry) than it is okay for you to let her cry it out in her crib.

Elena hates being put to bed awake. But I know she isn't hurt, hungry, or wet. She just wants to be held. Sometimes I happily indulge her and we rock and sing (or, in her case, coo) together.

However, I have another child that needs my put-to-bed skills sometimes, and this means I cannot rock her to sleep every night.

When this happens, she angrily cries for 15-30 minutes. If it's been longer than 30 minutes, I go in, check her diaper, to sing and rub her back or tummy. This reaffirms that I will respond to her needs, but she still needs to go to sleep.

It seems like an eternity sometimes!

Despite the crying, I'm happy to report that we are still firmly bonded in the morning. smiley

Bonding with Baby...Fear #3

Having to work will permanently damage my bond.

Despite the deep desires of millions of moms, staying at home 24 hours a day with your children isn't always possible. Your bond is not easily broken. However, you will have to work harder to maintain it than a mother who is home all day because your opportunities to interact are shorter.

In the evenings and mornings, be sure you get quality play and cuddle time with your baby on a regular basis. This will help preserve your bond and keep you as the #1 influence in your baby's life.

In this day and age many mothers are finding they need to maintain a job for extra income. Or perhaps they are a single mother trying to make ends meet. Whatever the cause, there are more and more mothers trying to make money - either by working outside the home, or at home via the Internet (like me).

Every working mother needs to keep her responsibilities prioritized.

  1. To love my husband (if applicable) and my children.

  2. To help feed, clothe, and hygienically shelter my children.

  3. To provide (or help to provide) the funds necessary to do the first two priorities.
If I'm working 50 hours a week so I can afford a Gucci purse, a wide-screen TV, and clothes from Baby Gap, than I have misplaced my priorities. That would not be sufficient cause to warrant not spending time with my children or caring for my home.

However, if I'm a single mom, or my husband struggles to provide basic necessities on his own, I may have to work in order to meet Priority #3 above.

You will need to judge how much working-time you can afford to give without compromising the first two priorities.

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Your little baby will look to you to provide stability in her life. You can provide that by consistently caring for her physical needs and taking the time to cuddle, play and engage with her on a regular basis.

Babies who are raised in a stable, loving, disciplined home tend to turn into stable, loving, and disciplined adults. Establishing your bonding with baby routine is the first step in that direction.


All the photos on this page can be found at www.flickr.com and were used
according to licensing requirements.

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