You did it. You brought new life into the world from your amazing and resilient body!
Now you are feeling a huge wave of emotions. And it is tied to all of your new responsibilities. You have never loved anything this much. You are filled with goodwill and love for those who have supported you along the way. There is a new vastness in your capacity to love others in your family, including your older children.
But also, there are the fears and anxieties. How will I raise a child in the era of COVID, financial insecurity, and intense political fighting? How will I help her make her way? Am I enough?
Stop. Breathe. You are enough.
Women have been doing this as long as there have been people. While there are a lot more details people can choose to pay attention to these days, the baseline is the same: if you make sure your child gets enough food, sleep, and love and stimulation, you’re off to a good start.
What to watch for with your baby
You might not be surprised to find that your baby will be on the same schedule he was on in your womb. Was he active in the middle of the night in your belly? Expect that some more now. In fact, he likely followed a schedule somewhat similar to yours, with additional cycles of sleeping and wakefulness.
Your baby is now dependent on you to provide food, and she is learning to use her voice to meet her demands.
Your baby now wears a diaper and other clothes that might irritate skin in a way that the placenta shielded them from. They are exposed to changes in temperature that are new.
Light and color are new experiences, and sounds are clearer (maybe for both of you!) and so the stimulus is great. Your baby can become overstimulated because they are trying to take in so much at once.
Luckily, you are an expert on your baby, and you can quickly pick up her cries and determine what they mean. This careful listening and the meeting of needs is the very basic root of bonding.
How to promote bonding
The basic root of bonding is meeting your baby’s needs.
Learn her cries. Is she hungry? Is she angry? Does that mean her diaper is wet?
Look carefully at the room you have prepared for him. Does the room meet their needs? Are they protected from sharp edges, small objects they could swallow? You are a detective in your baby’s daily life, figuring out how to help them meet their needs.
You can also promote bonding by holding your baby and talking to them. Singing, narrating the day, reading stories … all of these help keep your child close to you and your voice. Talk to them as you make decision and as you run your errands. Though all this you will be promoting bonding and will also be expanding their ability to acquire and expand their vocabulary.
Make eye contact with your baby. As soon as she is able to focus her eyes, she will seek out your eyes. Prolonged eye contact imbues a sense of contentment, belonging, and trust between any two people, and this is especially true for a mother and her newborn baby.
It is okay to spend minutes just admiring your work, looking deep into your baby’s eyes as you talk to her about your hopes and dreams for the future.
You should also promote touching and holding, not just with you and your baby but with your family and baby. Make sure that much of the day your baby is not sitting in a carrier or carseat, but instead in someone’s arms. Get a baby carrier that holds your newborn against your chest.
The reassuring rhythm of your heart and breathing (or your partner’s heartbeat or breathing) will calm and soothe your newborn. Better yet, because your baby is always with you, it increases their opportunity to hear your voice and learn the rhythms of your day.
What if I don’t think I’m bonding?
While some anxiety is common after giving birth – it is after all an awesome responsibility – you should not simply shrug off persistent doubts. If you worry that you are not feeling the way you should with your baby, talk to your pediatrician and be very specific about your symptoms and signs.
In many cases the pediatrician can reassure you whether the feelings are in the normal range. It is important to engage in these conversations so your pediatrician can know if the distance is outside of the normal range of feelings, and can provide a response if you are truly failing to bond effectively with your child.
You’ve got this – but use the help that is available to you!
Struggling with co-parenting, or just looking for an outlet for the stress of parenting? You likely will benefit from talking to a licensed therapist like Sakina Issa.
Luckily, these conversations can happen discreetly and by appointment using the same tools you have grown comfortable using at work, like Zoom or GoToMeeting. Just click the button in the upper right hand corner.
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