Bonding with your baby might sound like getting Krazy Glued
together, but it’s actually more like a dance. You learn to read and respond to
your infant’s nonverbal cues — her body language, cries and giggles — and she
comes to trust that you are reliable and that she can find ways to connect,
communicate her needs, and find comfort. Mutual attachment grows between you. A baby who develops a secure
attachment is off to a healthy start.
 Her strong connection with you helps
her grow more independent.

Bonding with your baby might sound like getting Krazy Glued
together, but it’s actually more like a dance. You learn to read and respond to
your infant’s nonverbal cues — her body language, cries and giggles — and she
comes to trust that you are reliable and that she can find ways to connect,
communicate her needs, and find comfort. Mutual attachment grows between you. A baby who develops a secure
attachment is off to a healthy start.
 Her strong connection with you helps
her grow more independent. In the years to come she will be eager to learn,
able to handle stress, and be ready for intimate relationships.

Sometimes bonding starts out with an intense experience of
falling in love with your baby. But it can also
develop gradually in the course of daily caregiving. Through skin-to-skin
contact, feeding, giggling, playful “conversations,” diaper changes and
cuddling, you and your baby gain a deep sense of belonging to each other.

Instead of amusing her with electronic toys, or talking on your
cell phone because she isn’t ready to communicate in words, realize that you are your infant’s favorite entertainment. She loves your voice and facial
expressions and tries to imitate these. She enjoys hearing you talk about the
chores you’re doing, the places you’re visiting, and how you feel about her.
Eye contact, nuzzling, and playful belly kisses are all fun ways to play
together. Put the baby on your lap. Let her play with your hair or face. A toy or book can help you
connect, but often a funny face or silly sound is all you need.

If you and your partner are both involved in daily care, your baby
will come to recognize and enjoy your different voices, touches, and smells.

Playfulness,
caregiving and skin-to-skin contact are the ingredients of bonding, but there’s
no standard recipe, no “right” way to do it.
 Let it happen spontaneously as you pay
attention to your baby’s signals, learning to recognize when she wants you to
be close or playful and when she wants to rest. Over time you will learn to
distinguish the cry that means “I’m hungry” from the one that says “I’m tired.” You will start to recognize when your
baby is telling you she is over stimulated, gassy, startled by a loud noise,
afraid of strangers, or colicky. Although you won’t always be able to soothe
her, she will sense that you’re trying.

Babies
have different temperaments and different bonding styles.
 Some enjoy rocking or being walked back and
forth or bounced. Others like soft music and gentle stroking or firm holding.
And all babies reach a point when they’ve had enough. When they’re overtired
they may begin to move frenetically. It might take some time before you
recognize that this is not an invitation to play, and learning when to let her
rest is part of bonding, too.

As your infant grows, she will explore what it
means to be connected to you while being a separate (very small) person.
 Helping her begin to discover how to stay
connected to you while exploring her independence means reassuring her that you
are nearby when she needs you but not clingy. During the first eight months,
she will be eager to stay close to you. When she is separated from you she will
become upset and distressed. Don’t worry that she is lacking independence; she
is displaying the healthy attachment that will give her confidence all through
life. As she learns to crawl and takes her first steps, she will venture away
from you and return for reassurance and comfort.

You don’t
have to be perfect at bonding.
 There’s no such parent. You and your baby are
discovering each other. You have time. Some parents and infants are more easily
matched temperamentally than others. If your baby was premature, if the birth
was difficult, if you are experiencing postpartum blues or depression, if your
infant is colicky, or if your child was adopted, then bonding may take a little
longer. As long as you do your best to respond to your baby and learn what she
wants to tell you, you only need to “get it right” about one-third of the time.
You and your baby are likely to be in and out of sync with each other, but what
matters most is that even when you fall out of sync that you find each other
again.

If you’re
really having a hard time or feeling indifferent towards your baby,
 get help. Your infant can’t tell you in
words, but she absorbs your stress like a sponge. Getting the support you need
from others and learning ways to calm yourself down will ensure that you feel
better and will help your baby feel soothed. Get help with housework, meals and
babysitting. Take a yoga class. Join a new parent support group. Share your
feelings with a friend or loved one, or talk to a therapist who is experienced
in postpartum support.

Go to www.earlymomentsmatter.org to
learn about attachment and to get an award-winning toolkit that introduces ways
in which parents and caregivers can help their children build secure
attachments.

Originally published on YourTango.