The first few weeks of your baby’s life help set the stage for your relationship. I recommend that parents spend as much time in skin-to-skin and eye-to-eye contact as possible – what I call birth bonding – after all, cuddling with your brand-new baby is one of the richest rewards of parenthood. If medical complications disrupt this attachment time, don’t despair. Birth bonding isn’t like Super Glue; it’s the start of a lifelong process. As the most valuable member of your baby’s medical team, you can still find ways to connect with your newborn through your touch, your voice and your milk.
Breastfeed as often and as long as possible. Besides providing your baby with nature’s perfect milk, it’s an exercise in baby reading. The intimate contact promotes bonding by teaching you to read your baby’s facial expressions and sense her body language, while the very act of nursing teaches baby that you are a source of care and comfort she can trust. If a medical or lifestyle complication prevents you from breastfeeding, you can make bottle-feeding a time of high touch and high communication too. Bottle-feeding also gives dad a chance to bond with baby in a caring, giving way. Whatever the method, think of feeding time as an opportunity for connecting and communicating in addition to delivering nourishment.
When new parents come into our office for their newborn’s first checkup, we give them a crash-course in baby-wearing. I like to demonstrate the technique with dads. It’s a treat for new moms to watch me drape the baby sling over dad, position baby comfortably inside and watch the pair stroll around the office. In addition to enjoying a physical connection with either parent, a baby can learn a lot in the arms of a busy caregiver: Getting a mom’s-eye view helps baby tune into his environment and the people around him. It’s also another way to involve dad in attachment parenting. In fact, I’ve had new moms in my practice tell me that once their mates get the hang of baby-wearing, they’re hooked.