The Importance of Bonding with Your Child

We spend nine months (some less than that) physically connected to our mothers via the umbilical cord. Without this connection we wouldn’t even be here. When we are born and that connection disappears, a new, more meaningful one emerges. It is an emotional and psychological connection.

How important is that connection, that bonding?

‘Essential’. The bond that babies have with their mothers and fathers impacts and reflects in their whole life. This idea is so vast that most of us can’t wrap our minds around the fact that the way we connect with our children during those first years has a tremendous impact in their happiness, character, health, self-esteem, academic performance, relationships and growth.

Healthy bonding helps the parts of your baby’s brain responsible for interaction, communication and relationships to grow and develop. Babies who have a deep and loving bond with their mothers have a much better foundation in life than those who don’t. It has been found that the lack of bonding in infants can have a life-lasting effect on a child. Infants who don’t bond are more likely to become anxious and insecure. Bonding creates trust, love, self-confidence and a sense of belonging.

Children with positive and strong bonding with their parents tend to:

  • be more independent (not less),
  • have higher self-esteem,
  • develop better relationships,
  • be more emotionally balanced,
  • enjoy being with others,
  • rebound from disappointment, loss and failure, and
  • communicate more effectively

Contrary to popular belief, the more responsive you are to a baby’s needs, the less ‘spoiled’ he will be growing up. Being responsive does not mean picking up your baby every time he fusses; holding him all day long; or becoming someone you are not or doing things you don’t want to do. It just means understanding your baby’s needs, your baby’s cues and respond to those.

You can develop a healthy, positive bond with your baby even if you decide to go back to work, to hire a nanny, to take some ‘me time’, not to breastfeed, not to co-sleep, not to carry your baby… There are no set rules!

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Here are some ideas on how you can develop a positive, loving and healthy bond with your child:

  • Love your baby, unconditionally. Accept your child completely and without restrictions, conditions or stipulations. Make sure that there is no spoken (or unspoken) message making your child feel or think that he has to be something other than what he is in order to be loved. Without unconditional love there can’t be healthy and positive bonding.
  • Know your baby. Each baby is different and the more you know your baby, the better you are going to meet his needs and the easier that bond will be established. Keep a journal and make notes on how your baby communicates with you, and how he responds when you communicate with him. You will soon know how to respond to your baby’s needs.
  • Touch your baby. This can mean kangaroo care when he’s a newborn; daily massages after bath time; cuddling while reading a book; or hugging him. The goal would be for your baby to grow, knowing that your arms are a safe place to fall back on and that they will always be there for him, to support him, but not constrict him.
  • Be present. Whatever you do, make sure you are present in the moment with your child, take time to connect with him, sense his love and let him feel your love.  You don’t need to do anything extravagant to show your baby you love him and you care. Get on the ground and play with him, make silly faces, dance, have fun with him, talk and listen to him… Let go the idea of being ridiculous, embarrassed, or perfect and just enjoy every second you spend with your child.

Every moment you spend with your baby can help create a strong, positive and healthy bond that will last a lifetime.

Much love, Diana-

Top 3 Myths around On-Demand Feeding and Baby Sleep

I often come across moms and dads who think that choosing to feed their babies on-demand means that they won’t be able to have any kind of structure in their day, and that it is not possible for their babies to sleep through the night. I disagree with both ideas, and I would like to clarify some of the most common myths around on-demand breastfeeding (or bottle feeding) and baby sleep.

Myth #1 | Constant Feeding: Feeding on-demand means feeding every time my baby fusses or cries

Breastfeeding on demand—-also known as ‘feeding on cue’ and ‘baby-led feeding’ doesn’t mean that you have to feed your baby around the clock and every time he/she cries. Feeding on demand means responding with flexibility to your baby’s hunger cues. You feed your baby when he/she shows signs of hunger for as long as he/she desires to be fed.

Therefore, one of the first things you should do as a mom is to learn your baby’s cues. The only way your baby can communicate with you is crying, so you should listen to the different cries that your baby has and respond accordingly. Your baby will cry when he/she’s hungry, tired, overtired, bored, sad, gassy, uncomfortable, wet… and paying close attention you will learn the difference among those cries.

Common baby’s cues:
– Hunger: mouth movement, sucking, rooting, crying, fussing, and frantic head movements.
– Sleep: rubbing eyes, yawning, staring, crying, fussing, alertness, and whining.

My recommendation is to feed your baby on demand for the first weeks (1-6 weeks), while he/she is still a newborn; while you learn your baby’s cues. Once you know the difference, limit your feedings to when he/she is hungry and make sure you don’t use nursing as a soothing mechanism. If your baby is crying, but not showing signs of hunger then it is likely that something else is the problem.

Baby feeds on MOM's breasts
Follow your baby’s cues and respond accordingly and make sure that you do not nurse every time your baby fusses, and he/she will develop healthy eating habits on his/her own. The same applies to your baby’s sleep patterns.


Myth #2 | Unpredictable and Unstructured Day: Feeding on-demand means ‘waiting for my baby to demand food’

As I suggested above, you should be ‘learning your baby’, tracking his natural feeding and sleeping patterns, so you know when to offer food and when not to. After the first few weeks of life, it is perfectly realistic to establish a feeding routine based on your baby’s cues.

Note that I said ‘routine’ (a regular order to the day) not ‘schedule’ (set times for set activities). The secret is to have a routine (a regular order to the day). Feeding on demand does not mean that you wait for your baby to ‘demand’ food. Once you learn your baby’s natural cycles and his/her cues, you can predict a certain routine for you and your baby.

Myth #3 | No Sleep: On-demand fed babies cannot sleep through the night until much later and wake up constantly

This one is right up my alley! Generally speaking, breastfed babies need to feed more often than bottle-fed babies. Breast milk is very rich in enzymes that aid digestion, requiring little digestive effort on the part of the infant, and therefore it is digested faster than formula or cow milk.

However, this doesn’t mean that an on-demand breastfed baby can’t sleep through the night or take proper naps. If you learn and follow your baby’s cues as I suggested before, your baby will get the right sleep consolidation. You will notice that your baby will nurse more right before bedtime, and that he/she will naturally consolidate his nighttime sleep before his/her 6th month of age. During the day, you will notice that the shorter catnaps consolidate into two long naps.

The best way to help him/her do this is by not offering food when you know your baby is not hungry. Don’t use nursing as a soothing mechanism, or your baby will learn exactly that and demand exactly that.

Believe that babies are made to sleep and eat naturally. We, as parents, only have to understand how they express their needs to avoid creating poor eating and sleep habits.

 

Much love, Diana-