Today I want to talk about my struggle with bonding with baby after my son was born. I’d like to think that I’ve been pretty open about my mental health struggles. Especially in my postpartum with J. Having a rainbow baby brings out so many emotions, and a lot of them are hard to navigate. You have this perfect, beautiful, healthy baby. This is everything you’ve been dreaming of. And yet, something just feels “off” and disconnected. It definitely took me a while. Longer than I wish it would have. But finally the connection and the bond felt real. Like I wasn’t so guarded and I finally let myself enjoy and connect with him. I remember feeling so ashamed because I didn’t have that immediate bond. With my first, the second he was on my chest it was there. That invisible, but palpable feeling. With J… I waited and waited and waited.
1.Baby wear to begin bonding with baby.
Baby wearing allowed me to keep J close at all times, while also tending to my oldest. Because of baby wearing, I was able to implement many of the following ways to bond with baby all at once. Baby was kept close to me, it even allowed for skin to skin, I could breastfeed easily, and we could snuggle. And I didn’t even have to think twice about it. Because he was just there. No thinking required, but the more I held him, the more I felt his heartbeat and he mine, the more I felt like I was bonding with my rainbow baby.
2. Use the power of smell.
You know that distinct newborn smell? The one that you cant get enough of? The reason that you keep bending your head down to sniff the top of your baby’s head? Dreft’s iconic scent has been formulated to resemble the indiscernible smell of babyhood. That sweet iconic baby scent, bottled. So not only are yours and baby’s clothes getting a better clean, the hypoallergenic Dreft is safe for even the most sensitive of skin.
2. Use the power of smell.
In fact, I also used the power of smell to help with the small amount of gentle sleep training we have done. Since the boys were little, I would lay a shirt I had been wearing all day down in their beds. And I lay the boys on top of that. By doing this, I am surrounding baby with something they’re familiar with: ME. It’s such a simple little trick, but it’s proven effective time and time again!
3. Utilize skin-to-skin.
As referenced earlier, skin-to-skin is another helpful way to begin bonding with your baby. Obviously, this is more geared towards the newborn stage. But you’d be surprised how helpful skin to skin can be with older kiddos too! With J, even now at 1.5 years old, when he’s getting really worked up or feeling sick, I strip down to my bra and lay him on my chest. It never fails to help him calm down and relax. Skin to skin is beneficial for so much, including bonding with baby. Touch plays such an important role for all of us. And by implementing skin to skin, or “kangaroo hold”, you’re helping to employ every sense in nurturing this new relationship with your baby.
4. Read together.
The benefits of reading to children has been widely documented. I mean, we know it helps them. Reading to your baby is so important. It helps with their vocabulary, helps teach empathy, encourages their imagination. and so much more. I know that reading with your kids can feel so redundant. And honestly, kind of boring sometimes. Especially after they keep handing you the same book, over and over again for the 300th time that afternoon!
4. Read together.
However, reading aloud to your baby is also an incredible way to foster a bond. There is so much rush in our everyday, especially now with H in school a few days a week. It feels like there’s so much I miss out on, or that I’m unintentionally skipping over. But when we sit together, just the two or three of us, it’s pretty special. No electronics, no phones distracting me. Just us and some books, them piled into my lap and snuggled up together. We read and reread page after page and I just soak it all in. I have a feeling these will be some of my very favorite memories to reflect on, later down the road.
5. Try to have one-on-one time together.
This is something that I still struggle with, but its too important to look over. Having one-on-one time with my husband is crucial for our relationship, so why wouldn’t the same apply to the relationship with my children? Spending time, just with mama, can look like anything. Sometimes, it’s when my husband takes my youngest with him to the store and H and I are left alone for an hour or so. The more time I intentionally spend with my children, even when a newborn, the better it feels like my bond with baby gets.
6. Talk to baby.
Talking to your children is just one way to help forge a connection. But it doesn’t start and stop in the womb. The more you talk with your baby as he or she grows, the better. Hearing your voice will help baby recognize and respond to your voice and touch!
7. Hold baby.
By holding and cuddling and kissing your baby, you’re helping to improve communication between the two of you. As a byproduct, you’re also hoping to foster a sense of trust and confidence for you and baby. Especially during the 4th trimester! You’re helping baby transition from the womb and learning together. Think about it – how good does it feel to have someone give you a nice, warm hug? And I’m not talking about those half arm hugs. I’m talking going full in, wrapping your arms around someone you love. Your bodies settling in. In that moment, you feel safe and warm and protected. You are manifesting that with a physical bond. And touch is incredibly powerful as well.
8. Turn on music, dance together.
It may sound silly, but there’s something about turning on music and dancing with baby that is the best. And it’s not just fun and games either! Listening to music and dancing together isn’t just great for their cognitive and motor development. It’s a dynamic way to facilitate the bond between myself and baby! Plus, it’s a lot of fun too.