Why Bonding Matters

Ways To Nurture Your Baby

Minutes after giving birth to my daughter, the OB-GYN placed her next to me so I could have skin-to-skin contact. Since it was an uncomplicated birth, I also had the desire to meet and hold her; I was anxious to make that first connection with my little bundle of joy. “Bonding with the baby is a very natural process,” notes Terri Combs-Orme, The Urban Child Institute endowed professor of social work at the University of Tennessee. “It shouldn’t sound like some effort should be taken to create that connection. The most important thing to do is to enjoy your baby.” I spoke to Professor Combs-Orme to find out more about the importance of bonding with your newborn.

Memphis Parent: Pediatrician and author William Sears says, “Relationships, not things, make brighter babies.” So how can parents begin to build that connection with their baby?

Professor Terri Combs-Orme: Meet your baby’s needs and spend all the time you can with her. When you give a baby a lot of love and affection, bonding will form pretty much naturally. 

Babies learn from relationships. When they are engaged with a caregiver, their brains are primed to learn. The most important thing is to interact with your baby in all kinds of settings. You don’t have to teach or engage in a special activity. All you have to do is talk and smile at your child. 

Share the Journey

You’ll find fun and support when you join a new moms groups.  

Beautiful Bundles at Baptist Memorial Hospital for Women. Thursdays from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m., 227-9873

MOMS Support Group at Methodist LeBonheur Germantown Hospital. Meets Tuesdays from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., 516-6907

MP: Immediate bonding with baby is not always possible, especially if she’s born prematurely and must spend time in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). What are your options then?

Combs-Orme: Parents can have a lot of contact with their baby in the NICU by stroking and touching the baby through the opening of the isolet. When possible, most medical units let moms hold the baby and help with his care.  

MP: What are some ways dad can bond with his newborn?

Combs-Orme: Well, certainly if mom is not breastfeeding, dad can feed the baby. He can also bathe, hold, and talk to the baby; little ones begin to recognize dad’s voice after birth, too. More importantly, babies bond to whoever loves and meets their needs. The more the father participates, the stronger the bond will be.

MP: What are your suggestions for moms if they must return to work?

Combs-Orme: Moms should try to spend as much time as they can when at home with baby. Breastfeeding, pumping, and freezing breast milk for the time you’re away will help provide good nutrition as well as build baby’s immune system. Bottle feeding can also nurture closeness. 

Before returning to work, choose high quality child care. Most moms feel the best choice is a family member who loves and takes care of the child as much as they do. As long as it is someone who is highly qualified and doesn’t have too many other children to care for, it should work. Research shows that working parents have as good a relationship with their babies than non-working parents. 


Make Note

A Countdown Journal • The Nine by Kelly Sopp

Getting the news that you’re having a baby can really rock your world. As each month passes and your belly swells, you encounter new thoughts and feelings. Keep track of those special moments in this colorful, easy-to-use countdown journal. 

Here, you can write about your body’s transformation, pending projects, how you celebrated your second trimester, even the health of your hair. There are a few places for photos, and prompts that will help you chronicle the memorable things that take place each month. We like that it’s not very big (though if you really like to write, you’ll probably want something bigger). Journals like this can sometimes feel silly, but never mind. Once your baby arrives, you’ll be hard-pressed to remember what you ate for supper last night, never mind your state-of-mind six months ago.

MP: What are some factors that may affect bonding?

Combs-Orme: Research shows that post-partum depression may be the biggest risk for the bond between the mother and the baby and the baby’s emotional development. A mother who has the blues, is not sleeping, or has no appetite should see a doctor immediately. — To learn more about bonding, go to zerotothree.org.

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