Bonding for the baby
for a successful start to life
What is meant by bonding?
The term "bonding" refers to the process of parent-child bonding. This is determined by various factors that we can influence positively. This is not only good for the child, but also for us. You finally hold it in your hand, the positive pregnancy test, and immediately the worries start: Is it healthy? How will the birth be? But also: Will I understand what my baby wants from me and will I be able to cope with it all? Perhaps friends are asked, advice books are read or articles like this one. Nature has actually given us a "How to Baby" programme. We just have to let it happen!
What is postpartum bonding?
A festival of the senses! We already make first contact with our baby during pregnancy. The birth mother still has a clear advantage, because she feels the baby's movements, for example, much earlier and more strongly than others. Bonding or the bonding top can promote the togetherness between the parents and the child. It is their heartbeat and their movements that the baby perceives. But even while still in the womb, the child hears voices from outside, which it can recognise after birth. Immediately after birth, the miracle of parent-child bonding begins: Through the bonding top, we can strengthen the bond. We fall madly in love with each other. This is mainly due to the hormone oxytocin, which has already accompanied the birth mother through labour. The little human being is still completely helpless and dependent on warmth, food and protection. It is easier for us to recognise exactly what it needs if we engage with each other with all our senses:
Feeling the whole body!
Through direct contact, skin to skin, we help the baby to maintain its body temperature. By being held, it feels its own limits. This is a completely new experience outside the amniotic fluid. The baby thus develops a sense of itself in gravity.
I know those voices!
Ideally, our child has already heard our voices during pregnancy. Even if everything is different now, they convey continuity to the baby and give it security. It also gets a feel for our language.
I can smell you well!
Babies smell simply unbelievably good! Especially your own. The baby also learns to recognise us by our smell. These are abilities that we are no longer so aware of. It makes perfect sense to avoid strong perfumes during the time when babies are getting to know each other. By the way, frequent bathing of babies, which was recommended in the 1930s and is still practised today, is now regarded as an attempt to disrupt the parent-child bond through the sense of smell, since a strong bond was not desired at the time.
Look me in the eyes, little one!
Everyone probably feels that way, especially at first, when they can't get enough of looking at each other. But direct eye contact has an added value that is surprising at first glance: it actually synchronises the heartbeats of parents and child.
How important is bonding?
This constantly growing emotional connection is the foundation stone for all further attachments and relationships in our child's life. A securely bonded child who experiences someone responding to his or her needs as promptly as possible develops a primal trust that releases him or her into the world strong and independent. Conversely, we as parents also have an invaluable added value. The deep emotional bond lets us instinctively recognise what our baby needs at the moment. We voluntarily give up time, sleep or financial resources, which makes the hard time of adjusting to being a family with a child much easier to cope with. Our intuition is strengthened, through which we can do exactly what the baby needs: respond promptly to its needs. We just have to give intuition space. Even though the bonding process can start right after birth, it is not lost if the start goes differently than planned. You can always take time to get to know each other better later on. You don't have to be the birth mother to do this either. Partners or adoptive parents can also develop an equally deep bond with the child after birth, as research has shown. The decisive factor is how much time they devote to the child. This can even be measured, because their oxytocin levels will also rise.
What can I do in advance to ensure that the bonding is successful?
Most maternity hospitals are aware that the first time of getting to know each other is a very special time and will give space to this process. Nevertheless, it is always good to address this issue in advance. How much undisturbed time will I have with the child after the birth? Will it be bathed before we can cuddle? Are there extra beds in the rooms? Are special family rooms offered so that the early period can be spent as undisturbed as possible? If the baby is born by caesarean section, the accompanying person can also spend the first cuddle time with the baby until the mother's operation is completed. In some clinics, however, it is also possible to put on a bonding top before the operation. This tube made of jersey fabric holds the baby on the mother's chest. Especially if the caesarean section is planned, this is a good way to prepare.
Bonding for premature babies
Sometimes everything turns out differently. When babies come prematurely or need further intensive medical care for other reasons, we can support maturation and healing through lots of direct body contact. Research has shown that direct skin contact stabilises the heartbeat and body temperature, and that carrying the baby on the body helps the internal organs to mature. It also allows the baby to adjust its muscle tone better. The clinics are therefore prepared for parents to regularly make themselves available as a perfect incubator, also called Kangaroo Care. The bonding top can also be a great help here. By holding the baby against the parent's body, the jersey fabric gives a more secure feeling that I won't accidentally let the baby slip to the side. With the bonding top, I can also just stand up and sit down differently. Besides, you're a bit more dressed and it doesn't get so chilly. Nevertheless, you still have quick and safe access to the child without hoses or cables getting caught. So by being close, we are not only building bonds, but also physically helping to support the difficult early days.
Undisturbed time for cuddling at home
The growing parent-child bond is an ongoing process. In this respect, we should also take time at home from time to time to tell ourselves who we are with all our senses. A lot of rest and direct skin contact not only help the baby to stabilise its own vital functions. Through attentive perception of body language, facial expressions and sounds, we learn to distinguish whether our baby is hungry, has a tummy ache or simply needs to go to the toilet. Recognising the child's signals as early as possible and reacting to them is invaluable. For example, the earlier I recognise that my baby is getting hungry, the earlier I am prepared with a bottle or a comfortable place to breastfeed. This makes me much more relaxed. And let's remember: the baby attaches itself to those people who fulfil its needs particularly quickly.
When cuddling becomes difficult...
The world is not always rosy. It may well be that I don't feel at all like cuddling after the birth, especially if it was difficult, painful or just completely different from what I had imagined. In addition, there is the strong drop in hormones, which can lead to the classic baby blues. Here, too, direct physical contact (bonding) or simply intensive time with the child helps. However, if I have problems allowing physical contact or perhaps even bonding for a longer period of time, this is an issue for which you should really seek help. The first point of contact can be the midwife or the gynaecologist or paediatrician. Because real postpartum depression is not that rare: 8 out of 100 women suffer from it. Being aware that it exists and that I am not alone is an important first step.