B - Bond.
One of your most important jobs as a new parent is to bond with your baby. The benefits of bonding are immeasurable and the pay-off in the long run is outstanding. This is why it is so important to focus on healing and bonding in those first few weeks/months postpartum and to continue the bonding through your parenting style well into the third year.
We can’t take a look at bonding without first reviewing attachment theory. Attachment theory was first coined by John Bowlby in the early 1900s. He speculated that attachment behaviors are adaptive responses to separation from an attachment figure (Fraley). Human babies are one of the only species born underdeveloped and fully reliant on their caregivers. Thus, if the caregiver is accessible and attentive to the infant, he or she feels secure and is more likely to explore the environment (Fraley) growing up to be a more emotionally stable individual.
Why is this even important?
The bond between a baby and his or her parent is essential in providing a model for intimate relationships and fostering security and self-esteem. The better the bond, the better the cognitive development as well (Ben-Joseph).
Bonding occurs through touch, skin-to-skin contact, eye-to-eye contact, and speech (Ben-Joseph). In my opinion, the lack of secure bonds in the majority of our society is the reason why many individuals have mental health problems. Think about it. Our recent parenting practices don’t foster attachment. Babies are left to cry-it-out, toted around in strollers apart from their parents, propped up to be fed, and sleep in separate rooms sometimes even on separate floors. Not to mention new moms are forced to go back to work just a few short weeks after delivery.
Imagine a world where babies who were parented night and day, went to bed emotionally stable, were worn on their caregiver, and slept next to their parents grew up to be emotionally stable, empathetic human beings.
This is where the new evidence of epigenetics comes in. The brain, from the womb through the third year of life, is growing rapidly. It’s the most growth the brain will do in its lifetime. Yet, this is the time when brains are flooded with cortisol as the infant is left to cry it out or pushed away for needing to communicate but the caregiver doesn’t want to seem “soft”.
It’s not just the moms too. Dads play a crucial part in the bonding process as well. Skin-to-skin with dad from day one is an easy way for dad to bond. Dad can be in charge of baths, sing to baby, and play with baby while giving mom a chance to rest, shower, or eat.
The most important thing to remember though is that bonding doesn’t occur instantaneously for everyone and that is OK. Some mothers bond with their babies throughout their pregnancy while others may take weeks after the birth to finally bond.
There is no right or wrong way to bond with your baby. What needs to be remembered is that during the initial postpartum period, you and your baby should both be recovering and figuring each other out. This is the most natural way to promote bonding and it WILL happen eventually.
Winston, Robert, and Rebecca Chicot. “The Importance of Early Bonding on the Long-Term Mental Health and Resilience of Children.” London Journal of Primary Care 8.1 (2016): 12–14. PMC. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5330336/. Web. 17 Sept. 2018.
Ben-Joseph, Elana Pearl. “Bonding With Your Baby.” Kids Health. June 2018. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/bonding.html. Web. 17 Sept 2018.
Fraley, R. Chris. “Adult Attachment Theory and Research: A Brief Overview.” http://labs.psychology.illinois.edu/~rcfraley/attachment.htm. 2018. Web. 17 Sept 2018.
Allesanda received her Bachelors in Behavioral Science from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in December 2013. She now lives in North Texas with her husband and children. As a doula and educator of infant sleep and eco-friendly living, she blogs about pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and parenting.