Bonding with your baby can take time, and doesn’t always happen naturally. The bonding and feeling of connection can be encouraged through:
• Talking with and responding to your baby
This makes them feel safe and helps them make sense of the world around them. Talk to them lots, as this is one of the main ways that they learn.
• Cuddling your baby
Babies need to be touched, and they respond to your heartbeat and your breathing. Cuddling helps you both stay tuned to each other. Another way to do this can be through baby massage.
• Relax with your baby
If your baby is stressed, then they need your help to calm down. You can try gently rocking your baby, singing or humming, or stroking them. If you can feel calm, then this will help your baby feel calm, too.
• Playing and having fun with your baby
Playing with baby by having fun-and- games activities all helps with bonding. You could try things like tickling, making faces, laughing and smiling, and singing nursery rhymes, always remembering to talk lots, too!
We learn so much about our babies by noticing everything they do, and having fun with them. This releases chemicals that help their brains develop in the right way, and supports them to feel good. Having fun and sharing joyful connections with your baby is a vital part of bonding. Taking pleasure in your baby supports your relationship and all aspects of his/her development.
Your Health Visitor may have given you a leaflet called Five to Thrive that will give you information about all of these things. Your Health Visitor will discuss Five to Thrive with you, and will talk in more detail about bonding with your baby
Talking with your newborn
Talking to your baby from ‘day one’ will help the two of you get to know each other. It gives your baby a great start in life. Soon after your baby is born, they will recognise and turn their head to the sound of your voice.
You don’t need to have anything important to say to your baby – just talk about the things you’re doing together, like changing their nappy or bath time. Whilst out and about, talk about the things you see when you’re on the bus, in the car or walking to the shops.
Babies are born with a wide range of emotions
Your baby’s facial muscles will soon develop, enabling a full-blown smile. Take time to try to recognise the different feelings they are showing you. Everything your baby does is telling you something.
When your newborn is in the mood for a chat, they might move their mouth a lot, as if they are talking. Answer your baby by saying something like, “That’s a good story you’re telling me.”
Games are a great way to talk and learn together
You don’t need any toys – just each other. Count your baby’s fingers and toes, and play tickling games and ‘peepo’. Try slowly opening your mouth or sticking out your tongue – your baby may copy you.
Babies that are just a few days old, if alert and content, will seek out faces and look at them carefully.
Sing to your baby over and over, even if you don’t think you sound great!
Your baby will love hearing your voice and having your attention. Nursery rhymes are great, but any songs will do.
• Like adults, babies don’t always feel like being sociable, especially if they are hungry, tired or uncomfortable. Take the time to get to know your baby’s needs and tune into them – including your baby’s need to be calm and soothed.
• Remember that, if the TV is on, this will distract your baby. Turning off the TV will help your baby focus on what you are saying and will help them to listen.
• Babies pick up on emotions. If you or your partner are angry, upset or distressed, your baby will pick up on this.
• You don’t need to be an expert to help your baby develop good communication skills.
• All you need to do is to look at and listen to your baby and tune into him/her, before reflecting what baby is doing in a playful or soothing way.
• Children’s Centres, playgroups and preschools may offer a range of activities which can support you. Visit your local authority website for more information on where to access these in your area.
Being a new dad can sometimes seem like an endless cycle of feeding and changing nappies. Baby massage gives you and your baby the chance to chill out together, as well as providing lots of wonderful benefits for your baby.
Why baby massage?
Like us, babies can get stressed, and they can pick up on your stress. Taking time out together for a massage teaches your baby how to relax, and you will relax, too.
Massage has lots of physical benefits and can play a vital role in helping your baby’s circulation, digestion and growth. Using simple techniques, you can ease the symptoms of colds, colic and teething.
Massage can also help babies who are premature and those with disabilities, improving muscle tone and stimulating growth hormones.
Where and how to enjoy baby massage
For hundreds of years, many cultures have been massaging their babies as part of their baby routine. Try it and you’ll discover how natural it feels to interact with your baby in this way.
Baby massage is a great thing for dads to learn, and it gives you an opportunity to enjoy touching your baby and seeing how they enjoy feeling your touch. There are many places where you can go to learn how to massage your baby – some Children’s Centres and Health Visiting Teams offer baby massage classes, for example. You’ll be shown how to do some gentle strokes and maybe learn a short routine that you can do at home.
You’ll need to take along a towel and a spare nappy. Your baby will probably want a feed and a nap afterwards, and most places will provide refreshments for you with time to chat to the other parents.
Swimming with your baby can be a wonderful experience for dads, giving you a chance to focus on your baby one-to- one. It’s an enjoyable way to relax together, and it also gives baby’s mum some time by herself.
Babies enjoy it, too – after all, they have spent nine months effectively suspended in water in the womb! You can take baby swimming from birth – they do not need to have completed their injections and very young babies often love the freedom, massage and gentle exercise that the water offers.
Benefits for baby:
• Baby can move freely and develop actions they wouldn’t otherwise be able to do in the first year of their life. ‘Swimming babies’ therefore get the chance to develop crucial higher brain functions, core muscle development and co-ordination much earlier than they would otherwise be able to do.
• Although gentle, swimming provides your baby with a complete physical work-out, strengthening your baby’s heart, lungs and respiratory system, which again aids brain development.
• Regular swimming often improves eating and sleeping patterns.
• Encouraging baby to exercise regularly is an extremely healthy routine to get into, which may help encourage them to be physically active throughout their childhood.
• Most importantly, baby swimming should help your child to love water for the rest of their life.
What do I do?
If you’re a confident swimmer, have a look online for videos which can give you ideas for ways of making the most of your time together in the pool. A good starting point is to search for Puddle Ducks on YouTube and have a look at their videos.
If you’re not confident in the water, or you’d prefer to have support and guidance, you might like to join a special swimming class, with a clear structure and opportunities for underwater swimming – this is perfectly safe in the controlled environment of a reputable swim school.
You may also find that this is a more enjoyable way to swim with your baby.
What do I need?