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Bonding with baby: How to strengthen the mother-child relationship

There may be no connection more special than the one you'll have with your baby. That bonding may start as soon as the two of you finally meet—when you look at your baby and your baby looks back. 

But there are ways to strengthen that bond even further. And guess what? You can start before they're born. Take a look at some examples of how you can bond with your baby pre- and post-birth.  

While you're expecting 

Throughout your pregnancy, you can get closer to your baby with steps like these:  

Chat with your baby in a warm, loving way. Your baby can hear as early as your second trimester and will learn to recognize the sound of your voice. Say good morning when you get up and good night when you tuck in. If you've picked a name, use it. And of course say, "I love you." 

Sing too. Try a lullaby, a favorite song, make up your own or hum a calming tune. 

Gently massage your baby bump. If your baby kicks, give your bump a light pat back. 

Right after birth 

The first few hours after birth are a very sensitive period. That's because babies are very alert and responsive during this time—and it lends itself to bonding.

If you deliver without complications, you can hold and cuddle your baby skin-to-skin—and yes, count those fingers and toes. This is a wonderful way for the two of you to connect. 

But don't worry if your baby needs to be taken to the nursery for medical care. Some standard tests and procedures can be delayed for an hour—but others can't. Communicate with your healthcare team to ensure that your baby receives all of his or her necessary care—and snuggles—ASAP. 

A special word about breastfeeding 

Your baby's first hour of life is also a chance for you to begin breastfeeding. And the physical closeness of nursing can help your baby feel secure as he or she adjusts to life outside the womb.

And breastfeeding also releases hormones that promote bonding, including:

  • Prolactin, which produces a peaceful feeling that can help you relax and care for your baby. 
  • Oxytocin, which helps build a strong sense of closeness and love between moms and babies. 

Breastfeeding is also something only you can do for your baby, and the fulfillment of knowing that can help deepen your attachment. 

As your baby grows

Perhaps most important, be aware that parenthood is filled with moments—even everyday ones—to bond with your baby. 

When your baby coos or smiles, coo or smile back. Stroke your baby's skin at bath time, respond to your baby's cries (you can't spoil a newborn), read to your baby and kiss your little one for no reason at all.  Every gesture will reinforce your mutual love.

Want more pregnancy tips?

Learn what you can expect throughout your second trimester

Sources: American Academy of Family Physicians; American Academy of Pediatrics; American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; American Pregnancy Association; Office on Women's Health

Reviewed 2/13/2024

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