building a bond
Baby basics

7 ways to help you bond with your baby

A strong bond between parent and baby will affect how a child interacts, communicates and forms relationships throughout life. Find out how to strengthen the connection.

Bonding is the unique emotional relationship between parent and baby. It is what makes a parent want to instinctively care for and nurture their child. The bonding process can actually begin while you are pregnant. It can start to happen when you feel those first hiccups or little movements. It could also be the first time you see your baby at the ultrasound scan. Bear in mind that bonding takes time so don’t feel guilty or anxious if it doesn’t happen immediately.

7 ways to help you bond with your baby

1. Breastfeeding

Nursing your baby is a lovely way to have skin-to-skin contact with your little one. You can also use the opportunity to gauge your baby’s mood by looking at her facial expressions and body language. Giving your baby lots of TLC and nourishment will help your baby to learn to trust and be comforted by you

2. Keep talking and smiling

Babies love to listen to people talking and to your conversations. Talk to your baby when you’re out for a walk, describe the surroundings, tell them what you’re planning on cooking for dinner – babies really enjoy a chat. Try to do all this with a smile on your face – research shows that newborn babies can recognise your voice and a smile.

3. Makes faces

You will notice your baby from an early stage imitating your facial expressions and gestures. So make lots of silly faces and smile to your baby as much as you can. You can do this when you’re changing her nappy or during bath time.

4. Skin-to-skin

Touch is one of the earliest forms of communication for a baby. Mothers and babies are naturally primed to get to know each other as soon as possible after birth – this is why skinto- skin contact straight after birth is so important – research has shown that it helps mothers to release endorphins – the hormones that help you to feel calm and responsive to your baby’s needs.

The practise, sometimes called ‘kangaroo care’, is often used in premature babies, but studies show that it’s also calming to babies born full-term. It not only helps with bonding, but it can also improve your baby’s ability to breastfeed. Skin-to-skin contact is a great way for dads to bond with baby. Other bonding activities could include singing to baby, bathing baby and changing nappies.

5. Sing a tune

Humming or singing your favourite song can be really relaxing for baby. Don’t worry about how your voice sounds – your little one will love it!

6. A tender touch

Massaging your baby can be great for bonding with baby as it encourages the release of your body’s happy hormone oxytocin. Massage helps you to work out how your baby is feeling too. Babies love to be touched and held – massage helps to reduce stress and encourages sleep.

7. Bonding and your baby’s brain

The attachment bond is an important factor in how your baby’s brain organises itself and affects your child’s social, emotional, intellectual and physical development. A secure bond provides your baby with an enthusiasm to learn, self-awareness, trust and to consider others.

Dad’s tip

“When I come from home from work, I like to pick up my seven month old daughter Alice and walk around the house with her sitting on my chest and we have a chat. I also lie her on my legs with her head resting on my knees. She loves it because of the constant contact and the warmth from my body,”

  • Joe Griffin

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Ask Sarah

Q I’ve heard a lot about the Paleo diet and as I am very interested in reducing the amount of processed foods and grain based meals my family eats, we are considering following this diet. From what I read it seems to be a back-to-basics type of eating. Is a Paleo diet safe for children? My kids are aged seven and nine.

A The Paleo diet is one of the most fashionable diets around at the moment. It is also known as the ‘caveman diet’ and is based on cutting out processed foods, starchy foods like bread and potatoes and eating more meat, vegetables and fruit.
As fad diets go, it is not the worst but there are some good and bad sides to it. Reducing the amount of processed foods we eat is always a good idea and by doing that you will usually reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar you eat, which is a good thing! The problem with the Paleo diet is that it also cuts out dairy (on the basis that cavemen didn’t drink milk) and this means that the diet is very low in calcium. For this reason it is really not suitable for children who do need a lot of calcium for growing bones. How did cavemen manage without dairy? They ate a lot more food than we do (up to 10,000 calories per day compared to the 2,000 most of us eat). By eating that amount of food they were able to pick up just enough calcium from green vegetables and seeds. To put it in perspective, you would need to eat 16 servings of broccoli a day to get all the calcium you need. This is easier to do if you eat 10,000 calories per day rather than 2,000.
The other problem with the paleo diet is that it is not entirely based in science. Many of the Paleo diets out there say you should not eat wheat, even though we know that cavemen did in fact eat wheat and other grains. These diets also don’t recommend that you eat blubber and the big lumps of fat that were also a large part of the caveman diet!
A final problem is that many Paleo diets encourage people to cut out beans and lentils and to get their protein from meat and fish instead. Many studies over the last few years are clear that eating too much animal protein is linked with more cancer and heart disease. Eating some vegetarian meals based on beans and lentils is a great way to get your protein without always going for meat.
Is this a diet we should follow? I think there is a lot we can learn from the Paleo diets. We could all do with eating less salt, sugar and processed foods and adding in more nuts and seeds as well as more vegetables. However, I think following a strict Paleo diet could lead to low levels of calcium and vitamin D and so it is not suitable for children or teens and adults would need to think about a calcium supplement.

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Ask Tracey

Midwife Tracey Donegan answers your questions about pregnancy and birth

Q When should I have my first pregnancy scan? And how many scans should I get throughout my pregnancy?

Your first scan is known as your dating scan and is routine in all hospitals. Most mums will have this scan at their booking visit, which can be anywhere between 12-18 weeks. The earlier the scan the more accurate it will be. If you have experienced recurrent miscarriages some hospitals will scan you earlier. Contact your antenatal clinic for more information. In Ireland, most women will have two scans in a healthy pregnancy – a dating scan and an anomaly scan at around 20 weeks. However, some units provide a dating scan only. Private scans are also available in most cities and many parents use these services for additional reassurance and to find out the sex of their baby.