“Instead of being a static one-time event, bonding is a process, a dynamic and continuous one. Thus, a reciprocal, loving attachment is still realizable even when early contact is delayed – as it is for many mothers and their prematurely born infants, or when illness of either the newborn or the mother intervenes. Bonding is the formation of a mutual emotional and psychological closeness between parents (or primary caregivers) and their newborn child. Babies usually bond with their parents in the minutes, hours, or days following birth.” -Julius Segal, Psychologist-
Regardless of any culture or origin, most new mothers will instictively hold their baby next to their bodies, rock them gently, strive for eye contact, sing or talk to the baby and begin to nurse. Often within just hours of birth, mothers report feelings of overwhelming love and attachment for their new baby.
Sometimes though, bonding is not as immediate and some mothers feel depressed or tired after giving birth and don’t feel like interacting with their newborn. Some fathers don´t feel a deep connetion with their baby during the first few weeks when the mum-baby bond is so strong and they feel “left out” or don´t find a way of interacting with their child, creating a sense of lack of bonding.
Fortunately, humans are not completely dependent on those early moments and have many opportunities to bond appropriately throughout the first year of life. We know that mothers who adopt babies and even older children are able to form valuable attachment relationships.
Bonding is really a continuation of the relationship that began during pregnancy. The physical and chemical changes that were occurring in your body reminded you of the presence of this person. Birth cements this bond and gives it reality. Now you can see, feel, and talk to the little person whom you knew only as the “bulge” or from the movements and the heartbeat you heard through medical instruments. Bonding allows you to transfer your life-giving love for the infant inside to caregiving love on the outside.
The very first moments of our son´s lifetime outside of my womb were spent on my chest, close to my heart. Upon his transition to the outside world, he tested his voice for a split second, and then proceeded to open his dark, big eyes. The long and intense eye contact that he established first with me and then with his Dad, left me in awe. His innate ability to deepen an emotional bond is the most intense feeling that I have experienced in my life so far. I was in a state of wonder and healthy overwhelm about the peacefulness and curious alertness that we could sense and observe in our baby.
Perinatal psychologist Dr. Carrie Contey confirms my experience by stating that: “Babies are sentient, sensitive beings capable of learning, remembering and communicating before, during and after birth”.
Parents are often surprised to see how quiet the baby becomes if she is placed on the mother’s body, says paediatrician Dr Marshall Klaus. Crying is an expression of babies’ distress if separated from their mother. When they are warm and safe on her chest, they are alert but peaceful. Mothers instinctively stroke their babies gently with their fingers and speak to them in a quiet, high-pitched voice. Eye contact deepens bonding and this simple interaction is necessary to ‘turn on’ the baby’s brain for further learning.
What about the bonding after Cesarian section? The following is a video documenting a so called “natural Cesarian” section – an attempt to make Cesarian sections more “family centered” and allow for more precious bonding time than usually practised after such an operation.
Whatever way your baby is born – the experience of bonding with your newborn is what matters most. Just making eye contact, a gentle touch or a smile, will help parents set their child on the track toward a promising future and a joyful life.
Article written by Jana Allmrodt