5 best ways to bond with baby
What are the most important things you and baby can do with your time together? Brain science tells us they’re pretty simple. And, thankfully, they’re things we know how to do already.
Create a safe, loving home. Children are exquisitely sensitive to their environments. If you create an environment of safety, love and emotional stability, good things happen:
Baby’s brain develops a healthy stress-response system, efficiently deploying and then reducing stress hormones as needed.
With stress hormones in balance, baby’s neural circuits for learning and reasoning are protected. The cardiovascular and immune systems can function properly.
Life’s smaller stresses (“But I don’t like tummy time… ”) become chances for growth, because supportive relationships buffer the negative effects of stress.
Cuddle up. Go skin to skin. Grab the baby carrier instead of the stroller or swing. Give a sweet little massage. Affectionate touch is essential for cognitive and emotional development. It soothes the nervous system and lowers baby’s levels of cortisol. Touch signals safety to the brain.
Respond to baby’s cues. Baby loves it when you mimic their facial expressions, coo at their little sounds, and gaze into their eyes. When they’re upset, baby needs your empathy, even if you can’t always fix what’s wrong. When they need a break — turning away, fussing or giving a miles-long stare — they need you to wait patiently.
Match baby when they try to engage (and disengage) with you. This “serve and return” interaction wires baby’s brain to support stress regulation, empathy and emotional stability.
Sensitive parenting — being aware of baby’s cues and responding to them — helps baby form a trusting relationship with you. It’s called “secure attachment.” (Not to be confused with attachment parenting.)
Speak in a singsongy voice. Talk in “parentese.” Make it a conversation by pausing for baby’s reaction — smiles, gestures — before responding. Through 18 months old, babies best learn language in this socially engaged way.
Include baby in your day. You don’t need a repertoire of baby-specific games. Just playfully show baby what you’re doing when you fold laundry, change their clothes or buy groceries. Help baby touch and smell things. Talk about things you both see, whether around the house or out for a walk. At bedtime, tell baby a story about the day.
If you’re getting the picture that social interaction is what forms a bond with baby, you’ve got it. Now think bigger: Seek out a great community of people — neighbors, teachers, friends, family — who can bond with baby, too.