When babies are exclusively breastfed, or if one parent is solely in charge of feeding, it can leave the other one feeling a little left out when it comes to bonding with the baby. The good news is that bonding can happen outside of feeding, and it can be fun, too. Get the whole family involved with these easy ways to bond with baby. It’s a win-win for everyone!
Everyone says the first few weeks (or even months) are a blur, and they’ve probably told you not to worry about your to-do list in the beginning. Take that advice! When you look back at the early days with your baby, it won’t matter that your laundry piled up or that there were always a ton of dishes in the sink. What will matter are the sweet moments you shared with your precious newborn.
If a messy house stresses you out, let friends and family who are asking how they can help do a few quick household chores or bring you a hot meal. They won’t mind, especially if they get to hold the little one when the work is done!
One of the reasons feeding is such a great time to bond with your baby is because he is so close to you and is benefitting from the physical contact. So, outside of feeding time, you can still take advantage of this form of bonding by:
- Having skin to skin time. Simply take all of your baby’s clothes off, down to his diaper, and place him on your bare chest. You can sing to him or just snuggle. Either way, this is a great opportunity for Mom or Dad to bond with their baby.
- Wear your baby. There are a ton of different wraps and carriers available that keep your baby safe and snuggled up to your chest (Mom’s or Dad’s). Plus, they free up your hands so you can do some light housekeeping, grab a snack or even read a book.
Even if your baby can’t move much, he still needs your help being active. You can help develop his growing body and muscles by:
- Bicycling his legs. Bring them toward his chest one at a time, as if he’s pedaling.
- Shaking a rattle or toy and encouraging him to reach for it.
- Encouraging him to kick and splash in the bathtub.
- Playing a gentle game of airplane (once his neck is stronger) by lifting him in the air with your legs.
- Practicing tummy time.
Tummy time is any activity that keeps your baby from lying flat in one position against a hard, supporting surface. It helps develop neck and shoulder muscles, prevent flat areas on the back of your baby’s head and build the muscles he will use to roll, sit and crawl.
A baby’s brain grows super-fast. In fact, 85 percent of that brain growth happens in just the first 3 years. What you do during that time is so important, but it’s also easy: Just start talking! Research shows that the more loving words a baby hears in those first 3 years makes a big difference.
Here are some simple ways to talk with baby:
- Read him books. Point to things you see on the page and tell him what they are.
- Sing to him (he won’t judge!) or play soft music.
- Play games like “peek a boo.”
- Tell him what you are doing, for example, “I’m putting on your pants” or “let’s get ready to eat!”
For the first few months outside of the womb, babies can’t see very far. Anything farther than 8 to 12 inches from their eyes will most likely appear fuzzy to them, but they are still learning how to control their eyes and how to focus on people and things. You can help your baby learn these skills—and bond at the same time—by doing the following:
- Show your baby black and white pictures or bright, primary colors (babies like a lot of contrast).
- Move a toy slowly right above her face and watch her learn to follow or “track it” with her eyes.
- Shine a flashlight against a wall in a dark room, and let your baby follow the light with her eyes.
- Show her reflection in the mirror. Babies love to see themselves (and sometimes, they get so excited, they’ll even stop right in the middle of a crying fit!).
- Lay her on a play mat so she can look at toys that are hanging above. Soon, she’ll even start to reach for them!