Ways to Bond With a Newborn

Newborn sleeping against a mother's sweatered shoulder
Image Source / Superstock

Say Yes to Help

As new parents of twin girls, we were reluctant to ask for or receive help. But being overwhelmed by tasks and not having enough time to enjoy our girls forced us to set aside our pride and say yes to offers of assistance from friends, family and church members. From meal trains to friends offering to come and wash dishes or clothes — what others did for us allowed us time to bond with our girls.

—Tiah Lewis

Preemie Bonding

Bonding with my premature baby proved difficult. She rested in a temperature-controlled incubator while hooked up to a ventilator to help her breathe. The primary methods for bonding — nursing and physical touch — were not options. So instead, I cradled her with my voice. At her bedside, I quietly sang worship songs to her, and I even subbed her name into the lyrics of "My Girl."

—Kelsey Messner

Love for Each One

I found it more difficult to bond with my new baby when my attention was needed by her older siblings. Here are three ways I chose to bond with my newborn:

  • As I cared for her physical needs, a natural bond formed. I gave myself grace for the times I was tending to her siblings, reassured that my baby knew she was loved and cared for.
  • I wrote down precious moments with my baby daughter as soon as they occurred, even if I had to speak them into my phone or grab a napkin to jot down my thoughts. Later I wrote these memories in her baby book.
  • I came up with a unique lullaby for each child. Now I have four children with four different lullabies. The lullabies have become an individual bond I have with each child.

—Amy Traurig

4 Ways to Bond With an Adopted Newborn

I was there when the little girl I would adopt was born. Standing in the delivery room, I tried to get a glimpse of her. What would she look like? Would it be love at first sight? What if I felt differently than when my biological son, Joey, was born? What if I fell for this baby and then the birth mom changed her mind?

When I finally got to hold her, I wanted to tell her, “Mama is here!” But I didn’t yet know if this really would be my girl. Falling head over heels in love felt risky.

A few days later we were able to bring our baby girl home from the hospital. I found myself cautiously bonding with her — afraid of the pain I’d feel if the adoption didn’t go through. Before long, I intentionally decided to love her and bond with her, for as long as I was given time with her. Months later, the adoption was finalized.

Here is what I did to successfully bond with my newborn:

Kangaroo Care. My biological babies were all born premature. One of the therapies I used to help them thrive was "kangaroo care." It simply means skin-to-skin snuggling, with the baby lying chest-to-chest with the parent. I used this to bond with my adopted daughter, to get her used to the sound of my heartbeat. The close physical contact allowed her to hear, feel and smell her new mom. I scheduled kangaroo time right after our last feeding before bed. That way I knew I wouldn’t get too busy to take the time to snuggle.

Rapid Response. I tried to use the 30-second rule in responding to my daughter’s basic needs. When I heard my baby cry, I tried to respond to her within 30 seconds. This was either verbally (“Mama will be right there!”) or physically (immediately going to see if she needed to be changed, fed or just snuggled). Meeting a baby’s real needs in the first months will not spoil a child. While we shouldn't come running at every little peep, babies do need to learn that their basic needs will be consistently met, and that Mom and Dad are the people who do that.

Face Time. Even though I wasn’t the first person to gaze into my baby’s eyes, I knew she would thrive on the long gazes and expressive faces of her mom and dad. Eye contact is an important part of relationships for all people, especially infants. Babies need eye contact and physical touch just as they need food to grow and develop. And the development is not only physical; watching our facial expressions is instrumental in how the brain gets wired to trust and learn empathy.

Food Bonding. I wasn’t always enthusiastic about early morning feedings. But I tried to see each feeding as a prime bonding opportunity. Every time you feed your baby, he or she is learning to associate the contentment of being full with the love of a parent. Make sure you are holding your baby close and making a clear connection between food and bonding. Prioritize those times and give your baby your attention, as your hearts grow closer together.

— Cindy Rasmussen

"4 Ways to Bond With an Adopted Newborn" first appeared in the October/November 2015 issue of Thriving Family magazine and was titled "Infant Bonding." "Say Yes to Help," "Preemie Bonding" and "Love for Each One" first appeared in the April/May 2019 issue of Focus on the Family magazine. The compiled article "Ways to Bond With a Newborn" first appeared on FocusOnTheFamily.com (2015). If you enjoyed this article, read more like it in Focus on the Family's marriage and parenting magazine. Get this publication delivered to your home by subscribing to it for a gift of any amount.

"4 Ways to Bond With An Adopted Newborn" © 2015 by Cindy Rasmussen. "Say Yes to Help" © 2019 by Tiah Lewis. "Preemie Bonding" © 2019 by Kelsey Messner. "Love for Each One" © 2019 by Amy Traurig. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Next in this Series: Love at Its Best for New Dads

You Might Also Like: