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Bonding with your baby

Bonding with your baby

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Bonding with your baby and attachment have become buzzwords in the language of health visitors, midwives and paediatricians. What these terms are referring to is the non-verbal and emotional relationship between a baby or young child and its main caregiver. This relationship is defined by how the caregiver emotionally responds to the baby’s cues of movement, gesture and sounds. It has been shown that the more successful this stage of relating is, the more secure the child will feel to develop fully and be able to related, interact and communicate effectively throughout the rest of his or her life.

Early stages

In the early stages of a child’s life, before two way verbal communication is possible, a positive experience of a non-verbal interaction can create a feeling of safety and calm so that the babies nervous system is relaxed enough for physiological development to happen optimally.

Our nervous system is the part of us that recognises safety or danger and acts accordingly. It is connected to the part of our brain that sends signal to go into ‘fight or flight’ which in turn results in muscles tensing, digestion shutting down, and heart rate increasing and so on. If a baby is stressed their system will be acting in all of these ways which will divert their physiological systems from doing the work of relaxing and developing.

Learning to adjustBonding with your baby

Having a newborn can feel a very intense time and worrying about attachment can lead to increased stress and possible depression in a caregiver. It’s important to keep perspective and do what you can within your limits rather than trying to live up to unrealistic expectations of perfection. Things that can help you to offer your baby the best start include;

  • realising that they are a separate individual to you in that they may have different needs and ways of feeling good to you or to their siblings and that only by observing them will you be able to respond to them in ways that work.
  •   Understanding that feeling love towards your baby is wonderful, but to offer secure attachment means going one step further and making effort to manage your stress, respond to their cues and soothe their distress.
  • And thirdly keeping a healthy perspective that you will almost undoubtedly miss some of their cues some of the time and this won’t necessarily lead to insure attachments.


On a practical level, the sorts of things that you are looking to be aware of are facial expressions and body movements that communicate things like wanting to be held,  the different sorts of sounds they make and which of those mean hunger, tiredness or discomfort. The sort of touch and movement that your newborn likes and what soothes them and the sorts of environments that they feel relaxed in. Making sure that you understand their needs for food and rest will help ensure that they are fully able to be engaged when awake – the importance of time spent having fun with them cannot be underestimated, smiles and laughter are as nourishing as food and drink!

You’re only humanBonding with your baby

Babies will form the attachment with the primary caregiver, they are capable of forming bonds to others but the key aspects of learning to relate and feeling secure are played out in their first early relationship. This means that it is imperative that the adult in the relationship does all that they can to look after themselves physically, emotionally and mentally.

Do what you can to get enough sleep, eat well and reach out for support during times of stress and overwhelm. Remind yourself that it is normal to have concerns with a new child and let yourself off the hook of trying to be superhuman. You don’t have to do it all, you can ask others to hold and care for your child whilst you take some time out for yourself!

It’s never too late

It is possible to heal early attachment interruptions. If for any reason one of your children had early experiences that have resulted in insecure attachments there are things that you and they can do to repair what happened. Cranial sacral therapy is well recognised as an affective treatment to heal birth trauma and can be given to young infants or adults who want to address early difficulties.

Spending time with an older child offering them the same qualities that are positive in the early months such as peaceful, soothing touch and acceptance and response to their individual needs is both healing and restorative. At all times, whether your child is young or old it’s important to let go of any pressure of trying to get it totally right. You will do the best that you can and your willingness alone to do that will serve you and your baby well.



About Jenny Smith

About Jenny Smith

Jenny Smith is a freelance writer and facilitator specialising in mental health, well-being and ecotherapy. She writes for National Mind and The Working Parent and facilitates training in the Work that Reconnects and Ecotherapy. She is inspired by nature, gardening, love and non-duality teachings

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