A lot of working mothers after giving birth take a leave of absence from work known as maternity leave. It gives mother and baby time to bond during their first few months of life, it gives mom time recoup and let her body heal and get some much needed rest. Maternity leave is a special time for mom, but is it really for baby? Studies have shown that the bonding period is much different for infants. You as a mom may feel the attachment right away, but it takes babies a longer time to know what’s even going on, let alone form a relationship right away. It is said that 3-5 weeks is the period of time where babies even just start to recognize and actually be interested in faces. It is only around 3-7 months that babies show preference for their own families. There was a study done in the 1970’s that suggests there is a “critical bonding period” very shortly after birth, but recent studies have proven that this is a misconception.
So what if we were to break the cycle of a long maternity leave right after birth? The most important time to bond with your baby is 6-9 months. This is when babies truly start to have an emotional connection to their parents. Not all mothers are even fortunate enough to take a maternity leave at all, so I don’t expect mothers to take a second one around their baby’s 6 month mark, but I would like to stress the importance of taking extra measures to bond with your baby during those important months. There is no right or wrong way to raise a child and I respect every mother’s parenting style.
Here are some measures you can take to ensure the bond is as strong as it can be:
Skin To Skin: Skin to skin contact is very common during the first few months of age but it seems to dwindle in popularity as the baby grows. Skin to skin is one of the most effective ways to bond with your baby. It releases oxytocin, so the bond is neurologically wired. Keep the skin to skin contact going as long as it feels comfortable for you.
Alone Time: If you have a partner, designate a time to spend quality time with your baby alone. Your baby will be focused entirely on you. Spend it in a quiet place with little outside stimulation. Make eye contact and talk to your baby.
Teaching and Learning: Teaching your baby skills and social cues is great for bonding! It is so essential to your baby’s development and is so enjoyable for the parent. Use toys to develop hand eye coordination. Talk to them and enunciate simple words for language development. Research other ways to help your baby learn and grow mentally and emotionally.
Bath Time: Bath time is my favorite way to bond with my baby. Her night time ritual is so essential to her sleep routine and feeling consistency. Playing with her in the bath and making her laugh is so magical. Massaging her with lotion after her bath relaxes her and it is more physical contact. Reading a book and rocking her until she is sleepy but not yet asleep is great for her to learn to self soothe and put herself to sleep. My daughter has been pretty much sleeping through the night since 1 and a half months because of this routine. Doing all these things before bed lets her know consistency and assures her she can rely on me.
At the end of the day you know what is best for you and your baby. Take everything with a grain of salt and have confidence in yourself. These are all just suggestions and bonding tactics vary from every mother-baby relationship.