Getting to know and creating a relationship with your baby is one of the most special things about becoming a parent. It makes you feel good, and it sets your wee one out in life knowing they're loved and looked after.
Babies grow fast - and their needs quickly change. As they develop, they can also communicate better and you may find your baby does more than simply cry when they're tired, bored, or need a feed or nappy change - they may find lots of ways to express themselves. So while it's an exciting time there may be moments when you start questioning yourself. Am I doing this right thing? Could I be doing more to help my baby? Any parent will tell you they know what it's like - they've been there too. So we've got some great tips from them to help you.
What the professionals say:
"Touch is such an important part of connecting with your baby. Skin on skin contact is a lovely way to get to know your wee one. That's why your little one is often put on your chest quickly after they are born. It's a natural way for you to form a closeness together, and for them to develop emotionally."
Responding positively to your baby helps them develop a secure attachment with you. This is a very special connection that babies form with one main person, usually their mum - but both parents can share the experience and dads can help strengthen this attachment, by being supportive and understanding.
Frequently asked questions
I'm not sure I'm developing a good relationship with my baby, how do I know I'm doing it right?
Like any relationship, getting to know each other is different for everyone because - just like every parent - every baby is different, too. So try and go with the flow, and remember that by spending time with your baby, caring for them every day and always responding positively to them, you’re doing the right thing.
There are no rules when it comes to how long it takes to feel that closeness, it could take months or happen straight away soo don’t feel pressured - just keep giving your baby lots of cuddles and attention, and enjoy being with them.
If you do have any uncertainties, it always helps to talk about them. Just telling a friend what you’re worried about could help you feel much better. Your health visitor can also help you with any concerns - big or small - that you have along the way. Every parent has the same worries, so never be afraid to share your feelings.
How can I bond with my baby?
There are lots of things you can do, and they will all help to strengthen the way you interact and respond to each other. We’ve got a few ideas here, and your health visitor might have more for you too.
- Lots and lots of cuddles, and plenty of skin-to-skin contact.
- Singing songs or chatting to your baby while you’re doing things.
- Talk about what your baby is looking at - when they’re cooing or crying, they’re communicating with you!
- Make silly faces - as they get older, they’ll start copying you.
You know what’s best for your baby, so trust your instincts when it comes to responding to them. Your wee one will love it when you play with them, talk to them and read to them. And the way you understand and respond to cues fom your baby will give them a great start in life and support their development. It helps their brain grow and makes a big difference to their happiness and health. There are so many great ideas about playing, talking and reading at parentclub.scot
Ready, Steady Baby also has some easy and fun ideas to help you communicate with your baby - check them out here.
How do I know what my baby is trying to tell me - especially if they're crying?
Babies can express all kinds of emotions - in their own unique way! They’ll smile and laugh when you’re cuddling and playing play together, and show that they’re annoyed or angry by squeaking or screaming, rather than by tearful crying. When they cry, it’s their way of saying that something is not right. More information on feeding cues from your baby can be found on our breastfeeding section or Off to a good start.
The main thing to remember is that if you’re feeling the least bit stressed from your baby’s crying, settle them somewhere safe and take a wee break. It’s never all right to shake your baby to stop them crying.
As you spend time together and get to know each other, you’ll get better at recognising what different cries and sounds mean, and what your baby might need, or be expecting at various times each day. You could find this gets much easier as you get to know your baby better, and learn to understand their needs and what they’re trying to tell you.
Around 3 months is a great time to start getting into an evening routine. By following a similar pattern every evening, you’ll quickly notice that your wee one will begin to anticipate what’s happening next. You might find your baby shows excitement as they start to associate a feed and a story after their bath, and snuggles before bedtime. Some babies may even start to sleep longer at this point… but not all and it doesn’t always last.
Do I have postnatal depression? (PND)
Having a baby is a big life event, and your hormones will be all over the place - so it’s natural you might be experiencing a range of emotions during and after your pregnancy. A few days after giving birth, your body is changing, and your pregnancy hormones are on the way out and your breast milk is coming in.
During those first days after your baby has arrived, you might go from floating on cloud nine to feeling down in the dumps, tearful, irritated and totally worn out. The ‘baby blues’ are a common result of those changing hormones, tiredness and the intense feeling of responsibility for your newborn baby. You may feel anxious about everything, unable to concentrate, and forgetful. But try not to worry - within two to three weeks you’ll probably feel much better.
If your low mood, feelings of irritability and difficulty sleeping haven’t gone away, or you feel worse, don’t be afraid to seek help. The baby blues and postnatal depression share a lot of symptoms - including mood swings, bursting into tears, feelings of sadness, and insomnia - and it’s always good to know how to tell them apart and when to ask for help. The main difference with PND is that the symptoms are more severe and longer lasting, and may even include suicidal thoughts or an inability to care for your baby PND can affect your daily life, and leave you feeling as if you simply can’t cope.
PND can occur early on, or even months after the birth of your baby - but if you know what to watch out for, you are in a better position to take control and take positive action. The important thing to remember is that having postnatal depression is nothing to be ashamed of and you are not alone. Your midwife, health visitor or GP are all there to listen, and to help you. The sooner you talk to someone, the better - even if it’s a trusted friend or family member.
You can find out more about postnatal depression here and your health visitor will help you if you have any questions or concerns.
Every relationship between babies and their parents is different. If you want to chat to anyone about connecting with your wee one, you can talk to your health visitor. And if you or your partner want to read up about it, you can also visit Ready Steady Baby