02 June 2011
Attachment Parenting, Part Two: Birth Bonding
As we learned in Part One, Attachment Parenting is a caregiving philosophy based on attempting to build a strong and intuitive relationship between parents and their child(ren). The way that attachment begins is through a physical, chemical and emotional process referred to as ‘bonding’, which describes the way in which parent/s and child get to know each other.
The bonding process begins well before birth - for some parents, even before conception! During pregnancy, most parents will find themselves beginning to bond with their baby, becoming attached to their child along with their hopes and dreams for their family. For mothers, the hormonal and physical changes going on in her body give a biological boost to the beginning of this bonding process, a boost which is supercharged during labour, birth and the hours immediately following delivery.
According to a number of studies, the hormones and emotions present in the hours immediately following birth make them particularly prime time for bonding to occur between parents and their newborn. Most parents (or babies!) don’t really need to be told what to do during this time, but if you are keen there are lots of ways to make the most of this unique point in your relationship.
First, inform your care providers that you would like some time alone with your baby. Ask if it’s ok for routine procedures such as weighing, cleaning, and any tests or injections to be delayed for a couple of hours (don’t forget Vitamin K can be administered orally). Your baby will find it easier to keep her eyes open in dim lighting so see if it’s possible to turn the lights down or bring in a lamp. Then just spend some time exploring and enjoying each other!
Things like holding your baby skin-to-skin, stroking and touching their body, making and holding eye contact with your baby, talking or singing to your baby, are all really enjoyable and beneficial ways to begin getting to know each other. Breastfeeding during the first hour after birth is recommended for lots of reasons, including that it’s really great for the bonding process. And while most hospitals now have a ‘rooming-in’ policy, you can take it one step further by bringing your baby out of the bassinet and into your arms as much as possible J
Now in an ideal world, every baby would be easily born into a quiet place where time can immediately be spent doing nothing other than resting and enjoying each other. But we all know that the ‘dream birth’ is rarely achieved! Instrumental delivery, c-sections, stitches, medical complications, or even just sheer exhaustion may mean that other concerns need to take precedence before parents and baby are ready or able to begin getting to know each other.
It’s important to remember, then, that while the first few hours after birth are a great boost to the bonding process, they're by no means all-or-nothing! There are plenty of creative ways to get to know your baby in difficult or unexpected circumstances, and the early days and weeks are still an important and special time. The idea of birth bonding is simply to be aware of the uniqueness of the first few hours after birth, and if possible, to be intentional about maximising the potential of this time to begin bonding with your baby. But no matter how it begins, you’ve got the rest of your lives together to enjoy strengthening that bond!
William Sears, M.D., and Martha Sears, R.N. The Attachment Parenting Book. Chapter 4: Bonding at Birth and Beyond
http://www.askdrsears.com/html/10/T101100.asp (link title: Ask Dr Sears: Bonding with your Newborn)