Our child psychologist reveals how bonding is an instinct that children are born with
There’s no doubt that you adore everything about your little one, from her cutesy smile to her little fingers and toes. But have you ever found yourself wondering how she loves you back?
Don’t worry about teaching her how to love – she does this naturally, without any training. In fact, she’s born with abilities that help her love and is emotionally and mentally pre-programmed to bond with you from the moment she arrives. As she’s using these abilities every day, she’s constantly strengthening the connection.
She’s able to focus between seven and nine inches away (the average distance from her face to yours during feeding), so she’ll be able to see and interpret your expressions from the start. Then there’s her hearing. It’s already tuned to pick up the sound of human voices in preference to other noises, so she’s able to tune in to your speech right away.
She’s also more responsive to the smell of your milk than to the milk of a stranger so she prefers you from the first feed. But whether she’s breast or bottlefed, feeding requires that you hold her, and this physical touch intensifies love.
As well as being designed to love you, your baby also has characteristics that help you reciprocate. Her eyes are large and wide in relation to the size of her head. This makes her appearance more attractive to you. She also instinctively nuzzles in close when you cuddle her, and you automatically react by cuddling her even more.
Although you don’t realise it, your baby makes speech sounds in response to yours, like a mini-conversation; this strengthens your connection. And, of course, as she smiles, her expression makes you feel more fond of her. Try to relax while you’re with her. Often caring for her is physically and psychologically demanding, but when you’re at ease, she’ll be more comfortable and loving.
When your baby is upset and crying, hold her close to you and begin to soothe her with gentle touches (perhaps stroking her cheek) and speak to her softly. You’ll notice that as she gradually calms, she instinctively cuddles up closer to you. This is a natural process that occurs between a parent and baby and makes you both feel more loving towards each other.
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