Hopefully, if there is one thing that new parents are encouraged to do – whether their baby was born naturally or by caesarian, whether their baby is fed by bottle or breast, whether their baby is born into a family that is rich or poor – is to find a way to bond with their baby.
Showing your baby that you care
There are many aspects to bonding that actually make up our day to day instinctive behaviour with our new babies.
Talking to your baby, interactive playtime and even baby massage can quickly help establish that vital, reassuring setting for your baby to develop and grow happily.
And like sharing a baby smile, giving your child lots of cuddles can be as rewarding for you as it is for your baby.
How often should I cuddle my baby?
As often as you can! In the early weeks, you may worry that you do not know what your baby is trying to communicate to you, but very soon you will begin to understand your baby’s cries.
Attending to these is important: changing a nappy, giving a feed, giving him quiet time if he is tired. But being sensitive to his needs doesn’t mean you have to pussyfoot around being quiet as a mouse.
A confident chat and a cuddle with him will do much more than apologetically making the room silent, which will make him feel isolated.
Don’t believe the old wive’s tale that giving a baby too many cuddles will make him more needy – that’s not true at all.
Instead, by offering reassuring contact on a regular basis – when you are happy, sad, he is tired, excited, and so on – you help build an instinctive confidence in your child that will enable him to feel, as he gets older, that he can rely on you to come when he really needs you, he won’t panic when you are not around or fret that you have not cuddled him for a few minutes.
In the early months, your voice with soothe him, but nothing beats regular cuddles or stroking, especially because he can sense your smell as well as recognise your words.
It is certainly worth bearing in mind that sometimes a baby who is only grizzling or stirring from sleep does not always need to have you dash to their side – he may settle himself down again, and this small independent step is a very promising experience for him. You do not need to let a baby cry hard before going to him when you detect a real need.
Even if or when you are going through a phase where you are trying to get your baby into a sleep routine reassuring cuddles or a touch will be part of the plan.
There will come a time when you need to gauge your child’s behaviour and read new signs (toddlers who are naughty or get upset in order to gain attention rather than because of genuine need, for example) but that is a long way off and in the first year of your child’s life, reassurance, kindness and cuddles are the best experience for both of you!