“Your baby’s relationship with you is his first experience of people and shapes the way he responds to relationships for the rest of his life,” says Megan. “From you he will learn about trust, how to read emotions and that love and care is a positive part of life.” Bonding also creates expectations about people and what they’re capable of. Big stuff for a little baby! So how does he relate to you? It’s all about senses, says Megan. They’re how you relate to and bond with your baby.
Touch is a powerful sense that is key to soothing and nurturing your baby. Massaging, cuddling and simply feeding your baby all target the sense of touch.
If your baby is hypersensitive to touch, he will have difficulty tolerating you in his personal space. This could well result in you feeling ineffective as a mother and unloved.
If that’s the case (it often is if you’ve had a prem baby), try still, deep touch rather than massaging. Still touch is less threatening than light touch or stroking. Place your hand on your baby’s tummy, head or other area of his body and leave it there. When he begins to tolerate and enjoy this type of touch, you can begin to use deep massage strokes (always avoiding light, tickling touch).
Smell is the only sense with direct neurological links to the emotion centre of the brain (the limbic system). All other sensory information is relayed through the mid brain and therefore is interpreted before a response is elicited.
With smell, an emotional response is created before you even register the smell. Think of how you can feel all warm and fuzzy just by smelling comfort food that your mum used to make for you. Likewise, we use our sense of smell to connect with our partners and feel amorous just smelling their pheromones.
You will know that a central part of falling in love with your little one is drinking in that newborn baby smell. To help him connect with you, don’t wear perfume in the early days – let your natural smells be the ones that surround your baby.
Movement, sight and hearing
Movement is the sense you will use to calm your baby. Soothing and calming your fractious little one is also an important part of being in a relationship with her.
Other senses, such as sight and hearing, also play an important part in bonding as they assist with recognition and memory. Memory is vital because it allows your baby to develop expectations of his relationship with you.