elevating child care

How to Bond with Your Baby (Beautifully)

“Imagine a giant comes who is much taller, stronger, bigger, and grabs you and you don’t even know what will happen to you. It’s scary. So, slow down. Give yourself time. Tell your child what you are going to do. Wait for a little response.”                                            – Magda Gerber, Your Self-Confident Baby
A major goal of every new parent is bonding. (Wrangling a decent night’s sleep probably runs a close second.) Here are some simple practices that can facilitate attunement and profoundly enhance the bonding process:

Doing everything slowly, gently, gradually – connecting with our babies requires us to join them at their speed, which means drastically downshifting from our more hectic, multi-tasking adult pace. This can be surprisingly challenging. Most of us will need to periodically remind ourselves to slow way, way down.

Observing sensitively – helps us to perceive our babies as unique and separate whole people with interests, gifts and needs of their own. We are able to more clearly read their cues and, therefore, our responses are more accurate. In turn, our babies feel understood. By taking a step back and simply observing, allowing them to experience the world in their own way, we learn volumes about our children and can discover the world anew along with them.

Tori shared her story:

“Thank you so much for your blog, books and podcast! I first learned about Magda Gerber‘s RIE approach while pregnant with my son (he’s now 2.5 months, and I also have a daughter who just turned 2 years old). Today we went to the park and had the whole place to ourselves. With my daughter at this age, I would have worn her during the whole outing (and I regularly wore her for long stretches at home, thinking she preferred this). Thanks to your resources and my newfound RIE knowledge, I found a spot for my son underneath a tree and let him wiggle his arms and legs and check out the sun shining through the leaves. He did so happily for 30 minutes while his sister ran around and climbed. I’m still happy to have my Ergo carrier for transportation purposes, but it’s wonderful to be ‘free’ from it, too, and I think he agrees.”

tori baby on the leaves smaller

Touching consciously – builds trust, encourages body awareness, and conveys respect.

In a FB discussion group, Amanda needed “some serious help” settling her newborn to sleep:

“I have a newborn that screams bloody murder whenever you put her down. Now, by newborn I mean she was born last night, so maybe my expectations are too high, but she will only sleep with one of us holding her, and I’ve got to get some rest. What do I do? I’m afraid one of us will fall asleep holding her.”

Amanda received several responses, but one in particular seemed to hit the mark. Later, Amanda shared an update:

“Whoever suggested the super-slow release while quietly explaining I’m putting her down and touching my forehead to hers … yes. She’s been napping by herself on my bed for about 20 minutes.

Oh, the relief in my forearms”

Amanda oh the relief smallest

Engaging respectfully – teaches language, nurtures our bond, includes our baby as an active participant in a relationship with us and in her life.

Laura’s experience vividly illustrates the power of respectful care practices to promote bonding:

“I would never claim we’re 100% RIE here, but we are definitely doing some things differently with this baby (10 weeks old).

I told my husband recently that one of my favourite times of the day was dressing the baby (something I would never have said with my first). He looked at me like I had grown a second head. He had been talking to her when changing her, etc., but I think he was doing it because he thought he should but not really feeling it. After telling him how connected with her I felt when I really slowed down and did it with her, he asked to dress her in her pj’s that night.

He was up there for a long time, and when he was finished he told me how lovely it was and how close he felt to her (something he struggles with due to working long hours and having a 3-year-old who really wants his daddy)… Sometimes it’s the simplest of things that can make a difference.”

No matter what your circumstances, no matter how chaotic the environment, no matter if you’ve heard of RIE or not, there are two simple things you can do to support your baby in adjusting more easily to his world. You can slow down and listen, (or observe), which will help you to begin to understand what your baby may be trying to tell you he needs, and you can talk with your baby, which will help him to make sense of his world, and to understand you.”

“…If you do this from the beginning, you will be establishing a relationship, communication, and trust that will last a lifetime, and serve to support both you and your baby now, and as he grows. Try it, and see if it makes a difference!”

– Lisa Sunbury, “RIE From the Start – 2 Simple Things You Can do to Support Baby“, regardingbaby.org

Thank you to Tori, Laura and Amanda for sharing your stories and photos!

(Thumbnail photo by Kristen Thørgersen on Flickr)

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7 Responses to “How to Bond with Your Baby (Beautifully)”

  1. avatar Helen Rubin says:

    Janet – This is such a peaceful read! As ever – thank you. I am most grateful that you posted this for Thanksgiving! xo

  2. avatar Michelle says:

    What if you haven’t been doing this from the beginning? I unfortunately only stumbled upon RIE recently. My son is 2 and we’ve never had a great attachment due to a rocky first year… Medical problems (his), lack of support from family and friends, PPD (mine, of course), etc. I’ve read everything I can get my hands on about respectful parenting and implemented them to the best of my ability and there have been improvements in his behavior, but I still often feel hopeless that our bond will never be strong. I’m sure it’s never too late to make changes, but I guess my question is: is it reasonable to hope/expect for us to ever have a strong/healthy connection despite losing out on those critical first two years?

  3. avatar Mugdha says:

    Hi Janet, I want to thank you for this post. I have a seven month old son who hated me dressing him up. After reading this post I did three things observed him, slowed down and spoke to him with constant eye contact while dressing him. What a drastic change He smiles and laughs when I change him now.Thank you. The only other issue that bothers me is that he gets up frequently around 4-5 times in the night. Any tips on how I could help him sleep better.

  4. avatar Jordana Cox says:

    Thank you so much for this. I found RIE when my first was about 1 year old and it has been amazing for my toddler. I now have a 2-week-old and am trying to figure out how to start RIE practices from the beginning – this was incredibly helpful.

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