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The Partner and The Newborn: Bonding

Question

"There is so much information on what the mother should and can do to bond with her child right at birth, as a father should I simply step aside and wait for my turn or is there something I can do?"

Answer

I love to hear eager partners wanting to be a big part of their child’s life right from the start. Here are some tips on what a partner can do immediately after the birth to bond with the new baby.

1. At Birth. Ideally you have discussed your desires with your doula before the birth and stated in your birth plan that you would like all routine procedure (like eye ointment and vitamin K shot) to be delayed for a couple of hours so that the baby can rest immediately on the mothers chest. The eye ointment temporarily blurs baby’s vision or causes her eyes to stay closed. She needs a clear first impression of both of you, and you need to see those eyes. In case of an emergency and if your baby needs to be placed in the bassinet in the delivery room for suction or any other procedure it is daddy’s business to stay with the baby. Place yourself “out-of-the-way” of the pediatricians attending the child, but if at all possible talk to the newborn and even allow him to grab onto one of your fingers. The baby knows you voice and your smell and it will comfort him. I have seen screaming babies quiet down immediately when they heard their daddy’s voice. What to say? “Welcome to the world my sweet, mommy and daddy love you so much. Happy birthday, you are so beautiful, we love you so much.” Go ahead and get mushy….

2. Stay connected. When the baby is on mommy’s abdomen and chest immediately after birth, or after cutting the cord and suctioning your baby, get close and speak to your family. Again touch your baby massage her back, kiss your partner. Let the baby hear your voice and feel your touch. At the time when baby is making the transition to air breathing, and the initial breathing patterns are very irregular, stroking stimulates the newborn to breathe more rhythmically–that’s the therapeutic value of a parent’s touch. Babies are born with a thick, creamy, white moisturizing layer that is often immediately “cleaned” by the attending nurse. That layer of moisturizer has been placed there by mother nature to help through the birth canal, and it’s great to massage it into the baby’s skin. Massage you baby’s entire body with long fluid strokes and tell him where his body ends and where the world begins.

3. When the baby is breastfeeding right at birth. Most babies are content simply to lick the nipple; others have a strong desire to suck at the breast immediately after birth. This nipple stimulation releases the hormone oxytocin, which increases the contractions of her uterus and lessens postpartum bleeding. Early sucking also stimulates the release of prolactin, the hormone that helps mothering abilities click in right from the start. You should pay attention to what the nurse is doing with your partner as she shows her the appropriate latch on techniques. Pay attention and ask questions so that you can help mommy once you are left alone.

4. Ask to room in with your baby at the hospital. Once the breastfeeding is done, it is time for daddy to hold the baby in his arms and give mommy a little break. Making visual, tactile, olfactory, and auditory, connection with your baby right after birth will help you create a strong bond. No need to release this baby to the nursery–and you don’t have to. It is a good idea that healthy mothers, daddies, and healthy babies remain together throughout their hospital stay. Beware, many hospitals will take your baby to the nursery for cleaning and measuring, if that is the case follow your baby and continue to talk to her and touch her. Also I have heard so many times caring nurses say “Let us have the baby in the nursery so that you can get some rest.” It is up to you of course, but I think the first hours of your new baby’s life are very important. It is very scary to go from being carried all day and night in your mommy womb, to resting in a plastic crib all alone in a semi-bright room full of crying babies. Mom has worked very hard, so help her rest by caring for the baby while in the room with her.

5. Skin to skin with daddy. Besides enjoying the stimulation your baby receives from the skin-to-skin contact of chest to chest and cheek-to-chest, gently stroke your baby, caressing his whole body. Fathers often place an entire hand on their baby’s head, as if symbolizing their commitment to protect the life they have fathered. Besides being enjoyable, stroking the skin is medically beneficial to the newborn. Any chance you get remove your shirt and place the baby right on your chest with only her diaper on. Cover the baby with a blanket and enjoy each other’s company, make sure you keep him warm. The skin, the largest organ in the human body, is very rich with nerve endings.

6. Here’s looking at you kid. Your newborn can see you best with an eye-to-eye distance of eight to ten inches, about the usual nipple-to-eye distance during breastfeeding. Place your baby in the face-to-face position, adjusting your head and your baby’s head in the same position so that your eyes meet. Enjoy this visual connection during the brief period of quiet alertness after birth, before baby falls into a deep sleep. By looking at your baby you will discover and amazing new world within his eyes.

7. Getting to know your baby. During the first hours and days after birth, a natural dialogue will develop between daddy and infant. Voice-analysis studies have shown a unique rhythm and comforting cadence to the mother’s and father’s voice. I suggest to all my clients to create a little song they can sing to the baby while she is in the womb. Once born she will recognize not only your voice but her song. If you speak a different language it is never too early to introduce your child to your original language.

8. Once you get home learn how to play with your baby, these delightful activities can be done between feedings. I teach my clients a day time ritual that includes playing between breasts. It’s what I call the play-feed(one breast)-play-feed (the other breast)-sleep. A nighty minutes ritual where we encourage the parent to play/interact with their newborn between feeding. The purpose is multifaceted, flirts it increases bonding by beginning a relationship with your newborn by talking to them, gazing into their eyes and discovering one another, and it also makes sure the baby comes to the breast wide awake resulting in a more efficient feed and a longer sleep. We offer virtual postpartum sessions to teach you day-time and night-time rituals

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