Pregnancy Information Center

Information, Symptoms, Treatments and Resources


How to Bond with Your Baby


Proven ways to connect with your newborn

By Lola Augustine Brown


It’s a scene straight out of the movies: The newborn baby is placed on the mother’s breast, she makes eye contact with the child, and there’s an immediate, beautiful connection. But in real life, this isn’t always what takes place. Baby’s medical needs (or your own) can mean you may not get to hold them immediately. You may also cradle your baby for the first time and feel more overwhelmed than overjoyed (it happens!). Fortunately, research shows you have plenty of time to bond with your newborn — the next few weeks and months, even. And there are many ways you can help the process along after you’ve left the delivery room. 

Skin-to-skin contact is the first bonding step you may have heard of, in which the new baby is placed bare-skinned and belly down on a parent’s naked chest (usually the mother’s, right after birth). Numerous studies stress its importance. But if you don’t experience those first few moments of skin-to-skin contact, don’t think you’ve failed in any way. 

“It is a myth that there is a tiny one-hour window open for effective bonding. Thankfully, nature is much more forgiving than that,” says Samantha Meltzer-Brody, MD, director of the perinatal psychiatry program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Here are four tips to try:


Start with Sensory Experiences 

1. Go skin to skin

It’s not just for right after the birth: skin-to-skin contact with your newborn is strongly encouraged in the hospital and at home, from as soon as you can hold your baby (Dads can do skin-to-skin contact, too.) It has numerous benefits, including soothing and calming baby and making it easier to breastfeed — which is also one of the easiest ways to boost bonding. 

2. Plan to breastfeed, if you can

“Women who are breastfeeding have high amounts of oxytocin for the duration that breastfeeding occurs — so breastfeeding provides a wonderful way for women to bond with their babies — regardless of how the actual childbirth occurred,” says Meltzer-Brody. Oxytocin is a hormone sometimes known as the “love hormone.” Researchers have found it plays a strong part in maternal bonding. So it makes sense that the more oxytocin you encourage your body to release by nursing, the easier bonding will be. 

3. Use your voice

Talking and singing to your baby help promote bonding — even before birth. Your newborn will recognize your voice, and research has shown that they will prefer it above all others. 

4. Be hands — and eyes — on

Studies have also shown that gazing at your baby, caressing them, and stroking their faces all help to form the bond between you. They’re all also things that can be done while you’re nursing your baby as well as during bottle-feeding. Your partner can do the same moves while bottle-feeding, too. Even tasks like bathing allow you time for gazing and gentle touch.


Give Yourself Time to Adjust

If you still aren’t feeling a connection after trying these tips, don’t fret. It doesn’t reflect on your future relationship or make you a bad mother. Having a newborn can be stressful, even if you have a relatively easy baby. This stress can cause emotional upset that may interfere with bonding — especially if you don’t get enough rest. “Sleep deprivation associated with the demands of caring for a newborn exacerbates mood symptoms,” says Meltzer-Brody. It’s important to be kind to yourself in the early days and ask for help as a means of relieving a little pressure.

Throughout pregnancy and birth, your body has undergone huge hormonal changes, and these can also interfere with bonding, says Michael E. Silverman, PhD, an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. “Parental behavior is very complex and expressed in many different ways through different hormonal states — conception, pregnancy, postpartum, post-postpartum,” he says, and our brains need time to adapt in order to regulate these changes. That’s why bonding can happen late.


Stay Aware of Postpartum Depression

Delayed bonding may also mean something more serious is going on, however. “Postpartum depression can interfere with maternal bonding or attachment,” says Meltzer-Brody, adding that treatment for this type of depression, aka PPD, which affects an estimated 9 to 16% of new mothers, is critical to keep symptoms from getting worse. Reach out to your healthcare provider if you’re not feeling bonded to baby, just in case PPD is to blame. They can help — and there’s no benefit in trying to get through it alone. 

With every passing day, your baby will get easier to care for and connect with. Infants are hard work and, truth be told, in those first few weeks and months, it can feel like the rewards are few. But, you’ll soon find a rhythm and get more sleep, and your baby will begin cooing and smiling back at you — two things that will really help you to feel truly linked.


Published on October 23, 2015.


Lola Augustine Brown is a freelance writer and mother of three whose stories appear regularly in Today’s Parent, Canadian Living, and many other publications. 

© Leo Csontos / Stocksy United
Reviewed by Susan Spencer, MSN, RNC, IBCLC on July 30, 2015.
Explore More In Our Hep C Learning Center
image description
What Is Hepatitis C?
Learn about this treatable virus.
image description
Diagnosing Hepatitis C
Getting tested for this viral infection.
image description
Just Diagnosed? Here’s What’s Next
3 key steps to getting on treatment.
image description
Understanding Hepatitis C Treatment
4 steps to getting on therapy.
image description
Your Guide to Hep C Treatments
What you need to know about Hep C drugs.
image description
Managing Side Effects of Treatment
How the drugs might affect you.
image description
Making Hep C Treatment a Success
These tips may up your chances of a cure.