Getting to know your baby
During the last three months of pregnancy and the first two years of life, your baby’s brain develops rapidly. Responding to your baby’s needs can support emotional and mental development. Developing a close, loving relationship with your baby will help them grow into a confident and secure child and adult.
Welcoming your baby
Even if you have a Caesarean section or a difficult delivery, try to have skin-to-skin contact with your baby as soon as possible after the birth. This will:
- keep your baby warm and calm
- help regulate their breathing and heartbeat
- release hormones that help with bonding
Doing the following after the birth can help you to bond with your baby:
- place your baby on your stomach with their head near your breast
- gently stroke and caress your baby
- allow your baby to focus on your face
- take some time alone with your baby to get to know them
What a newborn baby can do
Babies are born knowing how to suck. During the first few days, they will learn to co-ordinate their sucking and their breathing.
Newborn babies will automatically turn toward a nipple or teat if it is brushed against their cheek and they will open their mouths if their upper lip is stroked.
They can also grasp things, like your finger, with both their hands and their feet and they will make stepping motions if they are held upright on a flat surface. As your baby develops, these automatic responses will stop and they will start making more controlled movements instead.
Newborn babies can use all of their senses. They will look at people and things, especially if they are close by, and they will focus on people’s faces in particular. Babies enjoy gentle touch and the sound of a soothing voice, and they will react to bright light and noise.
Communicating with your baby
It is very important to talk to your baby. You can talk to them about anything. Talking to young children, even very young babies, helps them become good communicators later in life.
It will also help your baby build an early bond with you. If you or your family speak another language, use it to speak to your baby. Babies can pick up and respond to two different languages.
Babies can recognise their mother’s voice from birth. From the moment your baby is born, they will want to communicate with you through eye contact, facial expressions and body movements. It is good to try to understand how your baby might be feeling.
Your baby will enjoy being talked and sung to and being held, touched and comforted. Your baby needs you to be interested in how they feel as well as their physical needs, such as changing and feeding.
Young babies are unable to cope with delays in having their needs met. Learning to understand your baby’s needs will help you to comfort and care for them.
Keeping your baby close
It is good for both you and your baby to stay close together; including sleeping in the same room. This helps your baby feel safe and secure and allows you to be more confident about caring for the. Many new parents also find it reassuring to have their baby close by.
You can also help to develop a close relationship with our baby by keeping them close during the night. Consider putting their cot or Moses basket next to your bed while you sleep. This will also help you to respond quickly if they wake during the night.
When choosing a pram or buggy, go for one that faces towards you. This will allow your baby to see your face and you will be able to respond and talk to your baby. You could also carry your baby using a soft baby carrier or sling. This will allow your baby to see your face and you will be able to respond and talk to your baby.
During the first few months after giving birth, almost all of your time will be taken up with getting to know your baby and responding to their needs.
Caring for your baby in a responsive way helps to build a strong and loving bond between you. This involves keeping your baby close, cuddling and stroking them, talking to them, understanding when they want to be fed or comforted and comforting them as soon as possible when they cry.
Trust your instincts; responding to your baby when they cry will not ‘spoil’ them, but rather it will make them feel safe and loved, which will help them to grow up to be confident and happy. Your baby will feel more secure if they do not have to wait too long to have their needs met.
Getting the father involved
The baby’s father should also spend time holding and being close to the baby. They may feel left out, especially if they have to leave you and the baby in hospital and return to an empty home.
They may need some help and support to get involved. The more you can both spend time caring for your baby, the more confident and secure you will all feel. Sharing the caring responsibility with the father will also help you to rest and keep your energy up.