I teach a class to couples about expectations for the immediate and long-term postpartum periods. We talk about the many decisions made during this time that can either promote bonding or interrupt bonding. I usually offer a few suggestions to ensure both parents have every opportunity to bond with their baby.
Firstly, you need to have immediate skin to skin contact after the delivery.
The benefits of skin-to-skin are so well documented that this is becoming a high priority in maternity care and should be standard. Moms and babies destress and connect when they are allowed to be in constant contact after the birth. This gets oxytocin, the “hormone of love” flowing and is especially important if the birth is traumatic or does not go as planned.
I can attest to feeling instantly attached and like I wanted to enjoy my “reward” uninterrupted.
I also suggest that after the birth, you wait an hour or two before allowing any friends or family into the recovery room. As you are processing the birth, examining your new little ones and working on breastfeeding or bottle feeding, it is important that you do not feel rushed or pressured to share these intimate moments.
You may decide not to tell anyone the baby is born until this time has passed. You can also ask the staff to help limit who or how many family members to allow into the recovery room. Usually, babies are really alert for a few minutes after a birth and then they sleep for a long stretch.
And what should you do while the baby is sleeping? Sleep. That makes having visitors tricky. While it is important to be supported and share in the joy, the day a baby is born is not the time for long visits. It might help to just allow a brief visit and then let every know you’ll call them when there is a good time to come back.
In the days after the birth, you will need plenty of time to rest and recover. I always suggest moms stay in their pajamas and move only from the bed to the couch for the first week, at least. The more she rests in the beginning, the quicker she will actually recover and the more energy and strength she will have to care for her newborn. This is a great time to ask for help with food, laundry, and errands.
My midwives with my first baby put a sign on my front door listing ways visitors can help promote bonding by taking care of responsibilities. A mother’s priorities are to keep herself and baby fed and hydrated. Relieving pressure to do much else will allow her to just focus on bonding with her baby.
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As parents adjust to caring for a newborn and learning how to read their cries and hunger cues, it is important that you have constant access to your baby. I make the suggestion that any time you are in a crowded room of friends or family, you feel confident enough to say “no” to passing the baby around if you are feeling overwhelmed or if the baby is eating or if they just feel attached.
My husband and I had an understanding that if we pass a new baby to a friend or family member, they should pass the baby back to one of us rather than someone else so the baby can “touch base” and know we are still there, we can check the baby’s diaper, offer milk or just get our own dose of bonding and connection. I believe it is wise to tap into our instincts to protect and shelter little ones, especially before they have their own voices.
And that is actually the main point. If you feel the need to connect with, touch, smell, hold or interact with a new baby, you should! It is so good for establishing boundaries for our babies and ourselves and for enjoying the reward of all the labors of parenthood.
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