Being a new parent is one of the most challenging, exhausting and important experiences we can ever go through. There are a lot of expectations on new parents, a lot of expert advice out there, and a lot of "well-intentioned" friends and family members sharing their opinion. And this is all on top of anxiety, stress, worry, lack of sleep, career pressure, relationship stress, and, well, feeding yourself and managing to sit down for a moment in peace or take a shower.
All of this can take a toll on your relationship with your baby, after all, if you are depleted, there just isn't much left to give.
With all of this going on, there is an expectation to connect and bond with your baby, which isn't always easy.
What can help?
Research has shown that babies, in the first 2 years of life, need to have consistent, attentive, nurturing caregivers in order to maximize emotional and physical growth and development and promote healthy relationships in their lives moving forward.
Attunement - recognizing what your baby needs, breast/bottle, sleep, diaper, holding
Presence - giving your baby what she needs right away, if possible before she cries for it
Consistency - consistently meeting your baby's needs
Nurturing - love in the form of holding, skin to skin, cuddling
These four methods of connecting with your baby can help ensure release of the pleasing hormones of oxytocin in you and your baby while you spend time together, which in turn, strengthens your bond with neurotransmitters.
Research has also shown that even the most attentive parents only pick up on their baby's cues accurately about 1/3 of the time. What this tells us is that babies are resilient, and though they need a lot from us to survive in the beginning, how we care for them consistently means more than each individual time we've made a mistake or didn't meet our baby's needs or misread a cue.
While there is a lot of pressure, advice and information out there about babies and child rearing, my first question and recommendation to new parents that come in to see me is typically regarding their internal compass, their instincts, and what they feel is right for them and their child. Forming a clear picture of who you are as a parent can free you from some of the stress and worry of external pressures. Please stay tuned for a follow up post on parental stressors and coping.