Rupa, is a working mother with a 6 month old daughter. She lives with her in-laws who help look after her child. She feels unhappy and stressed because being a working woman she hardly has any time to spend with her child. On weekdays her daughter is already asleep by the time she comes home, and on weekends there are so many other responsibilities such as buying groceries, cleaning, cooking, etc. Rupa, feels awful leaving her child for the whole day but she cannot give up her job at present. She feels worried that the baby will get more attached to her in-laws than to her. She finds herself getting angry and emotional over small things.
Rupa's experience is a common one in this day and age where many mothers return to work soon after the birth of their children. Rejoining the workforce has its own stressors, and added to that is the challenge of bonding with so little time in hand.
Even if you are a housewife, you are probably extremely busy taking care of the newest addition to the family. You might be spending much of your time feeding, changing diapers, bathing the baby, putting your baby to sleep, washing clothes, etc. Naturally you want to be attentive to the baby. All this is in addition to caring for yourself and the rest of the housework - cooking, tidying up, washing, cleaning, etc. There is never a shortage of things to do. You might feel this is the busiest time of your life!
Though all these tasks are basic necessities that cannot be neglected, it's important for you to also take time to emotionally bond with your baby. What the baby wants most is YOU. He/she wants to be held, looked at, spoken to, cuddled, sung to, tickled, rocked, kissed, etc. Babies require their physical needs to be taken care of, but they also need a warm and nurturing relationship with their parents in order to be psychologically healthy. Given the hectic pace of life nowadays, we tend to spend much of our time taking care of physical needs and may not spend enough quality time with the baby.
Cut out non-essential tasks to save your energy. One mother stated that after doing the housework, etc, she felt so drained that spending time with her child was more like a chore. The lack of energy affected her tolerance level and she found herself getting easily impatient. She wasn't able to enjoy the time with her baby.
It is alright to leave the child to play on his/her own at times. But there are other times when you need to invest quality time with the child. You may want your house to be spic and span, but this is the time to relax your standards a little. It's ok to have a few things out of place! Don't worry so much about appearances and spend time with your baby instead.
Once your baby starts eating solid food, you may want to make all the baby food yourself to make sure that it is hygienic and healthy. But check if there are any alternatives. Could you train a maid to do it? Can a relative help? Could you purchase certain items of baby food so that your cooking time is cut short? Be creative and get yourself the help you need. Even if it buys you an extra half an hour with your baby, it's worth it.
Ways to Bond
Eye contact or face-to-face contact: Babies love to gaze at faces. Your baby can see your face clearly from about 8 to 12 inches away - the approximate distance while breastfeeding. Don't be surprised if you see your baby staring at you intently. He/she is programmed to be attracted to human faces. Smile, make faces (the baby may try to imitate you). If he breaks eye contact or turns away, he might be over stimulated. This means he's feeling overloaded by the attention. Give him time to gather himself and wait till he chooses to meet your eye again. Look at him while breastfeeding - this is a very intimate time since he is directly against your skin.
Massage: Physical touch is an important way to bond with your baby. Babies thrive on kisses and caresses. Massage is an age old tradition which is known to soothe and stimulate blood circulation. In India ‘tel maalish' or oil massage for babies has been practiced for years. This is one tradition we should not lose! It is very useful especially for fussy babies. Physical touch has a calming effect and helps the baby gain control. Introduce massages early on because the baby will get used to it and later on it will take just a touch to help keep her calm.
Other ways of engaging in physical touch are by cuddling, stroking, caressing and rocking the baby. Touch is especially beneficial to premature babies. Studies show that stroking or have skin to skin contact with parents helps preemies gain weight quicker, develop physically and creates a positive attachment with the parents.
Talking: Let's be honest - when we pick up a baby, like magic our language automatically turns to baby talk. Whether you talk in a baby voice or your own, be assured that baby loves to hear your voice. Your exaggerated words and repeated sounds are actually helping the baby acquire language. He/she might coo or gurgle back at you. It may not sound like much but these are the beginnings of language acquisition. Engage in a back and forth dialogue - this teaches them the turn-taking that is essential to having a conversation. Babies cannot understand the words but they respond to the tone and rhythm of your voice. This creates important connections in their brains which are crucial for learning.
Playing: Make daily, mundane tasks fun and interactive. When you're changing his/her diaper, talk or sing to your child. Be generally playful - take the time to tickle them or rub their arms and legs. Make feeding time interactive by telling him/her a story or talking to him/her. Basically you can take any task and use it as a chance to interact with your baby. When you're relaxing on the couch, play games with him/her on your lap. Peek-a-boo is a favorite with children. You could use nursery rhymes or simply bounce him/her on your lap.
Reading: You may feel it is useless to read to infants because they cannot understand. But research shows that babies learn language by hearing words repeated often. Remember that babies' brains contain billions of neurons that are forming pathways based on their experience. These connections are called synapses. During the first 3 years, the brain has a high level of plasticity. This is why young children have the ability to pick up new languages quickly. As adults, our neural pathways are already formed and not as flexible as they were before. After age 3, the synapses that are unused gradually get trimmed away.
Early sensory experiences create new connections. Repeating these experiences solidifies the connections in the brain. So while you are bonding with your child, you are also contributing greatly to his/her brain development. It's important that both you and your partner take an active role in this process.
Enjoy your new role as a parent. Happy bonding!
NOTE: Some mothers experience depression after they give birth. This is known as post-partum depression and can interfere with your bonding with your baby. Feeling irritable, anxious or tearful is common soon after the baby is born - there are a lot of hormonal changes taking place. But if these symptoms persist or you notice symptoms beginning even many months after the birth, seek help from your doctor.