Connecting to this unique heart energy of your baby will be a profound experience for you, allowing your internal trapdoor of love to release. Physical nourishment aside, physically and emotionally bonding with your baby is the surest way to build a secure base that will provide your child confidence, support, love, and abundant health for the rest of her life. Developing a harmonic connection with your baby is what it’s all about.
Your relationship with your rapidly growing and changing baby is fluid and dynamic, and that you have the chance to grow and learn to be a better communicator, better partner, and better parent as you incorporate this new relationship into your family constellation. This chapter will also support you in finding that place that is so deep in yourself there are no words — only love. You have a limited number of vowels and consonants but an unlimited supply of love that will support you in forging an everlasting connection with your child.
The Love Is in the Science
Did you know your baby’s scent is custom made to make him irresistible to you? Baby secretes pheromones, the kind of chemicals we secrete to attract a partner, from his nostrils that draw you in for kisses and cuddling. This scent is so appealing to mamas, and so unique to the baby, that many mothers can identify their baby using scent alone. Baby also has a mama-attuned sniffer, able to identify his mother without the need to peek. Your scent (specifically the scent of your breast milk) even has the ability to soothe your baby when you’re not physically there to nurture him. So leave behind one of your used shirts and a bottle of your booby nectar when you need to leave Baby in the care of a “not you.” Remember, your body is completely on board with helping you fall into the most epic love affair with Baby.
Your brain is in on the action, too. The rewards-processing center of a mother’s brain has been proven to light up when she sees a photo of her child, and really light up when she sees a photo of Baby smiling. Science tells us how to keep Baby nurtured: Mama does something to make Baby smile, Mama likes Baby’s smile and wants more of them, Mama does more stuff to make Baby smile, and around we go. You are prewired to become addicted to your child’s happiness, and your child’s brain is primed to be positively conditioned by this (mostly) happy environment you will in turn provide for him.
This bonding does more than just shape your baby’s early whole-being growth; data are being discovered in the fields of biology, neurology, psychology, and anthropology (to name a few) that back up the belief that a mother’s loving care and attention not only support a child’s early development but are also drawing the blueprint for how the child will send and receive love well into adulthood.
While some view these strong forces of early bonding as putting a lot of pressure on moms, you can practice viewing it as an opportunity to get a jump on deeply rooting your love into your child so you’ll have less work to do when he’s older. What do I mean by “less work”? If your child is infused at an early age with the knowing that he is loved and safe, he’ll be better able to handle difficult emotions throughout his adolescent years and beyond, be more adventurous (in an “eyes wide open” sort of way) in his life decisions, and feel more comfortable coming to you for guidance. Essentially, the teenage years won’t suck as much.
Bonding for Brain Cells
“Make Baby Smart” videos, classical music, baby sign language classes, mini-yoga, and so on — there’s a ball pit full of tools available to “turn your offspring into a future Noble Prize–winning astrophysicist.” But research is showing that the best way to raise your babe’s IQ, and potentially enhance the growth of her hippocampus (the region in the brain that is crucial for memory, reactions to stress, and learning) is tender-loving cuddles, and lots of them. Although bonding is a lifelong opportunity, your baby’s brain is busiest in the first two years of life; the processing of information, touch, and development of new skills puts Baby’s brain in hyperdrive. Nurturing this process with “in-the-moment” play, interaction, and caressing will strengthen the symphony of synapses taking place in Baby’s mind, helping her to reach optimal development.
Bonding for Health
Bonding is just as essential as meeting a baby’s physiological needs; it may even affect his physiological needs. Epigenetics — the study of how environmental factors, such as what you consume, how you deal with stress, whether you exercise, and what you breathe in, can physically alter certain genes, turning them “on” or “off” — has shown that how much TLC a baby receives can affect what signals that baby’s immature and confused bundle of nerves sends off.
The nurturing you provide through activities like skin-to-skin contact, talking, singing, dancing, cooing, and more will help your baby’s nerves send off more stable signals, which in turn support him in regulating his sensations of hunger, discomfort, sight, temperature fluctuations, discordant noises, and all the other crazy-new sensations he is being hit with. If your baby has to navigate all this newness without your comfort and guidance, the bombardment of these sensations can cause him immense stress, lowering his immunity. And cells remember — they remember the stress they were exposed to as newbies, which causes them to hold on to the lowered immunity well into adulthood.
Science backs up the belief that cuddling could minimize the occurrence of physical ailments caused by a weak immune system; premature babies who receive frequent touch gain weight and thrive more than premature babies who are lacking in skin-to-skin contact. These cuddled preemies tend to maintain better temperature control, breathe easier, have more stable heart rates, and have mamas who are able to keep up their milk production.
How to Bond With Your Baby
The best way to achieve these bonding-related health benefits is to “wear” Baby as much as possible, using a comfortable wrap or baby carrier. In addition to a strengthened immune system, Baby’s sense of balance and movement will be improved as she feels how you maintain your balance and move throughout the world. (Did you know babies who experience more carry time actually walk sooner than many babies who are left to their own devices?) And most baby carriers allow for hands-free breastfeeding; whipping out your boob and giving Baby a snack while strolling down the produce aisle is a strange kind of wonderful.
Excerpted from the book Feng Shui Mommy: Creating Balance and Harmony for Blissful Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood. Copyright ©2017 by Bailey Gaddis. Printed with permission from New World Library.
Image by Treefrog Photography
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