Bonding and attachment

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Bonding and attachment is about always responding to your baby’s needs with love, warmth and care. It’s about the things you do together, and the way you make them feel. Strong attachments with special, trusted people create the best conditions for your baby’s healthy growth and development.

How to bond with your baby

You can do things with your newborn from birth to strengthen your attachment. For example:

  • Regularly touch and cuddle your baby. Try rocking them or holding them against you, skin on skin. Or stroke their skin gently when you change their nappy or bath them.
  • Respond to crying. You might not always be able to tell why your newborn is crying. But by responding, you’re helping them to feel safe.
  • Look your newborn in the eyes while you talk and sing, and make facial expressions. This helps your baby learn to recognise the sound of your voice. This will also help them learn the connection between words and feelings.

As your baby gets older, your bond continues to strengthen when you respond to their need for connection and new experiences that stimulate their brain. Try these ideas:

  • Show you’re listening when your baby makes noises. Try smiling, nodding, widening your eyes, and lifting your eyebrows. You can also say things like, ‘What did you say?’ or ‘Aren’t you talking well!’ This all encourages your baby to keep communicating.
  • Give your baby chances to succeed and make good things happen. For example, you could hold a rattle close to them so they can hit it and make a noise.
  • Play peekaboo with your baby by hiding your face behind your hands, then popping out with a smile. This helps them understand that you still exist, even when they can’t see you.

Understanding your baby’s bonding and attachment behaviour

Your newborn uses body language to tell you when they needs something – for example, they might cry when they need a feed or a nappy change. They’ll also use body language to show you when they wants to connect with you and strengthen your bond. For example, they might smile at you, or make eye contact.

An older baby might grunt or squeal to get your attention. They’ll also laugh, coo or say words like ‘ah-goo’. Eventually they’ll crawl after you, or put up their arms when they wants to be picked up.

When your baby needs a break from attention, or perhaps a different, gentler approach, they might look away, try to pull away or cry.

When you learn to ‘read’ your baby’s messages and respond the right way, it encourages them to communicate more. This is good for your bond and also helps them learn about communication, behaviour and emotions.

When bonding and attachment isn’t easy

You might have bonded with your baby the first time you saw them. But it’s OK and normal if you didn’t feel an instant connection. Bonding and attachment can sometimes take weeks or months of getting to know and understand your baby.

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