Ways to Bond With Your Baby That Do Not Involve Breastfeeding
"I want to breastfeed my baby because of the bond."
I'm not going to argue that there is a bond that is forged between mother and baby by breastfeeding. But I've also seen an overwhelming amount of moms either posting on social media or confiding in me about the guilt they feel when their breastfeeding relationship comes to an end sooner than they had wished. "How will I bond with my baby if I can't breastfeed?"
There is more than one way to bond with your baby.
You are not a failure as a mother if you do not breastfeed. Breastfeeding can be a difficult journey for some, and especially so if you do not have support to continue. Your child will not grow up to be a sociopath because you stopped breastfeeding - or chose not to breastfeed altogether, for that matter. That's a lot of pressure to put on yourself that first year of your baby's life!
I want to relieve that guilt, stress, undue pressure, that you're putting on yourself. So here are some ways that you can bond with your baby that does not involve breastfeeding!
1. Talk to your baby
Talking to your baby and pretending to understand their babbles is vital to their brain development and growing social skills! This is a skill that will serve to grow your bond with your child from birth through adulthood.
Playing with your baby can seem pointless when they're so tiny and don't laugh yet - but there are important things that happen when you play with your baby. Your baby is watching your facial expressions and is learning to mimic them, you are guiding their body movements and they are exercising their little muscles, and you are creating a safe and happy atmosphere between you and your little one. Bonding is happening!
3. Do skin-to-skin with your baby
Holding your baby against your chest while they are wearing nothing except a diaper is a wonderful way to bond with your baby! Because guess what important hormone is coming into to play here? Yep, oxytocin - the love hormone! This can also include massaging your baby.
4. Wear your baby
Baby-wearing isn't just for the attachment parents or crunchy moms, yo! Baby-wearing has become quite mainstream because the options are wide and have become very user-friendly! You don't have to navigate that obnoxious wrap that's 15 ft long if that isn't your jam - you can go for an Ergo or Tula with a newborn insert and your life is easy again. That being said, wearing your baby is a great way to get some face-to-face time with them and talk to them as you go about your daily routine. See also: skin-to-skin.
5. Feed your baby
Yeah, I know I said "that does not involve breastfeeding" but there are more ways to feed your baby. I hear breastfeeding mothers say all.the.time "I need to pump so my partner can bottle-feed the baby and have a chance to bond!" Guess what? You can also bond with your baby by bottle-feeding your baby! You can maintain eye contact, do skin-to-skin AND talk to your baby while you bottle-feed - the same things you do while breastfeeding. This also frees you up from being the sole-food-provider and gives you a chance to allow other people to care for your baby!
One of the best things about everything on this list is: you and your partner can both do them!
I hope this list provides some reassurance to you that your choices are not going to ruin your relationship and that there is not only one right way to parent your child. The only right way is the way that works for you and your family!