Forming a strong, loving bond with you and your partner is important for your baby to encourage normal brain development and growth. There are lots of ways in which you can build this relationship, even before your baby is born.
Connecting with your growing baby
We now know that forming a relationship with your baby during pregnancy helps to prepare for parenthood, and assists with a baby’s growth and brain development.
Pregnant mums are often busy with jobs or other children, but try to take some time each day to relax and think about your baby. Your baby will already recognise your voice, and the voice of anyone you are close to. You may notice him/her responding by moving or kicking when you talk or stroke your bump. Talk about your baby to your partner and other children.
Attending your regular antenatal appointments and looking after yourself whilst you are pregnant will help to ensure that your baby and you stay safe and well. Talk to your midwife about any worries you have, or telephone Triage on 01204 390612 if you think you need to be seen urgently.
Meeting your new baby
Holding your baby in skin to skin as soon as possible is a good way to calm you both after the birth, and releases hormones which encourage a close bond to develop between you. This should last as long as you want it to, but it is a good idea to keep your baby in skin to skin for at least an hour, or until after the first feed. Try to ensure that this first period of skin to skin is a quiet time for you to get to know your baby without any interruptions – there is no rush to dress your baby, he/she will be nice and warm next to you.
If you are unable to have your baby in skin to skin straight away, you will be supported to do this as soon as possible. In the meantime, Dads can have skin to skin with their baby if they wish.
You can continue to hold your baby in skin to skin contact as often as you like – it is a good way to calm a crying baby, keep a baby warm, or encourage feeding.
When your baby is born
Young babies need to form strong attachments with those who are close to them. When your baby feels safe and secure he/she has lower stress levels – this helps with brain development and allows him/her to grow into a confident child. You may feel pressured to develop routines or not to pick your baby up when he/she cries in case you spoil him. We now know that young babies cannot be spoilt by too much love and attention, and that soothing and comforting are good for them, particularly when they are crying. When a baby feels safe, secure and loved his/her stress levels reduce. Lower stress levels help the brain to develop normally to allow him/her to grow into a confident child and adult.
Babies learn and develop through interaction with you rather than through lots of toys and other distractions. You will notice that your baby loves to look at your face and listen to your voice. Feeding times are a good opportunity to cuddle and be close to your baby, however you choose to feed.
If you choose to bottle feed your baby, try to ensure that this is a time for lots of closeness and cuddles. See the section on responsive bottle feeding for more information.
Longer term care
Having a close relationship with your baby is important not just after birth but in the days/months that follow.
Babies love skin to skin at any time – it calms them and helps them to feel secure.
You cannot spoil your baby by too much cuddling or holding. Babies need to know that someone is there to comfort and care for them.
Babies are helped to grow and develop normally when they feel safe and secure and have plenty of close contact with those who care for them.
Caring for your baby at night
Becoming a parent can be challenging, particularly when you are tired and getting less sleep than you are used to. It can be reassuring to know that waking at night to feed is normal for a baby – they need to grow quickly in the first months of life, and their stomachs are very small, so feeding through both the day and the night is important. The vast majority of newborn babies are naturally more wakeful and feed more at night rather than in the day in the early days.
The safest place for your baby to sleep is in a cot or Moses basket in the same room as you, day or night.
Your midwife or health visitor will give you important information about keeping your baby safe at night. Please ask if you have not had this discussion or are unclear about aspects of the advice you are given.
The Unicef leaflet Caring for your baby at night gives further useful information on keeping your baby safe at night.
It is common to be tired in the early days after birth, and mothers can fall asleep unexpectedly while feeding or cuddling their baby. Many breastfeeding mothers choose to feed their baby lying down in bed. Please ask your midwife to show you positions which can make this safer. Extreme tiredness may affect your awareness of your baby, which may put him/her at risk if sharing a bed with you. Being excessively tired can increase the risks of overlaying or rolling onto the baby. Many of the stronger pain medicines used in labour, after surgery or a difficult birth can make you very drowsy, as can alcohol.
The following situations are also associated with increased risks to your baby, if they are in bed with you:
- Reduced ability to move yourself easily e.g. after having a caesarean section or epidural it can make it more difficult to keep your baby safe in your bed.
- Either you or your partner are smokers, even if you do not smoke in the same room as your baby.
- Use of drugs or medications which make you drowsy; this includes some of the painkillers you may be prescribed after the birth.
- You are so tired that you may not be aware of your baby and would not be woken easily.
- Avoid bed sharing in the early months if your baby was born prematurely.
- Avoid bed sharing if you or your baby has a fever.
- Space in the bed is limited, i.e. the mattress is not large enough to accommodate each of the individuals in the bed.
- Other children or pets share the bed.
- Falling asleep with your baby on a sofa greatly increases the risk of accidental suffocation.
If you are in hospital after you have had your baby there may be several of the above factors which apply to you. For this reason you will be advised not to sleep with your baby in bed with you. Staff will help you to settle your baby in the cot once he has fed and is asleep.
Safe Sleeping Leaflet – English [291kb] PDF
Safe Sleeping Leaflet – Arabic [373kb] PDF
Safe Sleeping Leaflet – Gujarati [296kb] PDF
Safe Sleeping Leaflet – Polish [352kb] PDF
Safe Sleeping Leaflet – Somali [229kb] PDF
Safe Sleeping Leaflet – Urdu [386kb] PDF