29 Little Ways to Bond With Your Baby

Snuggling, playing, and even making goo-goo eyes at your baby are all sweet ways to bond—and are keys to healthy infant development.

Mom Bonding with Baby
Photo: Parents Magazine

Ever notice how your baby's beautiful face—those chubby cheeks and sparkly eyes and that mischievous smile—is somehow more fascinating to watch than even the most Oscar-winning blockbuster? That's no coincidence. The two of you are hardwired to thoroughly enjoy each other's company. And if you follow your instincts and develop a great rapport now, you could set your baby up for a lifetime of stellar relationships.

In one study, babies who were securely attached to their parent at 12 months old (they turned to them for comfort when exploring an unfamiliar place) were more likely in their early 20s to come out of an argument still feeling connected to their partner. "The results of this research suggest that our ability to love, trust, and resolve conflict stems in part from how we're treated as infants," explains study author Jeff Simpson, Ph.D., adjunct professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota.

Loving your little one may also help safeguard their health. Research in Psychological Science suggests that attentive parents buffer kids against chronic stress, which can contribute to sleep disorders, digestive problems, memory impairment, depression, and obesity.

Ways to Bond With Your Baby

Bonding with your sweetie is mostly intuitive. "Attachment isn't about acting the 'correct' way," says Daniel Messinger, Ph.D., a child psychology professor at the University of Miami. "It's really about watching your baby and responding sensitively." So if you're both having fun, you're doing it right! Need a few pointers? Read on for 30 ways to bond with your baby.

Mixed Family Mom and Dad Playing With Baby On Bed
Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

1. Look into your baby's eyes during feedings

It's not just about nutrition—when your little one snuggles up against you to bottle feed or nurse, they hear your heartbeat, smell your scent, and are reassured by skin-to-skin contact. Be sure to look into your baby's eyes during feedings. Keeping eye contact will help your baby remember who you are and what you mean to them.

2. Give your baby a massage

The benefits of baby massage are staggering, and you'll feel like a superhero as your little one giggles and coos in delight.

3. Put your phone away

Right now, your family, friends, and co-workers will understand if it takes you a few hours to respond to a text. Take advantage by giving all that extra time to your little one.

4. Look in the mirror together

Your baby might not yet understand the concept of their reflection, but that's OK. Babies love looking at human faces and this is a great way to get them up close and personal with their own.

5. Listen to their heartbeat

Remember how excited you got to hear that sweet sound during sonograms? It can now be music to your ears whenever you want.

6. Sleep when your baby sleeps

Do not—we repeat, do not—feel guilty for hitting the sack at 7 p.m. A well-rested parent is a happy parent, and your baby will benefit most from that.

7. Do something sweet for your partner

Whether you realize it or not, your baby is picking up on the bond their parents share. Strengthen it by making a special dinner or taking the time to watch a movie together…just like old times!

8. Don't stress the milestones

It's tempting to scour the internet for info on when certain things will happen, but all babies develop at their own pace. And of course, always reach out to a trusted professional with any concerns you may have.

9. Go skin-to-skin

Whether you physically carried your baby or not, physical connection is crucial to a baby's development. Kangaroo care (a fancy name for simply being skin-to-skin) is a sweet—and practical—activity since it helps regulate baby's breathing and heart rate.

10. Respond to your baby's cries

Especially for the first three months of their life, your baby needs to know you're there for them—and picking them up when they cry helps build that trust. We promise you won't be spoiling them, and the time will come for sleep training if you choose to do that.

11. Become a superstar at swaddling

Proper swaddling can equal better sleep for baby—and you. Need we say more?

12. Take in their smell

Sadly, no one has yet figured out a way to bottle baby smell, so since you've got the good stuff right under your nose, sniff away. You'll find that your little one's scent is even more intoxicating than any other baby's.

13. Spend extra time in the glider

So your baby just fell asleep and you're feeling pretty confident that you can use your ninja moves to transfer them to the bassinet without waking them up. But before putting them down, feel free to rock back and forth together in the quiet, dark room. Any small moments can be ones of bonding!

14. Play dress-up

Let's face it, your heart melts a little every time you see your baby in a new outfit, right? No one will judge you if you put on a baby fashion show for your eyes only!

15. Keep a journal

Your baby's first year will whiz by in a blur, so record all the sweet memories you're making together.

16. Have a stuffed animal meet and greet

You'll have a blast watching your baby touch, smell, and even taste their little furry friends. Take notice as they pick a favorite—you'll eventually want to have that one on hand at bedtime.

17. Read aloud to your baby

It's never too early to tap into your baby's inner bookworm! Bonus points if you can put on a different voice for each character.

18. Breathe through a crying fit

All babies cry. But when you tense up and get frustrated, your baby will wail even more. Remind yourself even adults get upset; babies just need help coping.

19. Set a schedule

Babies are creatures of habit, so if you stick to a program your little one will feel more at ease. It'll also help your baby realize that you're the one making all the magic happen as you anticipate their feeding needs.

20. Go on a parent-and-baby date

Feeling adventurous? Hit up the zoo! Not so adventurous? The coffee shop around the corner works. Getting out with baby will remind you that the world is still spinning outside your little cocoon.

21. Come up with a pet name

You're the parent, so you can call your baby anything you want. Plus, the nickname you give will be like a little secret only you two share.

22. Make a playlist and channel your inner Beyonce

Pick five of your favorite tunes, play them for baby regularly, and sing along. You'll get a kick out of it when they start to bop along eventually, and it's always good for your baby to hear your voice.

23. Whip out your old baby photos

Maybe your baby has your eyes, your smile, or your ringlets. Whatever resemblance you find will make you feel instantly connected.

24. Relish trying new foods

When it's time to start solids (around 6 months), don't worry about the mess. Instead, focus on your baby's sweet enjoyment and exploration of the new tastes, textures, and smells they're being exposed to.

25. Get your silly on

Have a blast wiggling your eyebrows and sticking out your tongue, and prepare for your heart to explode when you finally get your baby to smile.

26. Leave the mess

Every day you'll have a choice: Tidy the house or cuddle with your baby on the couch. We say cuddle time is more important than a clean house!

27. ​Talk to your baby

Talk to your little one. Those early days of parenthood can be isolating, so feel free to talk it all out with your new little BFF. Chances are, they will love hearing the sound of your voice, and you'll feel like a weight was lifted. Can you say win-win?

28. Take pleasure in the poop

Yeah, we said it. The diaper change gets a bad rap, but you can make it fun by singing a happy song while you wipe, marveling at how cute your baby's bottom is, or coming up with a million different words for poop.

29. Plant a smooch on those cute baby lips

In a few years, your child may very well be going to wipe off your smooches and give you "that look." But right now? They are adorably helpless, so pucker up!​​​​​​

Mom Snuggling Baby

What If You Don’t Fall in Love at First Sight?

What happens if you look at this red-faced, wrinkled little stranger—who is bawling at the top of their lungs, to boot—and you don't feel overcome with love? Don't panic, says Nancy Mork, associate director at the Erikson Institute Fussy Baby Network in Chicago. That reaction is completely normal. "So many parents have this expectation that they will instantly fall in love with their baby," she says. "If that doesn't happen, they feel they've failed."

But countless parents feel emotionally underwhelmed in the early newborn days. "Many parents struggle to build a relationship with a newborn who can barely make eye contact, let alone communicate in a way to build a close relationship," says Chuck Schaeffer, Ph.D., a New York City–based reproductive psychologist and fatherhood expert.

Rest assured: There is no one right way to bond with your baby. "As long as you're having fun and feeling happy around your kid, they will feel happy and safe, and bonding will naturally occur."

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