Breastfeeding and Bonding
Throughout your pregnancy, the anticipation of meeting your new baby continues to grow with each day. It overcomes all of your worries, anxieties, fears, and doubts and slowly becomes the thing at the forefront of your mind. When the wait is over, it’s one of the best moments of your entire life.
After your delivery, whether it’s your first baby or your fifth, the first few weeks are magical. Yes, there are a number of new stressors that accompany a newborn, but the bonding, warmth, and love that you experience makes everything worth it.
One of the best ways to promote your new bond with your baby is through breastfeeding. Breastfeeding, while providing unbeatable nourishment to your newborn in those first few months, is by far the best way to strengthen the bond between a mother and her baby. You’re providing the comfort of skin-to-skin contact while showing your baby that you are there to care for them, no matter what.
Unfortunately, breastfeeding isn’t always easy. If you’re struggling, it seems easier to just throw in the towel and switch to formula. Rather than missing out on the benefits of breastfeeding, consider consulting a latching professional and continue to work at it. Stay calm, try new positions, and don’t give up. The results are well worth the effort that it takes.
In case you need more convincing—and to give you more information in general—we wanted to dive deeper into the magical ways that breastfeeding helps to promote bonding with your newborn.
How Does Breastfeeding Promote Bonding?
There are a number of ways that breastfeeding helps encourage bonding between you and your new baby. Primarily, it revolves around the psychological need that’s filled when you provide the comfort, closeness, and nourishment to your newborn. Breastfeeding releases a number of different hormones—from mom and baby—that promote mothering behaviors and the formation of a strong bond.
It’s not just the act of feeding, or the milk itself, that helps build a bond. The overall closeness that is needed to breastfeed increases happiness and provides reassurance of their dependency on you.
One of the main reasons that breastfeeding promotes bonding is because of the large amount of skin-to-skin contact that is involved. Skin-to-skin contact increases the levels of oxytocin in both mom and baby, which in turn increases positive hormonal interactions.
The main benefit of immediate skin-to-skin contact revolves around the production of hormones. When it occurs within an hour of birth, it helps your baby produce the natural reflexes needed to find your nipple and begin breastfeeding.
Oxytocin is often referred to as the “love hormone” and is a hormone that provides a number of benefits. First and foremost, oxytocin helps to enhance your overall mothering behaviors and instincts. This means that you’ll be more attuned to your baby’s needs and you’ll learn to respond faster and more efficiently to their behaviors. Oxytocin also has an anti-anxiety effect that helps promote comfort and closeness.
Skin-to-skin contact is known to decrease anxiety, promote a sense of calming, increase overall happiness, normalize temperature, heart rate, and even breathing. All of these benefits provide an overarching sense of trust and nourishment, which are building blocks to a strong bond.
The calming hormones passed between mom and baby during breastfeeding help illicit a sense of sleepiness. This sense of calming that emanates from the hormones being released builds trust and increases the comforting bond between a mother and her baby.
Since newborns are very soothed by the act of breastfeeding, it is a great way to help decrease distress that occurs every now and then. When your baby gets upset, breastfeeding helps to comfort and calm them down. This builds a strong bond and further encourages a closeness that only arises from breastfeeding. The soothing act of breastfeeding reduces pain and promotes healing.
Scent and Voice Recognition
Since breastfeeding occurs in such close proximity, your baby will start to learn and recognize your unique scent. If you speak softly and soothing during feeding, breastfeeding also strengthens the voice bond that you’ve built while your baby was in the womb.
Over time, your baby will be able to easily differentiate your smell and will find comfort in the familiarity of it.
The ABCs of Breastfeeding
According to WebMD, there are three things that will help you master the art of breastfeeding. They are awareness, being patient, and comfort.
Awareness includes understanding the telltale signs that your baby shows when he or she is hungry. Newborns require a lot of nurturing in the first few weeks and will need to be fed almost constantly—around 8 to 12 times in a 24-hour period. While this will be intimidating at first, you’ll begin to learn your baby’s hunger cues, making it easier to tell when it’s time for a feeding.
Some common cues are when infants move their hands toward their mouths, make suckling noises, move their mouths, or move toward your breast. Try and catch these cues before they begin crying, which is an indication of extreme hunger.
Next, it’s important to remember to be patient. Let your baby tell you when they’re done nursing and stay calm if it takes a while for them to latch in the beginning. Soon, it will come natural to both of you. Expect to nurse for roughly 10 to 20 minutes on each breast during each feeding.
Finally, remember to give yourself a break. Think of breastfeeding with comfort in mind and create an oasis for relaxing. Doing so will help your feedings flow better and give you a little break from the fast-paced life that a newborn brings.
Additional Benefits of Breastfeeding
In addition to the unsurpassable amount of bonding that accompanies breastfeeding, there are a number of benefits for both mom and baby. Breastfeeding is a perfect way to establish a strong and healthy baseline for your baby.
- Breastfeeding builds your baby’s immune system to be stronger and more resistant against a number of infections, chronic illnesses, and diseases. Breast milk contains a number of antibodies, anti-viruses, anti-allergens, and anti-parasites, all of which promote a healthy and happy baby.
- The act of breastfeeding helps reduce the severity of many illnesses if they do occur. A baby who has been breastfeeding and gets sick with a fever will have a lower fever and recover faster than a baby who has not been breastfeeding. This is in part due to the antibodies that are transferred from mom to baby, but also due to the overall health benefits associated with breastfeeding.
- Breastfeeding lowers the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) by about half.
- Breastfeeding reduces the likelihood of mental health problems and addictive behaviors later in life.
- Babies, children, and adults who were breastfed have better long-term protection against inflammation, chronic illnesses, and even obesity. There is also scientific research showing that breastfeeding reduces the likelihood of your baby developing childhood cancers like leukiemia.
- Increased intelligence levels and improved cognitive development have been known to develop in breastfed babies as they age.
- Breastfeeding is an inexpensive way to feed your baby that promotes environmentally friendly choices. It’s practical, free, and helps save you tons of money on formula, doctor visits, and more.
There are a number of benefits that accompany breastfeeding, but the bond that forms is something that will last a lifetime. It’s a psychological closeness that helps show your baby the safety that your arms provide. Breastfeeding encourages understanding, love, protection, and an emotional closeness that will help them for years to come. If you are having difficulty with breastfeeding, contact a professional or talk to your doctor before giving up. There are a number of measures that can be taken to help encourage latching and are well worth looking in to. While breastfeeding is important, it’s also unrealistic for a new mother to do all the work. Luckily, the Affordable Care Act allows expectant mothers to receive an electric breast pump covered by their insurance provider! Visit Byram Healthcare today to browse our wide selection of manual and electric pumps.
If you have any heartwarming stories of your experience while breastfeeding, feel free to share them on our Facebook page! We love hearing from our readers and always welcome any tips, comments, concerns, or questions.