Parenting: The Importance of Bonding with Your Baby

We spend nine months (some less than that) physically connected to our mothers via the umbilical cord. Without this connection we wouldn’t even be here. When we are born and that connection disappears, a new, more meaningful one emerges. It is an emotional and psychological connection.

How important is that connection, that bonding?

‘Essential’. The bond that babies have with their mothers and fathers impacts and reflects in their whole life. This idea is so vast that most of us can’t wrap our minds around the fact that the way we connect with our children during those first years has a tremendous impact in their happiness, character, health, self-esteem, academic performance, relationships and growth.

Healthy bonding helps the parts of your baby’s brain responsible for interaction, communication and relationships to grow and develop. Babies who have a deep and loving bond with their mothers have a much better foundation in life than those who don’t. It has been found that the lack of bonding in infants can have a life-lasting effect on a child. Infants who don’t bond are more likely to become anxious and insecure. Bonding creates trust, love, self-confidence and a sense of belonging.

Children with positive and strong bonding with their parents tend to:

  • be more independent (not less),
  • have higher self-esteem,
  • develop better relationships,
  • be more emotionally balanced,
  • enjoy being with others,
  • rebound from disappointment, loss and failure, and
  • communicate more effectively

Contrary to popular belief, the more responsive you are to a baby’s needs, the less ‘spoiled’ he will be growing up. Being responsive does not mean picking up your baby every time he fusses; holding him all day long; or becoming someone you are not or doing things you don’t want to do. It just means understanding your baby’s needs, your baby’s cues and respond to those.

You can develop a healthy, positive bond with your baby even if you decide to go back to work, to hire a nanny, to take some ‘me time’, not to breastfeed, not to co-sleep, not to carry your baby… There are no set rules!

Here are some ideas on how you can develop a positive, loving and healthy bond with your child:

  • Love your baby, unconditionally. Accept your child completely and without restrictions, conditions or stipulations. Make sure that there is no spoken (or unspoken) message making your child feel or think that he has to be something other than what he is in order to be loved. Without unconditional love there can’t be healthy and positive bonding.
  • Know your baby. Each baby is different and the more you know your baby, the better you are going to meet his needs and the easier that bond will be established. Keep a journal and make notes on how your baby communicates with you, and how he responds when you communicate with him. You will soon know how to respond to your baby’s needs.
  • Touch your baby. This can mean kangaroo care when he’s a newborn; daily massages after bath time; cuddling while reading a book; or hugging him. The goal would be for your baby to grow, knowing that your arms are a safe place to fall back on and that they will always be there for him, to support him, but not constrict him.
  • Be present. Whatever you do, make sure you are present in the moment with your child, take time to connect with him, sense his love and let him feel your love.  You don’t need to do anything extravagant to show your baby you love him and you care. Get on the ground and play with him, make silly faces, dance, have fun with him, talk and listen to him… Let go the idea of being ridiculous, embarrassed, or perfect and just enjoy every second you spend with your child.

Every moment you spend with your baby can help create a strong, positive and healthy bond that will last a lifetime.

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Diana Gonzalez Blanco, B.B.A., M.B.A., is a Certified Youth, Parenting and Family Coach; a Baby and Toddler Sleep Expert; and founder of Smooth Parenting. Smooth Parenting is a baby & toddler sleep training consultancy and parenting coaching firm, that helps families around the world get a good night sleep and a peaceful, smooth and happy family life. Diana has an impressive track record of helping families teach their babies to sleep. Her approach to sleep training and parenting is gentle, progressive, effective, holds the wellbeing of the child first, and follows the guidelines provided by the American Association of Pediatrics.

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Top 3 Myths around On-Demand Feeding and Baby Sleep

I often come across moms and dads who think that choosing to feed their babies on-demand means that they won’t be able to have any kind of structure in their day, and that it is not possible for their babies to sleep through the night. I disagree with both ideas, and I would like to clarify some of the most common myths around on-demand breastfeeding (or bottle feeding) and baby sleep.

Myth #1 | Constant Feeding: Feeding on-demand means feeding every time my baby fusses or cries

Breastfeeding on demand—-also known as ‘feeding on cue’ and ‘baby-led feeding’ doesn’t mean that you have to feed your baby around the clock and every time he/she cries. Feeding on demand means responding with flexibility to your baby’s hunger cues. You feed your baby when he/she shows signs of hunger for as long as he/she desires to be fed.

Therefore, one of the first things you should do as a mom is to learn your baby’s cues. The only way your baby can communicate with you is crying, so you should listen to the different cries that your baby has and respond accordingly. Your baby will cry when he/she’s hungry, tired, overtired, bored, sad, gassy, uncomfortable, wet… and paying close attention you will learn the difference among those cries.

Common baby’s cues:
– Hunger: mouth movement, sucking, rooting, crying, fussing, and frantic head movements.
– Sleep: rubbing eyes, yawning, staring, crying, fussing, alertness, and whining.

My recommendation is to feed your baby on demand for the first weeks (1-6 weeks), while he/she is still a newborn; while you learn your baby’s cues. Once you know the difference, limit your feedings to when he/she is hungry and make sure you don’t use nursing as a soothing mechanism. If your baby is crying, but not showing signs of hunger then it is likely that something else is the problem.


Follow your baby’s cues and respond accordingly and make sure that you do not nurse every time your baby fusses, and he/she will develop healthy eating habits on his/her own. The same applies to your baby’s sleep patterns.


Myth #2 | Unpredictable and Unstructured Day: Feeding on-demand means ‘waiting for my baby to demand food’

As I suggested above, you should be ‘learning your baby’, tracking his natural feeding and sleeping patterns, so you know when to offer food and when not to. After the first few weeks of life, it is perfectly realistic to establish a feeding routine based on your baby’s cues.

Note that I said ‘routine’ (a regular order to the day) not ‘schedule’ (set times for set activities). The secret is to have a routine (a regular order to the day). Feeding on demand does not mean that you wait for your baby to ‘demand’ food. Once you learn your baby’s natural cycles and his/her cues, you can predict a certain routine for you and your baby.

Myth #3 | No Sleep: On-demand fed babies cannot sleep through the night until much later and wake up constantly

This one is right up my alley! Generally speaking, breastfed babies need to feed more often than bottle-fed babies. Breast milk is very rich in enzymes that aid digestion, requiring little digestive effort on the part of the infant, and therefore it is digested faster than formula or cow milk.

However, this doesn’t mean that an on-demand breastfed baby can’t sleep through the night or take proper naps. If you learn and follow your baby’s cues as I suggested before, your baby will get the right sleep consolidation. You will notice that your baby will nurse more right before bedtime, and that he/she will naturally consolidate his nighttime sleep before his/her 6th month of age. During the day, you will notice that the shorter catnaps consolidate into two long naps.

The best way to help him/her do this is by not offering food when you know your baby is not hungry. Don’t use nursing as a soothing mechanism, or your baby will learn exactly that and demand exactly that.

Believe that babies are made to sleep and eat naturally. We, as parents, only have to understand how they express their needs to avoid creating poor eating and sleep habits.

Baby Sleep Safety

We’d like to share with you some simple safety tips to have in mind when putting your baby to sleep for nights and naps. Many of them have been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS*.
  • Put your baby to sleep on his back
  • Keep your baby’s face clear of coverings
  • Do not leave loose bedding, pillows, or stuffed toys in the crib
  • Do not over-clothe your baby, avoid overheating
  • Use a safety-certified crib (JPMA certified)
  • Have a firm crib mattress
  • Don’t let your baby fall asleep on the sofa, or untied on a swing/ bouncy seat
  • Maintain an appropriate temperature on your baby’s room (68 – 72 F)
  • Improve the ventilation in your baby’s room
  • Avoid exposing your baby to tobacco smoke
  • Offer your baby a pacifier (under 12 months old)

Educate babysitters, day-care providers, grandparents, and everyone who cares for your baby about SIDS risk and the importance of observing the advice offered here.

* SIDS: Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the unexpected, sudden death of a child under age 1 in which an autopsy does not show an explainable cause of death. There are no symptoms. SIDS is the leading cause of death among infants 1 month to 1 year old. Though SIDS remains unpredictable, you can help reduce your infant’s risk.

    Sleep and Travel

    Baby sleep and travel is the number one question we received during holidays and vacations. Will travel ruin my baby’s sleep habits? Will he/she be able to maintain the schedule? Should we maintain the schedule or just let him/her ‘run wild’? How do we adjust the schedules when there’s a time difference? How do we handle his/her jet lag? Could you share some tips about baby and toddler sleep and travel?… These are only a few of the questions we received, so I’m going to try to answer all of them in this post.

    1. Try to book an overnight flight, as it will be easier to get your child to sleep on the plane.
    2. Definitely keep your schedule (at local time)! You can move it 1-2 hours up or down, but you should maintain your routines and structure while on vacation. For example, if you’re traveling to Southern Europe from the States, and your baby’s schedule in the States is 6am to 6pm; you might be able to move him to 7am-7pm or even 8am to 8pm.
    3. The first day at your destination, try to get as much sunlight as possible, as it will help your baby’s body set into the new time zone easier and faster.
    4. During the day, try to keep your child entertained and active. Exercise and play will wear him out and leave him ready for a good night sleep.
    5. Do the naps! Do not think that skipping the nap will help your baby sleep better and faster at night. That’s a common misconception, as they will get to their bedtime overtired and it will take them longer to fall asleep.
    6. During naps and night, make sure your baby’s room is dark; and continue doing your naptime and bedtime routines.
    7. Try to ‘recreate’ your child’s current enviroment as much as possible: blackout shades, favourite blanket, same pajamas, nightlight…
    8. Do not introduce bad habits or poor sleep associations. Do not rock your baby to sleep, let him play longer than normal, let him sleep on your bed, let him watch TV before bedtime… do not create bad habits that you do not allow at home, and that you will have to take away once your return.
    9. Feed your child at the usual mealtimes. Try to choose healthy, filling options, junk foods will only make the problem worse.
    10. Expect that it will take your baby between 2-5 days to adjust to the new time zone, especially if there’s more than 4 hours difference. Plan your stay and return accordingly.
    11. The adjustment on your return will be harder than on your way to your destination.
    12. Keep your calm, stay possitive and consistent and have plan beforehand. You should decide on your schedule (local time) and how you’re going to help your baby adjust to the new time zone, BEFORE leaving.

    We hope this information was useful, and we wish you a great family vacation!

    Risk of Too-Early Formal Sleep Training

    Although parents can start teaching babies healthy sleep habits from the begining, it is not advisable to follow any kind of formal sleep training method when the baby is too young. What’s too young? It depends on the baby! Most babies are ready to start formal sleep training at 4 months, and others aren’t until they’re 6 months old. That’s the perfect window 4-6 months.

    That doesn’t mean that up until they’re ready, parents can’t do anything. As we mentioned in our previous post, parents can start instilling good sleep habits and associations from day one.

    What are the risk to start a formal sleep training plan too early?

    • You will be fighting against nature:
      • During the early months of your baby’s life, he sleeps when he is tired, it’s really that simple. You can do very little to force a new baby to sleep when he doesn’t want to sleep, and conversely, you can do little to wake him up when he is sleeping soundly.
      • Newborns need to be fed every two to four hours — and sometimes more, since their tummies are very small and can’t hold food that last for longer.
      • Babies under 4 months don’t have the ability to sleep very long streches of time. Somewhere between 5 and 8 hours would be the maximum at that age.
    • Sleep training done before their cardiopulmonary control mechanisms are mature enough to handle prolonged deep sleep could be risky.
    • Sleep training done too soon might increase the risk of SIDS (While there is no scientific evidence that cry-it-out causes, many famous pediatricians -ie. Dr. Sears- believe there’s a correlation).

    Even though our sleep training methods are very gentle and don’t involve cry it out, we would not advice you to follow them before your baby is ready (4-6 months). Parents can learn how to make sleep training not necessary or easier by following a very simple plan for those first four months. Please contact us if you are interested in learning more about that plan.

    Best NURSERY to help your baby sleep

    The goal is for your baby’s nursery to be a calm, soothing place.

    The associations that your child has with the nursery, as mentioned in previous posts, should be positive.

    Here are some things that you can do to make your baby’s nursery more conducive to sleep:

    • Dark: try to keep your baby’s nursery dark while she’s sleeping. It does not have to be pitch black though; in fact, some kids might need a night-light to sleep between 18 months and 2 years old, when they start having nightmares. If you decide to leave a night-light make sure it’s not too bright, but gives enough light for your toddler to see his surroundings.
    • Quiet: nursery should be away from the main activity area of your home. You don’t need to be whispering around while your baby naps or sleeps, but she shouldn’t be exposed to loud noise while sleeping.
    • Crib: your crib should be comfortable and free of toys and blankets. Make sure your crib is JPMA certified.
    • Temperature: Room temperature is vital in creating a safe sleeping environment for your baby and should be maintained at 68-72°F to help reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
    • No TV, radio, dvd, phone… or other electronic devices or toys accessible to your child.

    The Importance of Sleep

    This weekend I came across this great article, explaining the importance of ‘sleep’ for children; and I thought I should share it.

    Good, Sound Sleep for Your Child

    Making sure your child gets good, sound sleep ensures he or she will have a sound foundation for proper mind and body development.

    Sleep on These

    Following are some observations from various studies illustrating some of the difficulties faced and the behavioral changes in children with sleep problems (from Wiessbluth’s Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and On Becoming Baby Wise, by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam, MD):

    • Children do not “outgrow” sleep problems; problems must be solved.
    • Children who sleep longer during the day have longer attention spans.
    • Babies who sleep less in the daytime appear more fitful and socially demanding, and they are less able to entertain or amuse themselves.
    • Toddlers who sleep more are more fun to be around, more sociable, and less demanding. Children who sleep less can behave somewhat like hyperactive children.
    • Small but constant deficits in sleep over time tend to have escalating and perhaps long-term effects on brain function.
    • Children with higher IQs — in every age group studied — slept longer.
    • For ADHD children, improvements in sleep dramatically improved peer relations and classroom performance.
    • Healthy sleep positively affects neurologic development and appears to be the right medicine for the prevention of many learning and behavioral problems.

    What Parents Can Do

    As parents, it is our responsibility to be sensitive to and protect our children’s sleep, just as we do their safety, just as we ensure that they regularly get breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We are primarily responsible for their sleep habits so it is important to start healthy ones early; it is much easier to instill good habits than correct bad ones.

    Infuse the importance of sleep with daily attention to it and you will likely have a happier, self-assured, less demanding, and more sociable child. And you just might get some more sleep yourself.

    Source: http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/good-sound-sleep-for-children?page=3