I would have breastfed my son Elijah forever. Okay, maybe not forever, but a looooong time. During the first months of his life, nursing was a wonderful bonding time (and one of the only quiet and peaceful times in our day). Even before our son was born, my husband and I knew we would be adopting a little girl in the future, so I briefly entertained the idea that I would continue nursing and pumping until she arrived and then perhaps I would nurse her as well. That was, until Elijah weaned himself without a backward glance at 15 months. Now I have to wonder, when breastfeeding isn't an option, how can mothers reap the same baby bonding benefits?
For thousands of women, breastfeeding is not a option, and that applies to many more than those of us who have adopted a child. Due to breast reductions, low milk supply, lack of support, or certain communicable diseases or medical conditions, some women who planned to breastfeed and wanted desperately to do so find that they are looking for other ways to bond. While we at Inhabitots believe “breast is best,” but since we’re here to provide support for parents and ideas for making their lives better and greener with baby we can also tell you that there are a million ways to be a great parent. So if you can’t breastfeed, don’t get hung up on what you aren’t able to do – there are too many other ways to love and nurture your baby! Read on to find out what you can do.
1. Kangaroo Care
Take a page from Dad’s bonding book and practice some skin-to-skin time (also called kangaroo care) with your little one. Laying bare-chested with your little one is a great way to give her some body-to-body warmth. The closeness will also allow her to hear your calming heartbeat. Newborns as young as a few days old can tell the difference between their parents’ faces and those of strangers so stay close!
Unless you live in a community very open to nudity, you probably can’t go around topless all day. Keep baby close in a sling or baby carrier. There are oodles of options today, including several in organic cotton, so try out different styles and see what works for you (and for baby). Not all babywearing options are created equal, so get some recommendations from other parents.
3. Infant Massage
Practice infant massage. Linked with everything from better sleep habits to increased weight gain in preemies, it’s a wonderful daily ritual to start in infancy and keep going throughout their childhood.
4. Cherish Every Feeding
Make feeding time a special time. Just because she is taking a bottle doesn’t mean you can’t make the actual feeding as intimate as possible. Hold her close while you feed her and consider giving her a special blankie or lovey to hold while you do so. By keeping feedings calm, quiet, and consistent, she’ll associate you with the act of nourishment.
5. Zen Parenting
Keep calm and parent on! Whether you are changing her diapers, preparing her bottle, or snuggling her close, Baby will quickly understand that you are someone she can trust and count on to take care of her needs. Remaining calm in the face of stressful situations will help guide you through all your child’s challenging phases in infancy, toddlerhood, and beyond, so it’s a good skill to learn early on.
6. Create Rituals
Create other special rituals. Babies don’t do a whole lot in the first few days of their lives, besides eat and poop (some apparently sleep a lot, but mine didn’t so I can’t speak to this). But once they start looking around and noticing the world, you can find special bonding things to do with baby. Sing her the same lullabies as you rock her to sleep, help her hands explore the textures in soft baby books, and talk to her. A LOT. Even if you feel ridiculous. She will quickly begin associating you and your voice as a constant, loving presence in her life.
Lead image © Flickr user hkinuthia