Bonding helps parents and babies feel good.

Mother-Child Bonding Vs. Father-Child Bonding

by MollyAnne Cerreta Smith

Bonding refers to the deep connection that babies form with their parents. The bond parents feel with their children helps moms and dads unconditionally care for them. The initial bonding between babies and their mothers and fathers takes shape in different ways, though both are critical toward helping babies feel a sense of security and form positive self esteem, according to Nemours Children's Health System's website, "KidsHealth." Mothers' and fathers' ways of bonding are different, but both begin before baby arrives and continues after birth.

1. Mother-Child Bonding

Mother-child bonding begins while the baby is in the womb, but hits a critical stage during labor. According to Linda Palmer's article "The Chemistry of Attachment," when the baby travels through the birth canal, oxytocin -- often called the bonding or love hormone -- is heightened for both the mother and baby. Bonding continues when moms are reunited with their newborns after birth. Because a mother carries her baby for nine months and has the opportunity to breastfeed, her role is often designated as baby's primary caregiver.

2. Tips for Mother-Child Bonding

Mother-child bonding is generally immediate and often occurs quite naturally right after birth if mom holds or starts nursing baby right away, according to "KidsHealth." The bonding continues during the mother's caregiving duties with simple things like soothing touches, nursing, feeding, bathing and changing baby. In addition, a new mom can make special time to bond with her baby outside of the caregiver role by rocking him, singing or reading to him, lying with him skin-to-skin and making close eye contact.

3. Father-Child Bonding

Many dads struggle to find their role as a new parent, since the caregiving duties often fall to mom, particularly when it comes to feeding if the mother is exclusively nursing. However, dad's role in the baby's life is just as important as mom's and it begins just as early. In "The Dad Factor," researcher Richard Fletcher of the University of Newcastle explains that the way a father interacts with his baby can literally shape the structure of the child's brain.

4. Tips for Father-Child Bonding

According to Fletcher, familiarizing the baby with the father's voice can begin while the baby is in utero and can help the baby recognize dad's voice just hours after birth. Dads can begin talking to, reading to and singing songs to the baby in the womb. Once the baby is born, busy dads should make time each day to spend with the baby, separate from the mother's time with the baby. Dad can enjoy skin-to-skin contact -- during which he and baby can also enjoy the release of oxytocin -- and eye-to-eye contact. Dad-child bonding can also occur while the father bottle feeds, bathes, changes or rocks the baby.

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