Whether you had hoped to breastfeed or have chosen not to, one of the myriad of mum-guilt thoughts is whether you can still bond with baby. The great news is it’s a resounding yes - no matter what your neighbour, stranger on the bus, or well-meaning Aunty suggests. Attachment is an emotional connection between parent and child and happens over days, weeks, months and years. You will be able to bond with your beautiful babe no matter how they are fed and build secure infant attachment through many ways - here are just a few suggestions.
We understand feeding can be super stressful - looking after a tiny human is the biggest responsibility of all! Once you find your groove (it does come!) try to enjoy feeding time. With every feed your baby feels security and satisfaction - breast or formula, they are the all-important hallmarks of attachment and emotional bonding. Hold them close just as you would breastfeeding - these moments are equally as precious.
This isn’t just for the delivery suite! The benefits of skin-to-skin are well-chronicled and are promoted for new dads too. Physical touch promotes the love hormone ‘oxytocin’ for both of you, which the body uses to decrease stress and also helps baby learn to regulate their own body temperature. Snuggle up in a bath (best with an extra set of hands to help) or spend a snuggly winter morning wrapped up in a cocoon of blankets together and you’ll remember those moments forever.
You’re tired. In fact, you’ve never known tiredness like it. You’re also tired of everyone telling you to sleep when the baby sleeps! And we all know those towels aren’t going to wash themselves. But in those moments you can, try and be present - look into your babies eyes when feeding them a bottle. Sing to them during nappy changes. They won’t judge your tone - they’re just happy to be with you. Wear your baby when doing a vacuum - they’ll probably be more intrigued by what you’re doing than that beautifully expensive baby gym you bought. While you’re carrying them - sniff your baby’s head. The reason you love that delicious baby smell? We’re hardwired to - and it’s another way our bodies produce the love hormone oxytocin.
(A note from the Department of Health: If you are able, breastfeeding provides the optimal balance of nutrition for your baby. A healthy diet is important during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. If you make the decision not to breastfeed, we recommend you seek advice from your GP or health professional. Introducing formula feeding can impact your breastmilk supply. Should you decide to use a breastmilk alternative, please take care to use the formula as directed.)