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Bonding with your baby

5-minute read

Key facts

  • Bonding with your baby is important for their growth and development.
  • Some parents find it easy to bond with their newborn baby, others find it takes more time.
  • Talking to your baby and playing with them can help build attachment.
  • You can't spoil a baby by giving them too much attention.
  • Responding to what your baby’s wants and needs will build their trust in you and help them feel confident.

Your child’s development is shaped by how they bond with you when they are a baby.

Having a nurturing relationship with your baby and responding to their needs provides a foundation for learning and helps them develop good relationships as they grow.

How do babies form bonds?

A bond between a baby and their caregiver is a strong emotional and physical connection. Bonding with your baby is important.

It helps to make hormones and chemicals in the brain that help the baby’s brain to grow. Bonding also helps make connections between brain cells in your baby’s brain. These help your baby:

  • learn
  • grow
  • develop their sense of identity
  • manage their emotions

Newborns don't know what they need. They have to be helped by a caregiver, who should:

  • calmly respond to their physical needs
  • give them plenty of love

Who do babies get attached to?

Babies usually attach to their main caregiver. They can also bond with other people.

It's usual for a baby to attach to the person who gave birth to them. From about week 31 in the womb, a baby can recognise and be soothed by your voice. By the time they're born, newborns can even recognise some sounds of your native language.

Your partner, grandparents and key childcare workers can also bond with your baby. This is important if:

  • you are finding it hard to form a bond with your baby
  • you have a mental or physical illness such as postnatal depression
  • there is a reason that you can't pay full attention to your baby

If your baby bonds with other important people, they will not be less attached to you. Making bonds helps your baby to learn about being close to people.

How do I bond with my baby?

When you respond to your newborn's needs, you will probably start seeing behaviour or signals that show that they are attached to you. These will depend on their age and level of development. Some signs could include:

  • making eye contact with you
  • smiling, cooing, laughing or making other noises directed at you
  • holding out their arms to you
  • crawling after you
  • copying you
  • crying for what they need while looking at you
  • looking interested in something you're doing

Responding to your baby

You can't spoil a baby by giving them too much attention. They need you to help them with the things they can't do for themselves. These things include:

Responding to what they want and need will help them feel confident to seek support from you.

If you gave birth to your child, your body will react when they cry. You may feel anxious if you can't respond to your baby straight away. If you can see that your baby has everything they need and are safe, don’t worry. When you're with your baby again, calmly soothe and comfort them.

Ways to bond with your baby

Here are some bonding techniques you can try:

  • Learn to read your baby's cues and signals to you and let your baby know you understand.
  • Copy your baby's noises, then wait for your baby to respond before continuing.
  • Once you have learned what your baby likes, do it regularly.
  • Start new activities gently, rather than abruptly, and talk calmly about what you're doing.
  • Hold your baby on the left side of your chest, so they can hear your heartbeat.
  • Smile and laugh while looking into your baby's eyes.
  • Talk, sing, read books and play simple games together.

Physical contact with your baby is important for bonding, such as:

What if I'm not bonding with my baby?

A bond can feel like a huge feeling of love and protectiveness. Some parents feel an instant connection to their baby, within the first 24 hours after birth. But some parents don’t.

Don't worry if you don't feel a bond straight away. Relationships take time to grow. Don't put extra pressure on yourself. You may find that it takes you days, weeks, or even months to bond with your baby.

Talking regularly with family members and friends can help. Not having a strong, initial bond does not mean you're not a 'natural' parent.

Postnatal depression can interfere with bonding. If you think you may be experiencing postnatal depression, talk to your doctor or another healthcare professional, like a child health nurse.

Resources and support

For more information and advice about bonding with your baby, you can:

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: May 2023

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Need more information?

First 1000 days: conception to two years | Raising Children Network

The first 1000 days of life are key to lifelong health and wellbeing.

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Bonding and attachment: newborns | Raising Children Network

Bonding with newborns happens when you respond consistently to your baby with love, warmth and care. Bonding and attachment are vital to baby development.

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NICU bonding with sick or premature babies | Raising Children Network

Bonding is important for sick or premature babies in the NICU. It helps them feel secure and develop. You can bond through touch, song, play and daily care.

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Bonding with your kids | Support For Fathers

Bonding with your kids. Support For Fathers, Fatherhood and Family Relationship Support. Relationships Australia Victoria RAV. Fatherhood Resources Library.

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Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

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