5 simple (but game-changing) ways to bond with your baby in the first year

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When we enter into this parenting game, we have a pretty clear idea of the type of parent we will be – or think we want to be. But the reality of parenting every day is that all bets are off and some days it’s simply about surviving. And that’s ok.

We often become parents thinking we will have this instant bond wash over us the moment we hold them in our arms or look into their eyes for the very first time. And for some of us that is exactly how it happens, while for others, this bond is formed over time. Both ways are perfectly normal – you’ve got a lifetime of loving them ahead of you so don’t stress about how you think this should go.

But either way, there are things we can do with our little ones every day to help nurture and strengthen this bond right from that first cuddle. Remember that even on those days when the washing is piling up, the kitchen is a disaster zone and the dog is pestering you for a walk – simply just being present with your baby is actually extremely productive and important (so don’t feel guilty sitting there and cuddling with them). 

In partnership with H&M, we asked parenting coach Genevieve Muir to share her 5 game-changing tips for bonding with your baby in the first year.

1. Catch the moments 

These are the moments that happen in the day-to-day care of your baby. It might be as simple as a shared giggle during a feed or a loving glance when you’re changing your baby. It might be skin to skin cuddles or simply just enjoying being present with your baby during bath time. 

They don’t have to be the big grand Insta-worthy moments (sure, those are great) but the magic is really in those little everyday moments where you can stop and connect – even if just for a precious few seconds.

2. Communication (allow their feelings and learn to understand your baby’s cry)

As parents, we need to learn to be ok when our babies cry. Their cry is made to pull at our heartstrings for their own survival – but learning that just because they are crying doesn’t mean we have to swoop in and fix it is key. It’s about telling our babies it’s okay to be with me when you’re happy, and also when you’re sad. 

We know that babies cry to communicate a need, so our job as parents is to figure out what that need is, and meet it. It might be as simple as a nappy change, a feed, a cuddle or sleep. But did you know that sometimes babies just cry to communicate an emotion? 

The world is so big and bright for our tiny newborns, and sometimes they just need to have a cry (just like we do!). In these cases, if we think it’s our job to fix or stop the cry, we may feel like we’re getting it wrong. If you feel like your baby’s crying, and you’ve tried everything your baby might be saying, “be here with me while I feel this.” When we can hold our babies and be okay with their crying we’re doing something called co-regulation. This makes them feel seen, heard and loved.

Tip: Don’t worry, learning to understand your baby’s cry takes time as you get to know each other – and it often happens without you even realising it!

3. Allow your baby to explore 

Allowing our babies to explore the world around them in a safe and secure environment starts from the very moment you bring them home from the hospital – and will, of course, evolve as they grow and become more independent. 

Your baby might be sitting on your lap, they might look up at the tree or the light and you might say, ‘Yeah, that’s the tree.’ Or as you walk them in the pram you might point out things along the way. By naming what you’re seeing together, your baby will feel supported in their own exploration once they are able to go seek it themselves. This is also a great way to encourage their language as well. 

4. Boundaries that are loving and kind

We can often think boundaries aren’t something that comes into parenting until much later in the game, and this is because boundaries often get a bad wrap. However, boundaries are one of the most loving things you can do for your child no matter their age. Boundaries help our children to feel safe and secure and help us to learn when to swoop in and take charge – and when to follow our baby’s lead. 

Boundaries are essential for our kids, and they are essential for parents, who are overwhelmed, exhausted and wondering if it’s meant to be THIS hard. Allow yourself to take that moment to yourself before you respond to your child – this will help you respond with a clearer mind which will ultimately help your baby.

5. No perfect parents!

Your baby doesn’t need perfection – but they just need YOU. Your baby doesn’t care about a clean house, having the best toys or an Insta-perfect nursery. These days there are so many *things* we feel we need to buy, order or schedule for our babies. And while there’s value in most of that stuff to some degree, the truth is, there’s nothing that they need more than YOU. Yep, simple old you….They need you to keep showing up, to keep trying and to keep loving them. 

You won’t always get it right, and that’s ok (and it’s actually good for your kids to see that too – because after all, that’s life). Some days will be harder than others, you might feel you don’t have anything left to give, and you’ll feel like you’re getting it all wrong… That #parentguilt creeps in – and you’ll worry ‘does my baby love me?’ We’ve all asked ourselves the same question. But the answer is YES! of course, they do. 

Remember that every day is a fresh start – just because you weren’t the parent you wanted to be yesterday doesn’t mean you can’t be today.

This is a paid partnership between Kiindred x H&M.

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