Starting or growing a family is an exciting time in one’s life. It’s a time of love, growth, and most importantly change. Many think that the big changes only start once the baby is born, and while that may be true for the most part, changes to your life, routine, and mindset happen as soon as a positive line appears on a pregnancy test.
You start planning for the future, picking a name, decorating the nursery, and even planning further ahead – what will holidays look like? What kind of traditions do you want to start with your little one? All of this is an act of family bonding that begins well before the baby arrives. But what does that mean?
What does family bonding entail? And how can we encourage that special bond between parent and baby? Working in a femtech business that always wants the best for parents-to-be and their babies, I believe family bonding is the first and most solid foundation that needs to be strengthened right from the start.
What is Family Bonding?
Family bonding is the relationship and attachment that forms between parents and their babies. In practice, this bonding can look like spending time together, watching movies, or playing games, all in the hopes of fostering a familial relationship. And, while it may seem easier to grow the bond once kids are older, the act of bonding begins as early as conception.
It is this very bond that makes parents respond to their newborn’s cries in the middle of the night, and instinctively care for them in ways that may typically defy our nature, and allows us to get through the physical tolls like childbirth and sleep deprivation. In essence, family bonds are what allow parents to be aware of their child’s physical and emotional needs and give them the ability to respond to them in kind.
Why is Family Bonding Important?
Scientists are still learning about bonding, but what has been made clear so far is that family bonding is not only important but essential for the growth, development and well-being of babies. The foundation of a baby’s development is rooted in familial bonding which has lasting implications on their sense of self, mental health, and relationships with others.
The social, emotional, and cognitive development of infants is dependent on their relationship with their parents. Bonding gives babies a sense of security and positive self-esteem (source). Research has shown that neglect and a lack of love in infancy can lead to long-term implications on mental health, including anxiety and depression, and can result in learning and memory impairments (source).
Furthermore, relationships between parents and their children provide a baby’s first model for intimate relationships, and the lessons they learn will often be mimicked later in life (source). When a healthy relationship exists between parent and child, the child will grow up believing the world is a safe place, laying a healthy foundation for future growth.
The importance of family bonding cannot be understated. Research suggests that a lack of bonding can result in overall potential and happiness (source). Bonding is incredibly important for the baby in infancy, and as they grow and progress through life.
How to achieve Family Bonding in Utero
Many believe that bonding can only take place once the baby is born, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, research suggests that family bonding actually begins in utero. According to Carista Luminare-Rosen, founder and co-director of The Center for Creative Parenting, “prenates can see, hear, feel, remember, taste, and think before birth” (source).
As of 16 weeks, babies can hear, and therefore communication, such as talking or singing, can be an important tool in bonding with your baby before they arrive (source). This is also beneficial to babies as hearing the sound of your voice while in utero helps babies to bond. Touch is another incredibly important sense that babies rely on while in utero, and once they are born. Babies can respond to external stimuli such as rubbing or touching your bump, they can feel the touch and often kick back.
For obvious reasons, bonding in utero can feel much harder for dads, but not to be alarmed, there are several ways to get them involved as well. In addition to talking to, singing to, and touching the baby bump, dads can participate by attending appointments, participating in shopping trips, decorating the nursery, and purchasing baby items.
An important tool for bonding for both parents is imagining a future with your new baby. What does that future look like? What are some things you’re looking forward to? Sharing these talks with each other, and with the baby can be an incredibly intimate and exciting bonding time. However, it can be hard to picture a future with your little one if you don’t know if you’re imagining a little girl or a little boy.
Most gender detection ultrasounds happen between 18-22 weeks, at which point half the pregnancy has gone by. Luckily, due to the development of genetic testing technology, a baby’s gender can be detected as early as 7 weeks into pregnancy. As a Canadian Femtech company pioneering in providing at-home baby gender detection tests, we believe that the sooner the parents know their baby’s gender, the better they will get on the way to bonding with their baby, and imagining their future as a family.
Is it normal that I don’t feel bonded to my baby?
Yes, it is completely normal to not feel bonded to your baby in utero. In fact, 20% of new parents feel no real emotional attachment to their newborns in the hours after delivery (source). While babies feel bonded right away, it may take new parents, weeks or months to feel an innate attachment to their little one. The act of caring for your new baby, and learning who they are can help to strengthen and grow the bond between parent and child. That being said, If a few months have gone by, and you still don’t feel an attachment to your baby, or you are worried about other feelings of rage, depression or anxiety, speak to a healthcare practitioner.
Family bonding is an important part of starting or growing a family. It lays the foundation for a happy, successful future for your little one, and for a strong intimate bond between parent and child. H. Jackson Brown Jr. said, “the best preparation for tomorrow, is doing your best today”.
Dany Sabraoui, co-CEO at EarlyReveal – a Canadian Femtech company providing Canada-first and fastest prenatal at-home testing kit. The tests help women detect their baby’s gender as early as 7 weeks of pregnancy, with results being delivered in 72 hours.