It’s what you’ve spent the last nine months waiting for – meeting and getting to know your baby!
Your baby can see in black, white and grey from the moment she is born, but she finds it difficult to focus on anything more than about 25cm away. She can see your face when you hold her in your arms and she may even hold your gaze for a few moments.
She can also hear and be startled by loud noises. Babies seem to like soft voices best. Your baby will recognise your voice, and speaking to her will help develop a two-way relationship, which is important for her future social skills. It doesn’t matter what you say but your baby will respond best to a gentle sing song voice.
She can grasp. Try touching the palm of her hand or stroking her feet. Play and communicate with your baby as much as you can; talk to her, smile at her, laugh with her and watch her reactions develop.
Your baby can smell – she’ll recognise the smell of your body and that makes her feel secure. After your baby is born, have skin-to-skin contact first, and feed your baby, before you have a shower.
Most of all, she’ll love being cuddled close to you because she’s been used to being in a confined space in the womb, and this makes her feel safe. You’ll enjoy it too!
How you may feel
New parents can react in different ways. Some may fall ‘head-over-heels in love’ with their baby straightaway. For others, it may take a bit longer. You will probably be both excited and exhausted and it may take a while to get used to your new baby and to figure out everything she wants and needs.
Partners may feel a bit left out at this point, especially if they are leaving mum and baby in the hospital to go home. But it’s important to involve your partner in supporting you, as well as getting to know the newest member of the family.
How your baby looks
At first she may look a bit odd! She may look squashed, wrinkly and even bruised from the birth. She may have ‘stork marks’ – red markings which disappear within a few days. Possibly her hands and feet will look blueish. This is all perfectly normal.
Within the next few days, her skin will smooth out a little, her head will become rounder and the vernix (the creamy white substance that protected her skin in the womb) will disappear.
Bonding with your baby
What does bonding mean? Child experts describe bonding as the very intense feelings of attachment you develop for your baby. You may feel an almost overwhelming sense of love and affection – and a strong desire to care for and protect her. For some mums (and dads) this can happen straightaway. For others it can take days, or even weeks.
Bonding is a very individual experience and you shouldn’t worry if it doesn’t happen immediately. Remember that your baby is a completely new person, and however cute she is, it takes time to get to know her. True parent-child bonding develops and strengthens through caring for your baby every day. You’ll find that your feelings towards her deepen over time.
Touch is incredibly important for babies, skin-to-skin contact is a lovely way to say hello and to start to get to know your baby. That’s why your baby is placed on your tummy as soon as possible after she is born. This skin-to-skin contact not only helps you and your baby to bond, but can comfort her when she is upset. Remember that your baby loves to be touched and that it’s a critical part of her emotional growth and development.
For both parents, the main thing is to get used to looking after your new baby – being close to her, talking to her, holding and cuddling her. This increases your confidence as a parent and also gives your baby the best emotional start in life.
This early relationship lays a very important foundation for your baby’s wellbeing and development. Babies who have a secure bond with their parent(s) usually go on to be more confident children.
Every baby is different. Contact your midwife or health visitor if you have concerns.