After nine months of growing inside mum’s womb, with her heartbeat a constant reassuring sound, it’s no wonder newborn babies instinctively crave closeness. A crying baby is soothed by being picked up, and studies have shown that babies who are carried more often cry less. By fulfilling the need for close contact, we are helping our babies feel safe and secure, while they get to grips with the new surrounding world.
Going from a small, dark, enclosed environment to a huge, bright and open one is an overwhelming change, so by keeping your infant close to you, you can help make that change easier. It can sometimes help to think of the newborn stage as a kind of “fourth trimester,” in which your baby is slowly making the transition into the world, but still needs to be close to you as much as possible, for safety and reassurance.
Practical Ways to Increase Close Contact
Skin to Skin Contact: When your baby is born, hold her against your chest with a blanket covering you both. This helps to regulate baby’s temperature, while also calming her and allowing you to you bond. Ensure you write in your birth plan that you would like skin to skin with your baby as soon as possible, this is especially important if you are breastfeeding as close contact helps to stimulate your baby’s feeding instinct and thus your milk supply. Skin to skin isn’t just for newborns and can be repeated at home as your baby grows in her first year or so as it’s a great way to calm and soothe an overtired or fussy little one.
Carry your Baby in a Sling or Carrier: Babywearing is the perfect way to satisfy your baby’s need for closeness and have your hands free to get on with things at the same time. Babywearing is for toddlers, too, and can be particularly helpful for calming tantrums. If you choose a good quality, supportive sling, even toddlers will feel weightless.
Sleep close to your baby: It’s recommended that your baby sleeps in a cot in the same room as you for the first six months of her life, as this helps to reduce the risk of SIDS. By being in the same room you are also able to quickly attend to your baby’s nighttime needs.
Follow your Baby’s Cues: Mums quickly learn the language of their baby, including their ways of communicating what they need. Your baby will make it clear when she wants to be picked up so try to watch out for these cues. It will not only help your baby to relax but it will keep her calm so she will be less likely to become fussy or cry.
Remember that keeping baby close is not just for mums, it’s a great way for dads to bond too and skin to skin and babywearing with dad are just as soothing for little ones, as well as being a great way for dads and their babies to bond.