We’ve all probably heard of the maternal bond, but did you know there are benefits far beyond just soaking up those first, sweet months?

Babies who bond with their parents are more likely to grow into confident, resilient adults. For parents, bonding with your baby may alleviate stress and help you navigate the early, exhausting times of caring for a little one.

But how do you do it?  Here are a few tips:

Hold your baby frequently. Whether you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding, hold your baby close and make eye contact at feeding times.  Listen to her heartbeat, feel her warmth, and let her feel yours. Carrying her in a sling or carrier rather than using a stroller gives an extra opportunity to get close and bond. Also, is there anything more peaceful than gazing at a dozing baby? Wait a few minutes before laying her down if she’s fallen asleep in your arms to really enjoy this life you’re nurturing.

Respond to crying.  Let’s be honest, most of the time we may not understand why a baby is crying. Your immediate and loving response, however, makes him feel warm and safe.  Pick him up, hold him close, make eye contact, and talk to him in soothing tones so he knows you’re there.

Be deliberate.  Putting your phone away to focus on your baby’s needs and how she is communicating can be so helpful when establishing a bond. Listen to the sounds she makes or give her a gentle massage, then take those quiet moments to also focus on your own breathing.

Talk and sing to your baby.  This isn’t American Idol, so don’t worry about your singing voice! Your baby doesn’t care if you can reach the high notes – he just loves to hear the voice he recognizes from his time in utero. Even in these early months before they understand language, your tone of loving reassurance can calm and soothe you both.

As you can see, there is no single or right way to bond with your baby.  It’s is all about responding to their specific needs in a loving, soothing, and fun manner.

And finally, don’t get frustrated if bonding doesn’t feel immediate. It sometimes takes a little longer than expected, especially if you are working or have older children. Give yourself grace and do your best just to enjoy these earliest moments together!