Developing a relationship with your baby

The early relationship you, your partner and family have with your baby is very important. It helps lay the foundations for who they will be and their relationships with other people

How you care for them and respond to their needs helps shape the way their mind - and brain - develops.

Attachment

If you give your baby responsive care and lots of attention, it will help them manage their feelings and have safe and healthy relationships in the future. This is called a secure attachment.

Spending time together and getting to know each other is the perfect way to help your relationship grow and build a strong and close bond.

Keeping your baby close

New babies have a strong need to be close to you. Holding them, smiling, talking to and comforting them:

  • will help them to be happy babies and become more confident children and adults
  • releases hormones in you and helps you to feel calm, happy and confident

Keeping your baby safe

One of the purposes of attachment is to keep children safe.

Some parents love their children but can’t keep them consistently cared for and safe. If that happens it can affect attachment.

If you’re worried about your safety or your baby’s, tell someone you trust and ask for help.

Getting to know your baby

You and your baby start building a relationship even before they’re born, and after birth this speeds up. This is how your baby makes a secure attachment.

It’s a 2 way process. Your baby will quickly find ways to connect with you and tell you what they need.

Your baby will try to communicate with you in lots of ways. Watching your baby and taking cues from what they’re telling you helps you to understand each other.

As you get to know each other you’ll get better at understanding what they need. This will strengthen your relationship as they grow.

Bonding works both ways

Just as you are curious about your baby and what they’re like, your baby wants to get to know you and bond with you.

Don’t worry about doing everything right and trying to be the perfect parent. You'll be good enough just by being yourself.

Being a new parent can be busy and tiring. Try to make time each day to sit and enjoy watching your baby when they’re awake.

If you’re finding it hard to relax with them and you feel a bond isn’t growing, talk to your health visitor or family nurse.

Building a strong bond

There are many ways to build a strong bond with your baby. You can:

  • mirror what they're doing by copying their facial expressions
  • make noises back to them
  • sing and rhyme with your baby
  • play peek-a-boo, share a book or spend time chatting about pictures as they get older

How your baby will react to you

Babies love to look at faces rather than objects and are ready to interact with people from the start. They can focus best at about 20 cm, around the distance from your arms to their eyes when you’re holding them.

Your baby will:

  • recognise your voice
  • turn their face towards you 
  • know what you smell like

When you look, talk and smile at your baby you’re helping them learn how to interact with others.

More about spending time with your baby

Don't rush

Babies need time to work everything out. Take your time and:

  • pause and wait for a response - if you think baby isn’t interested, give them a bit more time to respond
  • make the most of the time you have with them
  • just be together and really focus on what they’re doing

Try to only use your phone or spend time on social media when they’re sleeping.

Crying

Sometimes babies cry and it’s important to respond and not leave them to cry. Going to your baby when they’re crying isn’t spoiling, it’s giving them the feelings of safety and security they need to grow and develop.

Some of the hardest moments when you’re a new parent can be when your baby isn’t behaving the way you would want them to, such as if they’re crying a lot. If you’re finding it hard to cope, speak to your health visitor, family nurse, a friend, or local support group.

More about managing crying

Your baby’s relationships with other people

The people who support you and your baby have a special role to play in the family.

Babies enjoy being with people who look different and have their own way of talking or communicating. Your partner and close members of the family can give your baby love and safety as well as different experiences.

Together you can help to make a rewarding life for them.

More about new babies and relationships

As your baby grows

Babies form a bond with their mothers, fathers, siblings and the other important people in their lives. Those bonds are really special.

In the early days and months, the people who support you will probably help in practical ways so you can focus on your baby.

As your baby grows they’ll need other people to take on new roles to:

  • play with them
  • teach them
  • give them different experiences

Getting support

Everyone wants to be the best parent they can be. Sometimes it’s easy to feel pressure to be perfect, bringing feelings of guilt, shame or worry.

Becoming a parent yourself can be more difficult if you had a difficult start in life or been emotionally or physically hurt by your parents. 

If you would like extra support your health visitor, family nurse or GP can help.

Don't be afraid to ask for help

Being pregnant and becoming a parent isn’t easy and you'll have ups and downs. Some parents find it hard to ask for help with their mental health. They worry people will think they can’t cope or their baby will be taken away.

Asking for help:

  • shows you know you need to look after yourself
  • means health professionals can work together to make sure you and your baby get the support you both need

It’s extremely unlikely that your baby would be taken away. You and your baby’s wellbeing is everyone’s priority.