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7 Ways to Bond With Your Baby

Early in our parenting career, a friend said to my wife, Martha, "It must be nice to be married to a pediatrician since he knows all about babies." Martha astutely responded, "Actually, he mainly knows how to take care of sick babies."

She was right: I had been well-trained in treating physical illnesses but had little experience in promoting emotional wellness. So I turned my office into sort of an experimental laboratory, watching those parents who seemed to enjoy their babies most and, admittedly, whose children I enjoyed most. After 10 years of observations, I came up with the concept of attachment parenting (AP), a high-touch, high-response style of parenting that I believe brings out the best in both you and your baby. Think of it this way: If you and your newborn were on a secluded island -- without the guidance of baby books, pediatricians or your mother-in-law -- and you had only your basic maternal instincts to guide you, I think AP is what you would instinctively do.

Attachment parenting is actually a simple concept: By developing a loving, connected relationship based on learning to read and respond to your baby's needs -- I call it getting behind the eyes of your baby -- you can raise a child who is confident and caring, and who has a solid foundation for becoming an assured, empathetic adult. To help parents learn to heed their natural instincts and incorporate AP into their everyday lives, I've developed seven attachment tools, which I call the Baby B's.

1. The first few weeks of your baby's life help set the stage for your relationship. I recommend that parents spend as much time in skin-to-skin and eye-to-eye contact as possible -- what I call birth bonding -- after all, cuddling with your brand-new baby is one of the richest rewards of parenthood. If medical complications disrupt this attachment time, don't despair. Birth bonding isn't like Super Glue; it's the start of a lifelong process. As the most valuable member of your baby's medical team, you can still find ways to connect with your newborn through your touch, your voice and your milk.

2. Breastfeed as often and as long as possible. Besides providing your baby with nature's perfect milk, it's an exercise in baby reading. The intimate contact promotes bonding by teaching you to read your baby's facial expressions and sense her body language, while the very act of nursing teaches baby that you are a source of care and comfort she can trust. If a medical or lifestyle complication prevents you from breastfeeding, you can make bottle-feeding a time of high touch and high communication too. Bottle-feeding also gives dad a chance to bond with baby in a caring, giving way. Whatever the method, think of feeding time as an opportunity for connecting and communicating in addition to delivering nourishment.