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Q: I heard that babies don't smile until six weeks. I'm sure she smiled at two weeks; Is this possible?
A: A baby's first social smile is thought to happen at around four to six weeks, although it may be seen earlier and dismissed as gas. However, from an early age a baby can imitate the facial gestures of parents by, for example, moving her tongue and widening her eyes, which may make parents think that she is smiling.

Most parents say they see their baby's first smile between six and eight weeks. This is an important milestone since it means they have interacted with their baby, which is very rewarding. Psychologist Steve Biddulph suggests that newborn boys make less eye contact and smile less than girls. This means that we have to make an extra effort to interact and chatter with boys, so that they grow up to be toddlers who can socialize as well as girls. If your baby does not smile by the time she is three months old, discuss this with your pediatrician.

Q: What is the bonding process and how can I encourage it?
A: Bonding is the attachment that develops between both parents and their baby. It makes parents want to shower their baby with love and to protect and nourish them, helps parents to get up in the middle of the night to feed their baby, and makes them attentive to their wide range of cries. It is beneficial for babies in promoting their security and self-esteem and is also believed to help a child's social and cognitive development. Bonding is easier if you aren't exhausted and, as at first, caring for a newborn can take all of your attention and energy, especially for a breast-feeding mother, it's helpful if fathers or friends can give a hand with everyday chores, as well as offer emotional support.

Breast-feeding can help with the bonding process, but there are lots of ways besides breast-feeding to bond with your baby. Touching and stroking your baby develops a bond, and talking and singing to her during feeding and playtime encourages your baby to respond to you, which helps you feel closer. Whether you're breast- or bottle-feeding, make eye contact during feedings and hold your baby close while you feed her. In some cases, for example if your baby is in a neonatal care unit, you may worry about not being able to bond. However, the staff will encourage you to touch and hold your baby and be involved in her care. If you are feeling uncomfortable with your feelings toward your baby, this may be an early indication of postpartum depression and it would be best to seek professional help.

Q: My partner doesn't feel as if he has bonded with our daughter yet. What can he do?
A: Although dads frequently yearn for closer contact with their babies, bonding frequently occurs on a different timetable for dads, partially because they don't have the early contact of breast-feeding that many mothers have. As a result, some men find that as your confidence grows, so does their uncertainty about their relationship with their baby. On a positive note, men today tend to spend significantly more time with their children than fathers of past generations did.

Talk to your partner about what you like about his interaction with your baby. It's good for fathers to realize that bonding with their baby isn't a matter of being another mom and, in many cases, dads share special activities with their infants and develop their own unique relationships, offering fatherly qualities that the mother cannot provide. Both parents benefit greatly when they can support and encourage each another. Early bonding activities that you could encourage your partner to get involved in include bottle-feeding your baby (doing a night feeding can help give you a rest); diaper changing; bathing and massaging; going out for a walk with either a baby carrier or a carriage; or simply enjoying some playtime with your baby. Bonding is a complex, personal experience that takes time. As long as a baby's basic needs are being met, she won't suffer if a bond isn't strong at first. If you're still concerned, ask your midwife or pediatrician for more advice.

Q: We've had so many visitors I feel I haven't gotten to know my baby yet. What do you suggest?
A: Perhaps if you have been inundated by visitors initially things may soon start to calm down. If not, then either you or your partner need to be politely assertive and explain that you are tired and request the visit just be for 10 minutes or put off until the weekend, or a more convenient time. It is not rude to ask for some space. Then shut the door, ignore the telephone, and enjoy some time with your baby.

Beyond crying, your baby's first attempts to communicate are in the form of eye contact. Look into her eyes from about 8–12 in (20–30 cm), the best distance for babies to focus. Touch her gently, stroke her, smile at her, and talk or sing to her. Look at her movements, listen to each sound she makes, and give her your full attention. You will teach your baby to make sense of the world by these early communications. Often, the best time to communicate is after a feeding when your baby is relaxed and content. Pleasurable activities also include sharing a bath, going for a walk, singing to your baby, or giving a massage. Anything that both the parents and baby can enjoy. It may be nice to devote an evening each week for “family time,” when you spend time all together. Try to keep the commitment and avoid interruptions.

Q: What is baby massage?
A: Baby massage involves lightly stroking your baby's skin in a gentle, soothing rhythm . Babies love to be touched and it's an important part of their growth and development. Baby massage is a great way to bond with your baby and is also thought to help to soothe common baby ailments, such as colic and dry skin.

Researchers from Warwick Medical School and the Institute of Education in England found that massage helped lower stress levels in babies, which in turn helped them to sleep better. Also, massage provides a good source of sensory and muscle stimulation, which is beneficial to all babies, but may be particularly good for babies with special needs, such as Down syndrome, and there has also been evidence that premature babies in neonatal care units who are touched more put on weight more quickly and are ready to go home earlier than babies who are not touched as much. Baby massage can also give you more confidence as a parent since it helps you communicate with your baby. Ask your midwife or doctor for information on baby massage classes in your area. There are also plenty of websites that offer guidance. The International Association of Baby Massage is a good source of information.

Q: My baby cries continually and I'm really finding it hard to enjoy time with her. Is this normal?
A: Bonding is the attachment that develops between parents and their baby and this can sometimes be affected if you are worn down by constant crying. The first thing to do is check with your pediatrician to make certain the baby is well and healthy. Although your baby is not doing herself any harm, crying can be stressful and worrying for parents. If your baby cries continually despite your best efforts to calm her down, it's easy to feel rejected. It may help to remind yourself that bonding is a process, and not something that has to happen within a certain time period after the birth. If you are worried that the bonding process is being affected, try to recruit some extra support from your partner, friends, or family to improve your situation. Some practical methods to try to reduce your baby's crying and promote the bond between you include getting in the bath together; walking using a baby carrier (even around the house); or baby massage.
Q: Is it too early to play “games” with my month-old baby?
A: In the first month, your baby sleeps for around 16 hours a day. Although this doesn't allow for much play time between feedings, changes, and baths, it doesn't have to mean you don't play with your child at all. There are plenty of ways to combine play with the everyday care of your baby. For example, you can sing to her while you change her diaper or play peekaboo—put your hands in front of your face, then take them away quickly and say “peekaboo” (by eight to ten weeks she'll start to remember what happens, and will gurgle with delight). Listening to music together is fun—try rocking and patting in time to the beat; and babies like to play with different textures—stroke different fabrics against her hands and arms and see her responses. When you are out, add a mobile or suitable toy to the carriage.

At about eight weeks, your baby starts to make more sounds, such as coos and chuckles, and you can start to have a “conversation” together. Also, it's never too early to join a postpartum group or mother-and-baby group, which promotes play and allows you to spend time with your baby and meet other moms.

Q: When should I put my baby on her tummy?
A: Even as a newborn, you can let your baby spend time on her tummy when she is awake to help strengthen her neck and shoulders and help her head control. It's important that your baby doesn't spend all her time lying on her back, as over time this can cause the head to become misshapen and “flattened” on one side. When she is older, lying on her front will help her to learn to crawl. Supervise during “tummy time” and be ready to help if she gets tired or frustrated; she will gradually get stronger. However, never put your baby on her tummy to sleep since this could increase her risk of SIDS.
Q: How can I help my baby learn?
A: As your baby becomes more able to explore her surroundings and interact with people, you can provide opportunities and a safe environment for her to learn and develop. For example, if you respond to your baby's gurgling sounds with sounds of your own, she will be encouraged to keep using her voice for expression. Providing plenty of stimulus in the form of rattles, toys, and singing is also beneficial. Your baby's sense of touch is developing and it's a good idea to provide objects that have different textures, shapes, and sizes for her to explore. You can introduce a baby gym with interesting objects that dangle for your baby to swat at. Your baby's sight develops quickly, so providing plenty of visual stimulus helps her develop and learn. Spending time on her tummy also helps her to see the world from a new perspective .

Be aware that there are times when your baby will have had enough stimulation and that some babies prefer more stimulation than others. It's important to recognize the signs and let your baby take a break.

Q: How far can my two-week- old see?
A: A newborn is near-sighted and can see only blurry shapes in the distance. Perfect vision is considered to be 20/20, and a newborn has 20/400 vision. This means your baby can focus on your face from her feeding position at about arm's length (shoulder to elbow) but can't see much beyond that. Your baby's sight develops quickly. At about two weeks, she will pay more attention to your face, and any sudden movement may attract her gaze. By three months, she can recognize the outline of your face as you enter a room. Human faces are one of a baby's favorite things, especially a parent's or their own face. Placing a mirror at your baby's eye level can be a great toy. As her eyesight develops, you may catch her gazing out of a window or at a picture on the other side of the room. At about six to eight months, she will see the world almost as well as an adult does.
Q: Can a newborn see colors yet?
A: Babies may see color from birth, but have difficulty distinguishing similar tones, such as red and orange. As a result, they often prefer black and white or high-contrast colors for the first few months. They're attracted to bright colors and sharp outlines, whereas soft pastel colors are hard for them to appreciate, so keep this in mind when buying toys and books. Between two and four months, color differences become more clear, and your baby starts to distinguish between similar shades. She'll probably show a preference for bright primary colors and more detailed designs and shapes.

Bonding over time Allowing your feelings to grow and develop

If you don't feel instant love for your baby, rest assured that bonding is a process and not something that has to happen immediately the birth.

  • For many parents, bonding is a result of everyday caregiving.

  • You may not realize you have bonded until you observe your baby's first smile and suddenly realize that you are filled with joy and love.

  • Enjoy and cherish your growing feelings; bonding with your baby, whenever this occurs, is one of the most pleasurable aspects of baby care.

How to massage your baby

You can incorporate a massage into your baby's daily routine. Massage him in the morning, before you dress him, or make this part of his bedtime routine, massaging him after his bath, or before you get him ready for bed, which is a perfect way to settle him before bedtime. You can rub oil, such as sunflower oil, into your palms and massage him with gentle strokes. Make sure the room is comfortably warm.

Massaging the head:

Stroke his cheeks and forehead from the middle to the sides.

Tummy and chest:

Very gently, stroke down his chest and then make circular movements over his tummy.

Foot massage:

Use your thumb to stroke from the heel to the toe, and then gently massage each toe.

NOTE

Taking time to get to know your baby—talking, touching, and caring for her—slowly helps to cement a lasting love

Baby bonding Your feelings for your baby

“Baby bonding” is a phrase often used to describe the strong emotional feelings you have toward your newborn, and the overwhelming sense of wanting to love and protect her. Research shows that babies need this emotional interaction with you to help their development.

Q: Will I bond with my baby immediately?
A: While some parents feel this bond right away, bonding can often be a gradual process that develops as you get to know your baby. Holding her as soon as possible after birth, especially skin-to-skin, can help form an early bond. Your baby will already know the sound of your voice and will immediately respond to you, so talk to and smile at your baby as much as you can.
Q: How does breast-feeding help bonding?
A: Breast-feeding is an ideal way to enhance the bonding process. It's a wonderful opportunity to be close to your baby while giving her essential nourishment. Also, breast-feeding releases oxytocin, known as the “love hormone,” so is nature's way of creating a bond between you and your baby.
Q: Are there other ways to bond?
A: Bottle-feeding can also be a special time to be close to your baby, giving you a chance to hold your baby close and make plenty of eye contact. Bathing and diaper changing, as well as being practical tasks, are good opportunities to interact with your baby, helping you feel close to your baby and providing her with reassurance, and baby massage is a good way to feel closer to your baby. As your baby grows, she will start to interact more, responding to your voice and smiles with smiles and coos of her own. This is a perfect time to start having “conversations” with your baby—talk to her in a singsong voice and then pause to wait for her “reply.” Through caring, nurturing, and interacting with your baby, you will be building a bond that will last a lifetime.
Skin-to-skin:

Your baby will feel comforted by close contact and the warmth of your skin.

“Talking” together:

As your baby grows, you will be able to interact more and more.

Loving gaze:

Looking into your baby's eyes helps to strengthen the bond of love between you.

Myths and misconceptions Is it true that…

Q: Babies are brought by the stork?
A: This myth comes from the so-called “stork beak marks,” which are very common on the skin of newborn babies. These marks (otherwise known as stork bites or capillary hemangiomas) are due to the distension of tiny blood vessels in the skin, but they don't hurt, and your baby won't even know she has anything there. These marks tend to fade gradually without treatment.
Q: Breast-feeding babies need extra vitamin D?
A: Not true! Except in extraordinary circumstances (for example, if the mother herself was vitamin D deficient during the pregnancy). Babies store vitamin D during the pregnancy, and a little outside exposure on a regular basis should give a baby all the vitamin D she needs.
Q: You should wash your nipples before feeding?
A: This isn't true. Washing your nipples before each feeding makes breast-feeding unnecessarily complicated and washes away natural, protective oils. Don't wash your nipples too often—daily bathing is enough—and expose them to air whenever possible.
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