Bonding: how maternal love is born

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Catherine Le Nevez
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Bonding: a special bond

Bonding: so specialists define that special bond between mother and child, made up of tender looks, caresses and a thousand attentions. A bond that often begins already in pregnancy to be fully realized in the first weeks of the baby's life.

"The term refers to a special relationship, very much based on physical contact"explains perinatal psychologist Alessandra Bortolotti, author of the book Then the mother returns (Mondadori, 2022)." In this sense, it is different from the so-called attachment, the relationship that the child establishes with the mother - or, more generally, with a significant reference figure - in the first years of life and which will subsequently influence his way of interacting with the world.


How to stimulate the psychophysical development of a child, from 0 to 2 years

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The first two years of a child's life are very important to lay the foundations for a secure attachment and to foster the development of fundamental motor, linguistic and cognitive skills ...

In this article

  • How bonding is formed 
  • The role of breastfeeding
  • The importance of emotional harmony
Read also: Babies: the importance of a secure attachment

How bonding is formed

In the formation of this bond thehormonal balance of the mother during and after childbirth, but the process can be further favored - or hindered - by some circumstances.

"For example - says Bortolotti - it is very positive that, in the first hours after birth, mother and child can stay skin-to-skin contact, eye contact to get to know each other ".

But if this possibility did not exist, it does not at all mean that all is lost: there is still time to establish a intimate and special dialogue, made of caresses, smells and sounds, with your child. The father should not be excluded from this relationship and not only to give support - fundamental, in the first months - to the mother. It's nice (and important) for him too, to start getting to know your little one right away and take care of him.

Read also: Fatherly love, 10 practical tips to create a strong bond with the child

"The problem is that our culture does not favor contact very much", Bortolotti emphasizes. Mothers are often led to think that they shouldn't take in arm or pamper the baby too much, so as not to spoil him. In fact, studies in neurobiology and neuropsychology say that contact favors a balanced emotional and cognitive development of the child. "And according to the psychologist, it is not surprising:" We human beings are first of all mammals, contact is ours. biological norm ".

See also the video about the first month of the newborn:

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The role of breastfeeding

According to the common opinion, breastfeed it favors bonding, but scientific data and daily experience say it is not. Some psychologists at the University of Los Angeles have tried to take stock of the situation in the scientific field. Their conclusion, published in 2022 in the Women's Health Psychology manual, is that there is insufficient evidence to support this hypothesis.

"Breastfeeding may give some women an extra incentive to take care of their baby, but it's certainly not a necessary condition for forming a special bond with the baby," the scholars say. "The fact that this proves it bond can also be created with the father, with mothers who use bottles or with adoptive parents ".

Of course: breastfeeding favors a particular closeness between mother and child, but nothing excludes that this can occur even if there is the bottle. "It's a question of communication more than nutrition "underlines Loredana Cena, coordinator of the Master in Perinatal Clinical Psychology of the University of Brescia." What matters is the intimate dialogue that is established between the two: a dialogue made up of looks, physical contact, smells, sounds and words that the mother addresses to her baby, even if he does not understand their meaning ".

It is clear that all of this can happen very well even if you use formula milk. And that may not happen at all even in the presence of breastfeeding, if for example the mom suffers from depression.

Read also: Artificial milk: how to choose and prepare it

The importance of emotional harmony

All the more reason, all this applies to the relationship of attachment. According to the latest theories, what is really important for the development of a so-called secure attachment, which will make the child more balanced and confident, is the ability of the mother (or, better still, the parents) to "tune in" to the baby's emotions, reacting in a welcoming and empathic way to their expression.

For example? "Trying to calm and soothe him when he's nervous, feed him when he's hungry, smile with him when he's happy and laugh," advises Alice Callahan, an American researcher and writer, in her book The Science of Mom, a first-year guide based on strongest scientific evidence available.

Of course, it's not easy, especially in the first days of life together: it's about learning how to know the child, his needs, the way he expresses them. But it is not a mission impossible: it is a question of observing your puppy a lot, and cultivating this capacity for empathic harmony day by day.

Read also: Maternal love, 5 tips to build a solid emotional bond

Questions and answers

What does "bonding" mean?

It comes from the English to bond, which means "to tie, join, weld". The word bonding refers to that special emotional bond that exists between her mother and her baby.

How to promote bonding between mother and baby?

Accentuating the skin-to-skin contact between the baby and the mother benefits both of them and the emotional involvement accelerates the bodily development and self-recognition by the newborn.

  • bonding
  • bonding newborn mom
  • newborn bond
  • attachment
  • breastfeeding
  • newborn 0-3 months
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