In the beginning of an infant’s life, the caregiving demands are intense, and the relationship building exchanges are minimal. So naturally, if only one partner is able to handle one of the major areas of care, it can feel unbalanced. Because infants feed often, they spend a lot of their time with the parent who can feed them. Further, feeding is a comfort to your baby, and an association will often develop between the caregiver who provides their food, and feelings of comfort. Before long, you might start to feel like only the breastfeeding parent can seem to comfort the child.
Many parents experience challenges with finding meaningful ways to bond with their infant as the non-breastfeeding partner. Children need to feel the love and connection from each of their parents. Likewise, each parent needs to spend time with their child in order to appreciate a secure bond, and build confidence in your caretaking abilities. There are lots of great ways to bond with your child that don’t have to involve feeding. Practice these from the beginning and you will find that your bond with your child develops naturally, and you will feel confident in your ability to comfort them.
First of all, it’s important and helpful to set aside time that is just for the non-breastfeeding caregiver to spend with the baby. In order to make sure you get this time every day, I recommend choosing something you will already be doing with the baby daily, and trying to do it around the same time every day. For example, if Parent A is the breastfeeding parent, then Parent B can be in charge of the morning play and development routine. (If you need more ideas on what to do with your infant to promote development, click here.) After the baby’s first feed of the day, Parent B takes over for the next hour to have one on one bonding time with the baby. This will also function as a regular, predictable break for the breastfeeding parent, which is much needed!
Sleeping is the only thing your baby is going to do more of than eating, especially in the beginning. Newborn babies can sleep anywhere from 15 to 19+ hours every 24 hour period. That’s a lot of sleep! Learning to put your baby to sleep is a guaranteed way to spend lots of time with your little one! This can also help to keep sleeping a separate activity from eating, which will avoid the pitfall of having your child feed to sleep, which can quickly become difficult to deal with, and really tip the scales of the caregiving burden onto the breastfeeding parent almost entirely. In other words, your family will receive multiple benefits from all caregivers learning to put your baby to sleep, and it’s a great way to spend time with your baby as a non-breastfeeding caregiver.
Some other activities that are great bonding time and a prime opportunity for the non-breastfeeding parent to build a routine with the child are bath time, diaper changing routine, dinner time, reading books together, going for a daily walk, playing music together – you name it, you can do it with your baby! The important part is that you do it together every day. Your baby just wants to be near you and feel your presence and love. You do not need an elaborate ritual to make that happen. Instead, finding routine ways to participate in the caregiving needs of your baby will develop your bond organically. So pick a few things out that are yours to do with the baby and stick to them. I guarantee your baby will get used to you handling these tasks for them, and it will become a special time spent caring for your baby and bonding with each other.