“Bonding,” a noun, means “(1) the formation of a close relationship especially through frequent or constant association and (2) the attaching of a material to a tooth surface especially for cosmetic purposes” (Merriam Webster Dictionary, 2011). The etymology of the word comes from “the 12th century Middle English word, “band,” referring to something that binds, ties, or restrains.” Even earlier, during the 4th century BC, Plato “argued that love directs the bonds of human society.” Many years later in Britain 1958, John Bowlby, published “The Nature of the Child’s tie to his Mother,” the precursor to the concepts of attachment theory (Human Bonding, Wikipedia). This means that the idea of bonding between two people has been discussed for centuries. Clearly this is an import aspect of life and for most mothers and new infants bonding occurs without interruptions.
The majority use of the concept of bonding is in regards to the relationship between a mother and her infant. Kennell and McGrath, argued that “the concept of bonding and its impact on the mother-infant relationship is of crucial importance because it may influence the physical and psychological development of the child” (as cited in Altaweli & Roberts, 2010, p. 552). Though attachment of the mother and infant was first described by Bowlby after World War II (Attachment theory, Wikipedia), the theory of maternal-infant bonding was not described until 1976 by Klaus and Kennell (as cited in Altaweli & Roberts, 2010, p. 552). As a relativity new concept and theory, bonding is still being scientifically researched and discussed.
According to Ho and Hirsch, “bonding is essential for a baby” and their physical and emotional growth depends on a strong bond to another (2008). For most mother and infant couplets, bonding occurs immediately and without effort. For others bonding with your baby can be interrupted or delayed. The importance of this bond is vital for nurses to asses and promote.
Your postpartum nurse will help assist and promote bonding with your baby. Hopefully your baby will be rooming in with you, but if your new baby is in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) there are multiple ways to ensure successful bonding. When you visit your baby ask the NICU nurse if you can hold the baby skin to skin or what is referred to as kangaroo care. If your baby is too sick ask the nurse what you can do to help your infant know you are there, i.e. gently talking to them, stroking their foot, or holding their hand. One of the best things a NICU mother can do is pump breast milk for the new infant. Breast milk is a wonderful thing for all babies and especially babies in the NICU that need as much immune busting antibodies as possible.
For mothers that have their babies with them in the room, bonding should not be interrupted. Skin to skin time, breastfeeding, talking to them, holding them, stroking their heads, and taking care of their basic needs will promote bonding. Since moms have already had the last nine months to begin their bonding by carrying the babies, sometimes partners feel left out; so once your baby comes have your partner participate in skin to skin and baby care to help promote their bonding relationship. Through research and centuries of time bonding has been found to be essential for baby development so if you have any questions about bonding with your baby ask your nurse, but normally it is a very natural occurrence.