With typically developing children, the bonding process happens naturally, perhaps in the form of cuddling close while the baby studies the parent’s face and listens to the soothing voice as the parent speaks with him or her. Obviously, this process can be inhibited by sensory impairments, but that does not mean that bonding cannot take place. Although bonding may not happen automatically, there are a few ways by which a parent can actively engage the baby and help the process advance.
The first is through the sense of touch. Cuddling with the baby, holding him or her close, stroking his or her head or even simply holding the baby’s hand or foot or will allow the baby to feel that close presence. These first touches will establish the trust that both will need in order to make the connection. Simple ties can be made during daily routines such as diaper changes, feedings, bath time or bed time routines. Even these every day activities will allow the child to experience the presence of the parent, so see these as valuable opportunities to connect with them.
Next, talking to the baby, even if he or she has a hearing loss, will allow him or her to feel the parent’s presence and will help lay the foundation for their own communication. Talking or singing to the baby while holding him or her close is especially effective as they will feel the sound vibrations that may be pleasing and soothing to them.
Most importantly, parents must relax. The baby, no matter how young or small, can feel any tension. For some babies, especially those with complex medical needs, the world is already very stressful. A calming parent will be a much needed relief to the anxieties around them. Staying tranquil will go far for both the parent and the child and help the bonding process.
Parents must consistently reach out to their special needs babies in order to bridge the gaps that may exist within their natural abilities to communicate. In doing so, however, they will be establishing the very same loving relationships that parents have with their typically developing children. This can only serve to ease the initial difficulties that come with the new challenges as families find their collective footing within their daily routines. Above all, these extra efforts will instill confidence and trust in the special needs baby, laying a solid relational foundation for life which, in the end, is really the key to healthy growth and development for all children.