Effective bonding between a mother and her baby is critical form the well-being of both.
If an infant is deprived of maternal care, although fed and kept comfortable, it will develop slowly in all areas including physical, intellectual and emotional. Such infants are small for their age, poorly nourished, apathetic, respond inappropriately to stimuli, do not develop language skills and become inactive.
Bonding begins before birth as the mother feels foetal movements within her. After birth, the mother and baby become extraordinarily emotionally involved with each other, with the attachment beginning within minutes, and intensifying hour by hour. It is important not to separate the mother and baby during the first few hours after birth except for essential bathing, testing and cleaning procedures. The baby responds to the mother’s actions and sounds in order to ensure the bonding develops and continues.
There is even a hormonal component to early bonding, as the baby sucks on the breast to stimulate milk production. The baby is even colonised by the same bacteria, viruses and fungi that inhabit the mother’s skin, mouth and gut. Immunologically they are almost identical for the first few weeks until other people begin to interact.
The bonding can also involve the father, who will become very close to his child, and participate fully in its life and upbringing, but fathers can never know the complete intimacy that exists between a mother and her very own baby.