How to bond with your baby through the first year

Flourish

Bonding is a natural part of parenthood and plays an important role in the growth of your child. In fact, how you interact with your baby during her first year supports her future physical, emotional, and cognitive development.

But bonding doesn’t always come naturally. At first, it might feel unnatural or awkward. But with a little patience and some new ideas, you can start making meaningful connections that will last a lifetime.

If, after a time, you're still feeling like the connection isn't coming along, speak with your doctor or your child's pediatrician for additional methods and strategies.

0 to 3 Months Baby

Birth to 3 months

Bonding Moment

Hold your baby in your arms and make eye contact. Show your baby a bright toy. When it catches your baby's eye, slowly move the object.

Benefit

While you are cuddling and playing with your newborn, your baby is learning to visually track moving objects.

Bonding Moment

Lay on the floor with your baby and place her on her stomach for about 1 or 2 minutes. Shake a rattle or use your voice to get your baby's attention. When she lifts her head to see you, gently clap or cheer encouragement.

Benefit

This bonding activity helps your baby connect with you while it simultaneously works the muscles in her neck, back, and stomach.
3 to 6 Months Baby

3-6 months

Bonding Moment

Stand in front of a mirror with your baby and make faces — happy, sad, and excited. Babies love to imitate, so gently cheer when your baby copies you.

Benefit

This builds your baby's social ability to recognize emotional cues, while teaching facial expressions and their meanings.

Bonding Moment

Talk to your baby about tasks related to daily routines while you are doing them, such as washing the dishes, doing the laundry, and making the bed.

Benefit

Talking with your baby helps connect your voice to her eyes, which can help lay the foundation for a lifetime of conversations.
6 to 9 Months Baby

6-9 months

Bonding Moment

Place your baby on her stomach with a few toys slightly out of reach. When she spots one, help her reach for it by placing the palms of your hands on her feet, and gently pushing her forward toward the toy.

Benefit

This encourages your baby to reach, roll, move, and scoot while playing together.

Bonding Moment

On a piece of paper, draw a simple shape. On another piece of paper, draw two of the same simple shapes. Describe the shapes, colors, and number of objects on the paper.

Benefit

This sets the stage to help your baby learn about quantities of objects.
9 to 12 Months Baby

9-12 months

Bonding Moment

Gently roll a plush ball toward your baby. Cheer when your baby catches or stops the ball and ask your baby to roll it back. Try it with a little bounce, too.

Benefit

You're helping your baby develop hand-eye coordination while making a fun connection with him.

Bonding Moment

Play a classic game of peekaboo with a small, light blanket over your head. Let your baby take a turn by gently covering her head with the blanket and lifting it away.

Benefit

This will help your baby begin to understand the idea of object permanence (that unseen objects still exist) while having fun at the same time.