Parental bonding affects mental, physical, intellectual, social and emotional development and influences how well a child does in later life.

By responding to a baby with love, warmth and care, parents become a trusted person in that baby’s life. The bond that is created is not based on the quality of parental love or care but on nonverbal communication between a parent and newborn.

The bond between a parent and a newborn is based on nonverbal communication.

The first few days of a baby’s life are the perfect time for bonding to take place. A baby is innately wired to initiate bonding relationships at this time. Crying, cooing and making noises, smiling, searching for the breast, and seeking eye contact are cues to which a parent can respond.

A baby’s brain development, as well as their social, emotional, and cognitive development, depends on a loving bond with a parent or primary caregiver.

A baby’s brain development, as well as their social, emotional, and cognitive development, depends on a loving bond with a parent or primary caregiver. Studies have shown that parental inconsistency and a lack of bonding can lead to long-term mental health problems and reduced overall happiness.

When a parent responds consistently to a baby’s needs, it nurtures a growing child’s ability to express a full range of emotions.

It is a myth that responding quickly to a crying baby by holding and nursing them will result in spoilt baby.

It is a myth that responding quickly to a crying baby by holding and nursing them will result in spoilt baby. Babies that are held and comforted during the first six months of life tend to be more secure, confident toddlers and older children.

A poor parent-child bond can result in limited social, coping and problem-solving skills, tantrums, clinginess, being withdrawn, or aggressive behaviours. The negative effects of insecure bonding often impact a child throughout their developmental years.

Bonding promotes confidence, enables a baby to tolerate separation from their parents, and eventually helps infants learn how to soothe themselves which results in less crying and fussiness.

The parent-child bond is strengthened through this attachment and the life-long emotional connection that is established helps a child develop independence.

Research has shown that secure bonds developed in childhood produces adults that enjoy stable, satisfying ties with their intimate partners and are better at resolving relationship conflicts.

Like mothers, dads need to bond with their babies, too. So do siblings.

Like mothers, dads need to bond with their babies, too. So do siblings. All members of the family should take some quiet time to hold the baby, gaze into their eyes, talk to them and comfort them when they are distressed.

It’s important that dads bond with their newborn, too.

Some ideas that can assist with bonding include:

  • Regularly touching and cuddling the newborn. By cuddling a baby on the left side of the chest they can hear their parent’s heartbeat, making them feel secure.
  • Gently stroking the newborn during bath time or nappy changes.
  • Responding to crying to let a baby know that a parent is always there.
  • Rocking or holding the newborn, skin on skin, or carrying them in a carrier or sling to keep them close.
  • Wrapping the baby to simulate the security they felt in the womb.
  • Talking to the baby in soothing, reassuring tones which helps them recognise the sound of a parent’s voice. When talking to a newborn, look into their eyes and make facial expressions so they can connect words with feelings.
  • Singing to the newborn or playing soothing music.

Some parents bond more easily with their baby than others. It’s okay for a parent to not feel an instant connection with their newborn.

Studies have shown that about 20% of new mums and dads feel no real emotional connection to their newborn in the hours after delivery.

Studies have shown that about 20% of new mums and dads feel no real emotional connection to their newborn in the hours after delivery. Bonding can be especially difficult if a mother has had a caesarean section, or the baby was born prematurely and spent time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

Sometimes the connection between parent and child can take weeks or months to develop, so parents shouldn’t feel guilty or anxious about not beginning the bonding process immediately.

It can take time – sometimes weeks or months – for the bond between parent and newborn to develop.

An overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, or depressed parent may not be aware of the positive emotional interaction that a baby needs to bond. Parents should do the best they can to engage in self-care and deal with negative emotions, so they are better equipped to bond with their child.

It’s important to remember that given the speed at which a baby’s brain develops, it is possible to repair the parent-child bond.

Parents are not perfect. No one can be fully present and attentive to their child’s needs 24 hours a day. It’s important to remember that given the speed at which a baby’s brain develops, it is possible to repair the parent-child bond by figuring out what the baby needs and attending to it.

By doing this, parents can re-establish the bonding process and may even strengthen the bond between themselves and their baby.

These suggestions may help to encourage the bonding process:

  • Take the time to enjoy being with a newborn by simply cuddling, singing, or reading aloud to them.
  • Consider things from the baby’s perspective. Imagine what they are looking at, feeling, or trying to do.
  • When it comes to eating, sleeping, and playing be flexible and respond to the baby as they need. Most newborns don’t have a fixed day/night routine.

Rising Woman founder Sheleana Aiyana discusses how a spiritual awakening led her on a journey to self-acceptance and how her relationships have evolved along the way.

A conscious couple starts with a conscious individual. This is something that Sheleana Aiyana, founder and visionary of Rising Womanfound out the hard way. After a painful divorce in her early 20s, she was awakened to the traumas in her childhood which contributed to the total breakdown of her relationship. Since then, Sheleana has been committed to her own emotional development so that she can be better serve herself and others. Sheleana is now happily re-married and practises consciousness to make sure it stays that way.

Growing up in and out of foster homes, and without a father-figure present in her life, Sheleana admits that for too long she had no idea what a healthy relationship even looked like, let alone how to be a part of one. This led to a string of interactions with “unsafe partners” before finally letting go of the pain she had long suppressed.

As part of her spiritual transformation, Sheleana initially sought the guidance of a mentor to help resolve her abandonment issues. She was taught how to use inner child, shadow, and ancestral work to reconnect with the damaged parts of herself. Armed with the proper psychological tools, Sheleana was soon able to find peace and reclaim control over her life.

Woman and Child Walking

We are each responsible for our own happiness

After spending four years as an apprentice in transpersonal group-work containers and depth psychology, Sheleana now co-facilitates women’s groups and relationship workshops to help get others on the right track. She is trained in imago couples’ facilitation, tantra, couples work, somatic healing, and is even certified as a full-spectrum birth doula.

Her philosophy is that all relationships must start with the self before they can be extended out to include another. It is only after building a strong foundation of self-acceptance that we can bring someone else into our lives. By piecing together the broken parts of ourselves, we come to realise that we were whole all along, and did not need to be completed by anyone else.

This means that we are each responsible for our own happiness in a relationship – and it does not always have to be romantic. Platonic and professional relationships function in very much the same way. This is called being in a “conscious relationship”.

Happy Couple

Sheleana explains, “Being conscious in a relationship is not a whole lot different than a conventional relationship other than the fact that we no longer see our partner as somebody who is designed to meet all of our needs.” They are there instead as a “partner in life and as an ally in healing … but also act as our spiritual teacher”.

By recognising a partner as an individual, and by supporting their individuality, it becomes possible to ease the burden of responsibility in a relationship. Sheleana suggests we are each responsible for our own emotional needs. Rather than depending solely on a partner to provide a particular feeling – be it happiness, or love, or a sense of worth – all of this you can (and should) provide for yourself.

But this doesn’t mean to say we shouldn’t expect a partner to provide these feelings for us. Rather, it is our responsibility to ensure our own needs are met before giving to another. This helps liberate couples from the unrealistic expectations held in society that they must ‘complete’ one another.

Coffee with Friends

Sheleana uses an argument with her husband as an example of how to practice consciousness. When he “triggers something in me, that’s my opportunity to bring it in a vulnerable way and to invite him to do a healing process with me, or for me to take space to go and process that in myself.” Whereas in a conventional relationship, “If my husband triggers me then there’s something he did wrong and there’s something he needs to do in order to fix me so that I can feel better”.

A fundamental part of practicing relationship consciousness is to witness your own thoughts and behaviour and try to understand where it comes from. If your reactions are rooted in trauma, then it is important to recognise and reflect on them from another perspective so that they can be unlearnt. This is because unresolved trauma can lead to co-dependent relationships.

A co-dependent relationship is a type of dysfunctional relationship where one person doesn’t have self-sufficiency or autonomy. This often translates to one partner taking advantage of the other and is not good for either.

Family at the Beach

We’re not responsible for saving other people

The family systems we were exposed to as children taught us how to form and maintain bonds as adults. While some were able to develop healthy attachments to their caretakers, others might have learned co-dependency as a result of emotional or physical neglect. This can lead to attachment and abandonment issues in adult relationships.

Relationship consciousness actively works against co-dependency by dismantling the patterns of caretaking. Co-dependent people learn to put the wants and needs of others ahead of their own and sacrifice their own feelings in order to maintain these relationships. This is especially problematic in cases where the partner is abusive or suffering from an addiction. Independent people, however, know that it is not selfish to prioritise themselves before others.

Sheleana asserts, “We’re not responsible for saving other people.” Rather, “One of the most beautiful gifts we can give people when they are suffering … is to remind them of their own power” and capacity to heal on their own. To withhold this gift would be to withhold the catalyst for change.

Spiritual Woman

It is possible to provide support to others while maintaining strong boundaries with ourselves. Sheleana says, “This isn’t to say that we don’t want to support people if they’re struggling” but that we need to “put our care and our own primary needs at the forefront as well, otherwise we’re just self-abandoning.” While it may seem selfless, it is actually a destructive coping mechanism to fixate on someone else’s problems and disregard your own.

According to Sheleana, “That’s a great way to distract from our own emotions. If I’m so focused on saving someone, I don’t have to think about my own my own trauma or my own feelings of unworthiness”.

By identifying our own boundaries and setting them firmly with others, we choose not to self-abandon. It is important that we stand up for ourselves. For example, “If we have plans and then we just cancel them because somebody that we are romantically interested in is inviting us out on a date and we just ditch all of our friends,” then we are self-abandoning by prioritising someone else.

It is important to determine what red flags to look out for in a relationship. Setting hard lines make it easier to identify and leave toxic behaviour which might have been normalised in the past. But Sheleana stresses the difference between an unhappy relationship and an abusive one. She says, “In our culture we tend to leave a relationship too early because we’re looking for perfection.” While abuse should never be tolerated, continued bickering and arguments might just be a result of poor communication. Sometimes a couple must learn how to emotionally re-connect with each other before walking away.


Speaking of how she entered her current relationship, Sheleana says, “We wrote lists, we revealed our traumas to each other, we shared life stories, we qualified what kind of relationship we wanted to build, what we needed, what we were afraid of, and the things that we still need to work on within ourselves. We sat in front of each other and asked, ‘Are you ready to do this work?’ and we both agreed.” This intensive process allowed them to locate and establish other’s boundaries; they started to become ‘conscious’.

Today, more than a decade has passed since Sheleana began spiritual seeking and she uses her relationship experience and knowledge to help guide others. Her uplifting book, Becoming the Oneexplores her own journey to self-acceptance and reveals how to transform pain into power.

Watch the full interview below or on our YouTube channel.