The bond between a mother and her child is valuable, unique, and irreplaceable. A lot of women have no trouble feeling that bond with their child, and having the child grow up with the same bond. However, some mothers may be concerned that they’re not getting the same bond back. A real emotional attachment between parent and child doesn’t just feel good. It promotes a healthier relationship as they grow and even a healthier child, with real links between mother-baby bonding and immune system development, disease immunity, and even IQ. If you want to give that bond a little boost, there are three things that help above all else.

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As soon as they’re born, babies start trying to make sense of the world. They might not be able to start launching into full conversations, but they are trying to communicate. When they cry, it’s not always distress, it might be an attempt to send out a signal. Similarly, when they babble, they’re not making sounds randomly. They’re trying to form language. Pay attention to them when they cry, even if they don’t necessarily need anything. Let them hear your voice, too. Nighttime reading is a great tradition to start, no matter their age.

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The rocking chair is the age-old tool of the nursery and for good reason. First, there are the obvious benefits. It can help relax them for a feed and become the most valuable tool in your arsenal when it comes to bedtime feeding. But the motion of holding your child and rocking them can have much deeper psychological impacts, as well. Holding them, touching them, looking at them, and helping them relax is a great way to build that bond, showing that you’re their caregiver in an intimate way that they can feel even if they don’t understand. If you don’t have a chair already, it might be worth looking at the options from The Rocking Chair Company. There’s even evidence that rocking your child can be developmentally useful. It can help them grow to define their sense of space earlier and to stimulate their mind, which nourishes a growing brain.

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As mentioned, touch has a lot to do with building a bond. When they’re all wrapped up, sometimes it’s easy for a baby to miss the very tactile need to feel their mother’s touch. Giving your baby a massage, as demonstrated at Parenting, can help you find that important need. More than just providing the need for touch, fingertip massages have real physical benefits, too. It helps develop their nervous system, helps them sleep more soundly at night, and helps de-stress the body. Yes, even at that age, the stress hormone cortisol plays its role in the minds of babies, causing physical as well as emotional discomfort. A finger massage produces serotonin, the feel-good hormone that blocks cortisol and relaxes them.

If you’re the one having trouble feeling that bond, it might make sense to talk to your midwife or doctor. Stress and postpartum depression can get in the way, but there are real ways to treat it your health expert might be able to signal.