This is the moment you have been looking forward to for the last nine months: meeting and getting to know your baby! What can they see, hear and feel? How will you feel about your baby and how does bonding develop?

How your newborn baby looks

Babies can look a bit odd at first: they may look squashed, wrinkly and even bruised from birth. They might have ‘stork marks’ – red markings that disappear within a few days. Their hands and feet may be blueish in colour. This is all perfectly normal. Within the next few days, their skin will smooth out, their head will become rounder and the vernix, which is the creamy white substance that protected the baby’s skin in the womb, will disappear.

What newborn babies can see, feel and hear

Babies can see in black, white and grey from the moment they are born, but they can only focus on things less than 25 cm away. They can see your face when you hold them in your arms and they may even hold your gaze for a few moments.

Babies can also hear and be startled by loud noises. Babies seem to like soft voices best. Your baby will recognise your voice. Speaking to your baby will help develop a two-way relationship, which is important for their future social skills. It does not matter what you say but your baby will respond best to a gentle sing-song voice.

Your baby can already grasp. Try touching the palm of their hand or stroking their feet.

Babies can also smell – they will recognise the smell of your body, and that makes them feel secure. After your baby is born, have skin-to-skin contact and feed your baby before you take a shower.

Play and communicate with your baby as much as you can. Babies love being cuddled because they have been used to being in a confined space in the womb, so cuddling makes them feel safe.

Skin-to-skin contact with your newborn

Touch is incredibly important for babies – that is why your baby is placed on your tummy right after delivery. This skin-to-skin contact helps you and your baby to bond and can comfort them when they are upset. Remember that your baby loves to be touched and that this is an important factor for their emotional development.

Bonding with your newborn baby

Child experts describe bonding as the very intense feelings of attachment you develop for your baby. You may feel an almost overwhelming sense of love and affection – and a strong desire to care for and protect them. Bonding is a very individual experience and you should not worry if it does not happen immediately. Remember that your baby is a completely new person and, however cute they are, it will take time to get to know them. True parent-child bonding only develops and strengthens through caring for your baby.

For both parents, the main thing is to get used to looking after the baby – being close to them, talking to them, holding and cuddling them. This increases your confidence as a parent and also gives your baby the best emotional start in life. Contact your healthcare professional or midwife if you have any questions or concerns.