The act of feeding in itself promotes bonding, especially when it comes in response to your baby’s hunger cues. When he’s fussing or crying and you promptly pick him up, cuddle him, croon reassuringly, and then hold him while you fulfill his need for food, you build trust. Being responsive to his hunger cries also lowers his stress hormone levels. At the same time, when you’re breast-feeding, your baby’s suckling causes your body to secrete the hormones prolactin and oxytocin, both of which have a calming effect on you and stimulate your maternal feelings; thus, the bonding goes both ways. Feedings by breast or bottle can also boost intimacy when you incorporate skin-to-skin contact.

Some other ways you can build on these natural benefits during feeding include looking into your baby’s eyes, talking or singing to him softly, stroking him, and holding his hand. You can also maximize your one-on-one time together by keeping your cell phone or tablet use to a minimum while he’s feeding; consider leaving your devices turned off and in another room, so that you’re not even tempted. Although it’s okay to multitask on occasion, make sure there are times when you give him your total attention and affection.

—Scott Cohen, MD, pediatrician and author of Eat, Sleep, Poop: A Common Sense Guide to Your Baby’s First Year