Parenting Series 2 - Responsive Care Bonding with Your Baby

(Content revised 02/2023)

The Importance of Parent-Child Relationship

Research has shown that children who have developed good relationship with their parents in their early childhood are more likely to develop better interpersonal relationships when they grow up. They have better problem-solving skills, higher academic achievement and are more likely to grow up as competent parents.

A baby begins life with the inborn ability to signal his needs to others -- He loves looking at faces and turns to human voices, cries when hungry or feeling discomfort, imitates your facial expressions and coos in response. Over time, you will be able to discriminate his cries, facial expressions and movements and attend to his needs accordingly by feeding him, changing his nappy, cuddling him imitating his actions or sounds to play with him. Your baby will in turn be satisfied by your response and continue to interact with you. During these continuous interactions between you and your baby, you have given stimulations through different sensory modes for your baby's brain development. Research has established that such intimate interactive experience since birth is one of the essential factors for the babies' brain development. The harmonious interactions between you and your baby also become established as patterns upon which a secure and trusting relationship is formed.

An Intimate Parent-Child Relationship

When the intimate relationship is built up, your baby feels safe when you are there.  He has learnt that whenever and wherever he is in discomfort, pain or fear, you will be there to console and protect him, offer him appropriate limits and guidance. You are his “safe” base from where he will feel safe and free to venture out to discover the world. This feeling of security and trust helps him to learn and develop into an independent and competent person, being capable of understanding others, and gradually acquiring social skills, coping and resilience to face stresses and challenges.

Bonding Through Responsive Care

You can show your attention and affection to your baby by:

  • Having frequent physical contact with him.  Caress him or rock him gently in your arms.  Do some baby exercises for him, like stretching and bending his legs or changing his body position.  These are good means of interactions.
  • Maintaining frequent eye contact with him.  Stay within his sight (20 to 25 cm or 8 to 10 inches for new born), gaze into his eyes and play with him using exaggerated facial expressions.
  • Talking, responding to his sounds, singing and humming to him gently. Babies are particularly attracted by the high-pitched and tender voice of mothers. Responding to him will make your interaction carries on for a longer while.

Your baby will tell you his needs through sounds, expressions and movements. Try to attend closely to these signs from him and respond promptly to his needs. For instance, when your baby cries, you may check whether his diaper is wet, whether he is too hot or too cold, or if he has had enough in his last feed. You may even consider other possibilities like whether his feet are being entangled or that he has been stung by a mosquito. Let your baby see your face and hear your gentle voice as you go about checking out his needs. If your baby‘s crying is not due to the above reasons, he probably needs more of your soothing such as playing some soft music to him, swaddling him up in a soft blanket, or picking him up and rocking him gently in your arms.

Will I spoil my newborn by holding him too much?

Baby's crying has the basic function of signaling needs. By picking him up when he needs your soothing, you show yourself to be sensitive to his needs. Your baby will feel your care and love and thus enhancing a secure relationship with you. When your baby is calm and alert, it is indeed the best time for you to enjoy intimate interactions including holding him. Your baby feels contented with your attention and learns that he will get this comfortable feeling when he is calm, thus strengthening the relationship between you. You will not be spoiling your baby.

Consideration in Childcare

There are no substitutes for parents.  Parents should not completely shift their role as parents to others.  If you have to entrust your baby to another caregiver, you should consider the following:

  • An ideal caregiver should be:
    • trustworthy as a person and willing to be a caregiver,
    • a caring person with patience and time.
    • able to understand and respond to the baby's needs such as knowing how to hold him in a comfortable way and understanding what he is crying for.
    • able to communicate with your baby, to play with him and to love him.
  • Give time for caregiver and baby to form a stable relationship. Hence, try not to change caregivers frequently.
  • If there is going to be different caregivers (including parents, grandparents and child minders), agreement among the caregivers on the ways of handling the baby will help the baby adapt more easily.
  • Try your best to spend time with your baby and enjoy interacting with him. Maintain good communication with the caregiver so as to understand the baby's routines and to adjust each other's method of handling him.


Recognising the importance of establishing a lasting relationship through responsive interactions is a first step in helping your child develops. Together with your love and care for him, you are on the road to becoming successful parents

  • Responsive care – the earlier the better
  • Talk and play with your child
  • Don't save praise for perfect behaviour
  • Set realistic expectation and limits
  • Be positive, predictable and consistent