Ask the Experts: Helping Babies Bond Over Long Distances - MetroFamily Magazine
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Ask the Experts: Helping Babies Bond Over Long Distances

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We asked local experts to weigh in on their tips to help babies bond with family and friends that live far away.

To find more answers to other common parenting questions, check out our collection of Ask the Experts.

Sunshine Cowan: Connection is an important aspect of being human. We seek connection with others, and we naturally want it between our children and those we love. Research supports the link between strong emotional support and our health, and it’s important that we find connection to individuals who are close in proximity – for ourselves and for our baby. Sometimes this means creating a family of choice: close friends and loved ones nearby who connect with us and our children.

Even when we achieve connection to those who are close by, many of us find ourselves far from family and seeking deeper connection between our children and far away loved ones. There are many things we can do to help our baby connect. First, we can engage in story time using pictures of family members. We can talk about parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins while showing photos of them to our little ones. We can take photographs of our children with their relatives when we are together and then use these photos to reminisce with our babies about the time they had with them. Phone calls where babies can listen to voices as well as digital face time where facial expressions and conversations can be exchanged are other ways to bond.

My parents live in another state and see my children far less frequently than their other grandchildren. With this arrangement comes a difference in bonding that I have observed within our family and in other families as well. One way to address this is to make family members a topic of regular conversation – even between visits, letters and phone calls. Another is to focus on shared interests and traits to help connect family members when they do get together.

Connection across the miles can be difficult and time intensive, but creating shared meaning and establishing relationships early can set babies up for successful bonding with family members no matter how far apart.

Dr. Sunshine Cowan is a professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Studies at the University of Central Oklahoma where she coordinates the Community/Public Health program. Although she teaches many courses in her role with the university, one of her favorites is a course on human development. Sunshine has been married to the love of her life, Jerel Cowan, for more than 20 years; together they have two children, Canyon and Ponder.

Kathryn Konrad: Keeping in touch with family far away can be challenging, especially when we are so busy caring for your baby, your family and yourself.  But staying in touch with family is beneficial to both you and your baby. Families can be great support systems.

Encouraging your baby to recognize voices and faces of out of town family will help your baby when you get to meet in person. Babies recognize voices they heard while in the womb immediately following birth, turning toward voices they recognize even in the birthing suite. Schedule phone calls or play recordings of family members to help your baby recognize family member’s voices. Ask out of town grandparents and other family members to record a voicemail or other voice recording where they are talking to your baby, singing to your baby or reading your baby a book. Make listening to them are part of your baby’s daily routine.

If connecting via Skype/FaceTime, your baby will only pay attention for 1-3 minutes. So it is best to plan short sessions. You can also make a photo book of out of town family members and share it with your baby. Babies start to recognize familiar faces around 3 months.

Kathryn Konrad is a maternal newborn nurse, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator and an assistant professor at The University of Oklahoma Fran and Earl Ziegler College of Nursing. Since 2000, she has worked in labor and delivery, childbirth education, community education/outreach and nursing education. Konrad loves working with moms and babies and lives in Edmond with her husband and 9 year old son.

Dr. Kelly Stephens: In today’s world, FaceTime and Skype offer opportunities that didn’t exist previously. If a child is old enough, they may look forward to such communication whereas younger kids may need to be in the mood to do so. These interactions should be used with reasonable expectations so the experience is enjoyable and beneficial for all involved.

Dr. Kelly Stephens, III has been practicing for 30 years and specializes in pediatrics at Mercy Clinic Primary Care I-35 Edmond.  He says, “seeing kids grow up and overcome problems, while watching parents get more adept at handling their little bundles of joy, these are the true rewards of my calling.” Learn more about Dr. Stephens at

Thai-An Truong: Maintaining bonds with family far away can be of great benefit to baby. They cannot have too many people to love and support them. One great way to maintain bonds is through video calls. It is so easy now with Facebook Messenger – completely free and almost everyone has Facebook now. It's also intuitive and grandma can easily get on board. It does a lot for bonding for older babies and toddlers to actually see their loved one's face and facial expressions instead of just hearing their voice.

Thai-An Truong is a therapist and mother who is passionate about helping pregnant and postpartum parents overcome depression and anxiety so they can feel like themselves again and enjoy life with their baby and family. After overcoming my own battle with postpartum depression and anxiety, she opened Lasting Change Therapy, LLC in South Oklahoma City to dedicate her counseling services to helping families recover. For more information, visit

To find more answers to other common parenting questions, check out our collection of Ask the Experts.

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