Bonding refers to the special attachment that forms between a mother and father and their new baby. That bond is what sends parents rushing into their newborn's room in the middle of the night at the slightest whimper. It's also what makes parents want to instinctively care for and nurture their child.
Sometimes, the bond is immediate -- parents fall in love the instant they set eyes on their little "bundle of joy".
But other times, even if you've dreamed about meeting your baby for your entire pregnancy, after hours of labor you might just look at your newborn and feel more tired and emotional than in love! In mothers this is often quickly followed by feelings of shame and inadequacy. There are many women who have feelings of indifference, ambivalence or even dislike for their child, but they rarely admit it for fear of seeming 'unnatural' or being judged by others. When surrounded by other new mums, family and friends all cooing over ‘baby’ it is hard to accept your own emotions.
Studies have found that over 40% of new mums (and it affects some dads in the same way) feel no real emotional attachment to their newborn in the hours after delivery. Sometimes, it takes weeks or even months to feel that attachment. If you don’t feel bonded with your baby, don't feel anxious or guilty. You are going through a steep learning curve (it can be less steep for subsequent babies, but these little beings are all different and how one behaved on arrival does not mean that any other baby will do the same!). Be patient with yourself, try to accept that you are under stress and more tired than you have probably ever been before. You might be disappointed with yourself, and upset that just getting through the day (and dressed let alone showered!) takes all your effort. This is ‘just a phase’ (a term you are likely to use more than you ever thought possible over the coming years!); there are going to be many more and give this new baby time to become their own person who will make you laugh (and cry).
To help the bonding process, here are a few ideas:
- Look into baby's eyes during feeding time,
- Give him / her a massage (here are some tips or join a baby massage course as it will get you out of the house and meeting others),
- Put your phone away. Yes, Google is a brilliant information source and great at scaring you with all the things that can go wrong and lots of opinions on the ‘right’ schedule, but have a nap instead! Sleep when baby sleeps, or just lie down and give yourself some quiet time if you can’t relax enough to doze off.
- Don’t stress the milestones, these will come (and disappear into history) when your baby focuses on learning that particular skill.
- Go skin-to-skin (read more about this here).
- If you can, breastfeed (and lots of mother’s cannot or do not enjoy it),
Remember bonding is a complex, personal experience that takes time. There's no magic formula and it can't be forced. A baby whose basic needs are being met won't suffer if the bond isn't strong at first. As you become more comfortable with your baby and your new daily routine becomes more predictable, both you and your partner will feel more confident about all of the amazing aspects of raising your little one.
We have a small group workshop on Monday 26th February '18 talking about coping mechanisms and trying to dispell the numerous myths surrounding early parenthood. Find out more here.