How To Bond With Your Baby
Just how a woman reacts to her new-born at their first meeting can be affected by a number of factors: the length and intensity of her labour; whether she received medication during labour; her previous experiences, her feelings about having a child, her relationship with the father and other worries that might be on her mind. Often there is no clear reason why, but some mothers simply do not feel a strong bond with their baby in the early days. If this is the case for you then it is important that you understand that this is quite common.
How Important is Physical Affection?
Most new mothers (and also fathers) ask to hold their babies moments after birth, to cuddle and nurse them from ten minutes to an hour or more. This encounter gives the parents and their baby a chance to make early contact, skin to skin, and can also help with breastfeeding - all definitely positive.
Many mums who've had surgical deliveries or traumatic vaginal births or whose babies arrived in need of special care, don't get to hold their babies immediately after birth. The same is true for adoptive parents who often don't meet their babies until much later on. It doesn't mean that they've missed the one and only opportunity to bond and create a close relationship with their child.
Understandably, you've been focusing on your baby's arrival for the past nine months. Most women assume that there will be an instant bond between them and their child but it isn't always the case. Sometimes women experience feelings of resentment after the pain of childbirth, or they find it hard to recognise the (sometimes surprising) appearance of a newborn baby as a child of their own. There are all manner of reasons why an immediate bond might not feel natural to a mother of a new baby but it is important to remember that it happens to many women.
How Can I Bond With My Baby After the Birth?
The process of newborn bonding is different for every parent and every baby, and it there is no schedule for the process to be completed. Though some mums bond immediately with their newborns (perhaps because they've had experience with previous children, their expectations are more realistic or their labours were easier), not many mums find that attachment straight away. The kind of love that lasts a lifetime usually requires time, nurturing and plenty of patience to develop and deepen.
When Will I Feel More Positive Towards My Baby?
Some studies have found that it takes an average of two to nine weeks for mothers to develop strong positive feelings toward their newborns. Furthermore, some experts believe that a really strong attachment to a child doesn't completely take hold until somewhere in the second half of a baby's first year.
So give yourself time - time to get used to being a mother (after all it is a major adjustment to your pre-baby life) and time to get to know your baby. Meet your baby's basic needs (don't forget your own), and you'll find the connection, and bond forming slowly over time.
The more time you spend cuddling, feeding, massaging, singing and talking to your baby - the more natural it will start to feel and the closer you will feel to your them. As your confidence in your skills as a mother grow, you will feel that bond and connection grow too.
Building The Bond With Your Child
As long as you feel an increasing sense of attachment to your baby as the days go by, you can relax. If you don't feel a growing closeness after a few weeks, or if you feel anger or antipathy towards your baby, discuss these feelings with your doctor. It's important to recognise those feelings and talk to your doctor or a health professional who can help you to improve the relationship with your baby.
You can also help create and strengthen the emotional bond with your baby by:
- Making frequent eye contact with her, such as during feeding times. Young babies love to look at your face and eyes.
- Giving lots of cuddles. Cuddling your baby in the crook of your arm is about the perfect distance for your baby to see you well.
- Smiling, talking, nodding, and singing to your baby.
- Responding to your baby. She will learn to trust that when in need, you will consistently come to comfort her.
Babies develop a strong emotional attachment to parents who consistently provide loving, interactive attention and comfort. Don't place too much emphasis on the moments after birth, and instead focus on the evolving relationship with your baby. Give yourselves a chance to get to know and appreciate each other and allow your relationship to develop at its own pace.