Contrary to pop culture and TV commercials, not all moms immediately bond with their newborns. At least one in five women will take a little longer — and there is nothing “wrong” with that. It’s important to recognize that bonding is an emotional attachment. Like all emotional attachments, each mother-child bond is unique and is a process, short or long.
If the connection you’ve heard about, or even expected, is not instantaneous, it’s okay. There is no reason to feel ashamed or guilty. It also does not mean anything in terms of your long-term bond with your child.
The most helpful response going forward is acceptance and patience. Whether it takes days or weeks, it will be well worth the wait.
Why Some Mothers Don’t Immediately Connect with Their Newborn
There are some obvious and simple possible reasons. For example:
Obviously, humans can form unbreakable bonds without being blood relatives. Sometimes adoptive parents are able to correctly see adoption as “just a different delivery system.” Sometimes they need help to get to this perspective to be able to make a deep connection.
After a particularly painful or long labor, you may need time to recover.
Sometimes, a newborn has to spend its earliest days in a NICU. Understandably, this can impact the bonding phase.
Twins (or more)
With multiples, there’s less of you to go around and the more you have to divide your attention and energy. Some new parents have more of a struggle with this than others.
Outside of the above scenarios, there is another possible factor to consider. After giving birth, a woman undergoes some extreme hormonal changes. As a result, some strong emotions can lead to the “baby blues.” Rather than assume such a depressive state will pass, why not get help now, so you can feel better and begin to bond with your baby? Be sure to let your therapist know if you experience disturbing and intrusive thoughts.
How to Connect with Your Newborn
Before we get to our list, let’s start with one of the basics: Put down your devices. They often feed distraction, anxiety, and unhealthy standards. The people in your life will understand. Give that time, energy, and attention to your tiny bundle of joy. Here are some suggestions along those lines:
- Maintain eye contact with your baby as she feeds (breast or bottle).
- Embrace the mess. Babies usually make a mess. By not focusing on that, you give your child the message that all is well. You also relieve yourself of lots of unnecessary stress.
Speaking of Stress
- Don’t allow yourself to associate stress with your child. If you feel tension, get help to deal with that, so you don’t put your tension on your baby. Remind yourself that this phase is time-limited, especially when the baby is wailing. Again, it helps the bonding process to not see your child as a source of stress.
- Avoid getting too caught up in whether or not your baby is hitting every milestone at the precise “correct” time. Stay present and allow them to develop.
- Keep a Mommy Journal. Use it to track emotions, special moments, and more!
- Go on outings together
- Give them a massage
- Be as silly as possible
- Hugs and kisses; shower your child with affection
Be Patient But Aware
Reminder: There is no one right way to bond with your newborn. Stay patient but active and aware. However, again, postpartum depression is a real thing. If you feel ways that upset or scare you, there is no reason to deal with that alone. Reach out for help ASAP.
There is no shame in struggling when you become a mother. It’s a major change and challenge! It can really help to speak to an experienced counselor. By starting parent therapy, you’ll take proactive steps to resolve the situation and find a healthy balance.