Bonding with Your Newborn
Bonding is that super-special, intense feeling that you get when you have a strong connection with someone. This connection often gives you the strength to endure hardships, to be patient in challenging moments, and to be fiercely brave in the face of danger. Presiding over everything is the strong feeling of love and ‘connection’ that we feel for that person.For some mommies bonding with their newborn happens the moment they lay eyes on their babies. For the rest of us, it’s a slightly longer process.
I’m here to tell you my story, and hopefully, give you some useful tips that will reinforce the bonding with your newborn.
The Bonding Process
Bonding with animals is quite simple: It happens the moment the mommy animal sees the baby animal, and vice versa. In some cases, if the baby animal sees another animal other than its mommy, it will immediately bond with that animal instead of its mommy. Which could be a problem!
Thankfully humans are way more complex than that (phew!) and bonding takes place over many years, and not just at birth.
This was the case with me. I was not overwhelmed with powerful feelings of love the moment my girls were born. On the contrary, giving birth to twins has its own challenges (please tell me what birthing was like for you). Plus, there’s the pressure of immediately ‘falling in love’ with your child, which doesn’t help an overwhelmed first-time mommy! So for me, it took a little while.
I found, around the six week mark once my girls started smiling at me, that strong reciprocal feelings of love and emotional connection started welling up. But even then, that really ‘connected’ feeling, that feeling of ‘you belong to me and I will lay down my life to protect yours’ was formed over months of the ‘ordinary’ day-to-day care, affection, tasks and down-time that I shared with the girls.
To be honest, we were so completely exhausted most of the time with the twins that I only really felt completely connected with my girls close to a year along the way.
Tips for Bonding With Your Newborn
- Eye contact.
You’ve heard of what they call ‘flirting with your baby’. That simply means smiling and making loving eye contact with your newborn. Initially this will be thoroughly one-sided as your newborn stares, without much emotion, into your face. Trust me, every bit of ‘eye time’ with your baby is helping to reinforce the emotional connection between child and parent. Of course, once they start reciprocating, it becomes that much easier.
- Transacting with your baby
These are the day-to-day ‘chores’ that we do with our newborns: bathing, changing nappies, changing clothes, etc. The non-emotional stuff. Make sure that when you transact you deliberately use a loving hand, and a kind tone. Once again, initially this will all come from you, which can be emotionally exhausting, but you will reap the benefits with smiles and giggles and little hands that reach out for you.
- Mommy rest
This point might seem out of place, but it is fundamental in the bonding process. It seems that mommies are taking attachment parenting to the extreme nowadays: always carrying their babies with them, sleeping with them, doing everything with them – not out of response or out of the baby’s need, but out of fear that they might somehow damage their child if they do it another way, or that they may miss out on a cue from their babies. Whatever the case, the end result is always an emotionally and physically drained mother, who is absolutely no good to her child or her spouse. She has poured out all of her love, energy and resources and has nothing left to give, and never takes a moment to replenish. My husband would often say “go rest… for our sakes.” A happy, rested mother is a better, more patient and loving mother. So please, let your baby take a nap in her cot or hand over your baby to daddy or granny an hour or two, and replenish. Take a long bath. Sleep. Rest. Fill up. A happy mother is a better mother.
What If I Cannot Touch My Child?
So, although I strongly advocate immediate skin-on-skin cuddles with your baby as soon as they are out of the womb, this is not always possible (in cases of medical emergencies or complications). Our babies are whisked away before we get a chance to hold them or ‘birth bond’ with them. “Will my child still bond with me? Will they feel alone / rejected / unloved / isolated / unwanted?” we worry. I assure you that as long as you care for your child and offer consistent love and cuddles (as much as they will permit in hospital, and lots at home) your child and you will bond beautifully.
What If I Don’t Want To Touch My Child?
Sometimes, through no fault of our own, or our baby, there are no loving feelings after birth, especially if it has been a particularly difficult birth, or if there are other extenuating circumstances around the birth. Some moms just need a bit of a chance to recover after they have given birth. Give yourself a break and find your feet, without the pressure of instant bonding!
My one good friend gave me great advice: Just keep it alive for the first six weeks, and after that you can worry about bonding!
In my foggy, exhausted, hormonal brain it was exactly what I desperately needed to hear. No pressure to be Mary Poppins just yet. Just do what you can do, keep the baby alive, and worry about being the perfect parent later. True as bob, after that six week marker, something just clicked and it started becoming slightly more doable.
For some of us moms, however, that feeling of disconnect doesn’t seem to lift. Many, many new moms suffer from post natal depression (PND), which is very real and is not a thing of shame or any indication of what kind of mother they are. It is just what it is, and thankfully, it is very treatable.
So if you feel antagonistic or even aggressive towards your child, please talk to someone about it. Once you’ve chatted to your doctor and start treatment, it will make bonding and the initial baby-stage so much more bearable. You’ll feel like your old self again and feel more able to deal with bonding with your newborn and everything else.
So there you have it moms.
Even at this stage, with my girls being three years old and long past the newborn stage, that each phase of development opens different avenues for bonding. It is something that takes place over years, and I am so looking forward to a lifetime of bonding opportunities and memories ahead.