We all have expectations for those first moments after our baby is born. We expect a warm glow to surround us and our newborn as we make eye contact for the first time; an overwhelming, unconditional love to overtake us as they reach out and clasp our finger or nuzzle at our breasts. While this may be the case for some mothers, for as many as one out of five, it is not. Naturally, women who don’t feel that instant bond may question themselves, their own expectations and social pressures all say she must be passionately attached, what does it say about her as a mother if she is not?
“While this may be the case for some mothers, for as many as one out of five, it is not.”
Maternal bonding can be very complex and it is common for the process to take time. It may take days, weeks, or months for you to feel like you and your baby belong together, and this is perfectly on the scale of normal. There are many factors that can interfere with an instant bond. For some women a difficult delivery can leave her feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, or a little resentful. If the mother or infant has had complications, the baby may have had to be separated at birth and may have been deprived of that initial skin to skin. However, there is plenty of time to start skin to skin once baby is home. The power of prenatal or postnatal depression cannot be overestimated when it comes to effects on bonding and proper counseling and/or medication can do wonders for her. If a new mom has not had experience around infants before, the disparity between her expectations and the reality of a squishy, floppy, wrinkled, infant may delay the bonding until he begins to take on a fuller more Gerber Baby form. Stress can also complicate bonding, whether it is stress at work, with a spouse or family member, or an impending move, any kind of tension can serve to distract from the bonding at hand.
“the disparity between her expectations and the reality of a squishy, floppy, wrinkled, infant may delay the bonding”
The good news is there are many ways to encourage a bond after baby is born. Sometimes the very act of every day caretaking can stimulate maternal feelings. Rocking the baby to sleep, singing and talking to baby, changing all those diapers, and frequent feedings all help mom to gain confidence in her new role. The love hormone, Oxytocin, is generated through skin contact; so, little things like bathing together, infant massage, nursing, or even just shirtless snuggles can help a new mother feel close to her baby. Make eye contact with your baby. He loves to study your face, and who knows, maybe you can even coax a smile.
If baby has not been born yet and you are worried about whether or not you will bond, there are some proactive ways to encourage this connection before and shortly after birth. Talk and sing to your baby in utero. You can even make up dialogue between you and your baby. Birth art is another way to emotionally prepare for birth and motherhood. You don’t have to be a good artist, this is just for you. With whatever medium you are comfortable with, draw, sculpt, or paint what you think birth will look and feel like. Create art of you caring for your baby too. Talk to other moms about their birth stories, and do be discerning about who you ask, no horror stories allowed. Certain pain medications for delivery can interfere with mother and baby’s lucidity during and after birth; so, be sure to do your research and talk to your doctor, midwife, or doula about the effects of any interventions.
It can certainly be disconcerting when your relationship with your newborn is not what you expected, but take comfort in the fact that you are not alone. Many women have found that just as in any relationship, the maternal bond takes time and effort. There are many ways to establish a connection with your baby before and after he is born. Finding the support and resources you need may be key to getting you on your way to a flourishing relationship with your child.
Contact The Fayetteville Doulas to discuss your options for birth and postpartum support. Together, we can develop a birth and postpartum plan to help you prepare as best as possible for the transition into motherhood.
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