Bonding with Baby
In our society there is a false belief that bonding with our baby will happen immediately, instantly and without any effort. That the moment of holding them for the first time and staring at their little face will evoke overwhelming love. Like fireworks. But this DOES NOT HAPPEN for every single mum or dad. It is not always love at first sight and that is ok! Bonding can take days, weeks or even months to happen and if you don’t feel that connection immediately it does not mean anything about you as a parent.
We can make the analogy with romantic love. Some people report that they just knew the minute that they saw their partner that they were going to be with that person, it was a fireworks moment. For others, they talk about a slow burn of their love, something that might have grown or developed over time, via friendship first. Both can happen and both have an equally good shot of surviving as a relationship. When our babies are born it can be the same- instant connection or slow burn.
What complicates this situation is the misguided belief that only instant connection is a valid parental experience. That if you don’t feel that connection immediately with your child you are flawed, doomed as a parent or in some way faulty. These messages come from television, books and magazines, social media and stories people tell. As a result, the parent who has the “slow-burn” experience can go underground with their feelings and possibly never tell anyone that this was what happened for them. They might repress the feelings and emotions, avoid thinking about it or even blame any parenting troubles on this experience.
What we know from the parenting research (especially into adoption/ babies who live with others and not biological parents) is that the act of bonding with baby can happen over time and that there are things we can do to nurture this. These small acts of connection with your baby help to develop and grow the relationship with them over time and are useful even if you feel the bond was there from the beginning.
- Create opportunities to make eye contact with your child. This can be done during nappy changes, when feeding, during tummy time and when bathing. These moments of connection help your baby to develop their attachment to you.
- Respond consistently and sensitively to them when they are crying or distressed. They will come to understand that you are a reliable and consistent care giver.
- Use their awake and play times to enjoy them in various ways. For example singing, dancing, reading, cuddling, playing, talking and smiling.
- Facilitate your baby bonding with others also-. Seeing your child develop connections with other adults like grandparents or aunts/ uncles can help us to see that relationships can be grown over time.
Many parents worry about the bond with their baby and with good reason. They are motivated to create a strong and lasting relationship with their child that can withstand the challenges of the future and this is a worthy cause. However, when there is pressure to feel a certain way in a certain timeframe this can lead to anxiety and a sense of failure from the start. Remind yourself that the relationship with your child is a living, breathing thing that can flourish under the right conditions.