Most mothers find they establish a tangible bond with their baby immediately or within the first 72hours.
And while some may savor the feel-good hormone -dopamine, a ‘bond’ doesn’t necessarily mean instantaneous and ecstatic love at first sight.. Some not all, parents feel this deep attachment to their baby straight after birth. Yes, the ‘happy’ hormone oxytocin, which is released during pregnancy and in greater amounts during labor, is expected to kick in and to help to create this feeling of euphoria and love for your newborn. In fact, you may feel an overwhelming urge to protect your baby from the first moment you see her.
For other parents, strong feelings of attachment take a little longer to develop. You may simply feel too tired after your baby’s birth to bond with her straight away. Or perhaps you may have had a long labour, or a difficult traumatic birth experience, and attending to the physical needs of your newborn takes priority. So if you do not feel ‘love’ urge immediately, it is not your fault. Know that, mother’s love usually comes in with the breast milk- about 72hours after the birth of your child and steadily and gradually grow.
Some mothers have unrealistic expectations of childbirth. Your baby may have been born with a health problem, which may make you feel worried or distressed. Or perhaps you feel disappointed about your baby’s sex. These feelings are understandable and entirely normal.
If you can’t be physically close to your baby, your midwife may give you pictures of her. Looking at pictures of your new baby can help you to bond with her.
Try to have skin-to-skin contact with your baby as soon as you can. Skin-to-skin is when your baby is placed on your chest as soon as you’re ready to hold her. Your newborn bonds through touch and smell, and her senses are tuned in to respond to your unique smell and the feel of your bare skin.
Your midwife may also encourage you to breastfeed your baby soon after you have given birth to help you both bond.
You may not be able to hold your baby straight after she is born. This may be because you’ve had a cesarean, or if your baby needs special care. Try not to worry, as you haven’t missed a crucial chance to bond. Your midwife should help you to have skin-to-skin contact with your baby as soon as it’s possible to do so.
If your baby is premature, she can have skin-to-skin contact when she is strong enough. Skin-to-skin contact for premature babies, also called kangaroo care, will comfort your baby and encourage her development. It will also help you to bond with each other.
Rest assured that your attachment will develop gradually through everyday caring for your baby when you:
Even when you’re not holding your baby, try to keep her close to you, so she can see you. Have her nearby in her Moses basket or carrycot during the day. Keep your baby in your room at night for her first six months, so you can tend to her quickly and easily when she needs you.
Responding to your baby promptly when she’s upset, as well as when she’s happy, helps to build these strong bonds of trust. This love, attention, and affection will help her to thrive.
Interacting with your baby as you care for her doesn’t just help you to bond, and her to flourish. It also helps your baby’s brain to grow and develop.
Try not to worry. You’re certainly not alone, as many mums aren’t ready to bond with their baby immediately. You may feel guilty about not feeling an incredible attachment to your new baby immediately. But bonding is an individual experience that develops at its own pace. It may take days, weeks or months for the bond between you and your baby to develop fully.
Your baby may be cute and cuddly, but she’s also an entirely new person, one you may have to get to know before you become truly close.
Skin-to-skin contact with your baby, by both you and your baby’s dad, will help you all to strengthen your attachment to each other.
Be reassured that as you get to know your baby and learn how to soothe her and enjoy her presence, your feelings of attachment will deepen.
It may be that, after a few weeks, you don’t feel more attached to your baby than you did on the day she was born. You may even feel detached from her and resentful, or hostile towards her, or blame her for the way you feel. It could be that you are exhausted and need some extra support.
If that’s the case, talk to your doctor or health visitor as soon as you can. Try not to worry about sharing your deepest feelings, even if you feel bad about them. Your doctor and health visitor are used to hearing about new parents’ worries and fears. It’s important that you’re honest so you can get the help you and your baby need.
Your baby’s dad is likely to experience his own feelings of attachment with his new baby. It’s thought that dads also experience hormonal changes before the baby is born, and these changes may prepare them for fatherhood. Some maternity units encourage dads to experience skin-to-skin contact as soon as possible after their baby is born.
Seeing your baby’s first smile, trying baby massage and early play may help her dad to form and strengthen attachments with his newborn.