A mother-infant bond takes time to develop after birth, and sometimes requires help for this to happen
Violet (not her real name) remembers vividly her pregnancy journey and birth experience. She recalls with nostalgia, the excitement she had when she saw the two lines on the pregnancy test. Almost immediately, she began fantasizing about the small onesies, the colourful bibs, the stocking up of diapers and the love that would surround her once her beautiful baby arrived.
As time went by, Violet could not help it. She was so excited and couldn’t wait to see her baby’s face. She imagined how she’d arrive in hospital looking prim and proper, have a seamless birth and leave looking just as beautiful with her tiny tot swaddled in warm blankets. She imagined getting home, looking at baby lovingly and rocking him to sleep on quiet nights.
A few days before her EDD, Violet went into labour and gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. The moment he was placed in her arms, Violet shared, she felt an odd sensation. She didn’t feel that magical bond on first sight. “I was grateful to have had a safe birth, but when he was placed in my arms, I was shocked that the mythical magical bond was just not there. It felt odd, because while everyone was gushing about how adorable he was, I was frightened on the inside. He looked so small, and I wondered how my life would change with him in it.”
Violet would go on to get discharged from hospital and fight with the thought that she found it hard to bond with her baby. “Where was that instant bond I thought I would have with my son? How come I was struggling at the time? I did not hate my baby, I just couldn’t create the bond I always fantasized about when I was pregnant,” she disclosed.
Read More: The Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression
Postpartum bonding, according to the Baby Center website, refers to the strong attachment a new mom develops with her baby. It makes a new mom want to show love and affection to her baby. It is what would make a mom take a bullet for her baby.
For some moms, this happens immediately after birth when the baby is handed over for skin-to-skin contact. For other moms, it takes a few days after birth, and yet for others a little longer than that, sometimes running up to a month or so postpartum. Part of the reason for this is that mother-infant bonding is an individual experience. It is an unfolding process because both the new mom and newborn are learning on the go.
The new mom is learning to nurse, to lull the baby to sleep, to care for the baby and even create a distinction between different cries- discomfort cries, I-need-to-be-changed cry, pain cries, hunger cries and everything in between. The new baby on the other hand, is adjusting to life outside the comfort of the womb. This can be exhausting, and may slow down the process of bonding.
In addition to this, some moms who are unable to bond with their babies may be suffering from Postpartum Depression (PPD). Often linked to the sudden drop in hormonal levels, PPD, combined with the stress of been a new mom therefore, makes it harder for moms to bond with the baby. Other related symptoms include:
- a sense of hopelessness that the inability to bond with baby will last forever
- Anxiety that a poor bond makes one a bad mom
- Withdrawal from social circles and events such as baby showers and kids’ birthdays
- Feeling overwhelmed especially after using social media where the images painted of new moms reflect the magical bond
- Excessive moodiness
- In some cases, thoughts of causing harm to the mom/ the baby
If you feel like you may be suffering from Postpartum Depression, or know someone who shows any of the aforementioned symptoms, it is important to get help right away. Please reach out to us using the ‘Contact Form’ tab or call using the number on the top right of this page.
Violet went on to get help to assist her with her motherhood experience, alongside the support offered by her partner and family. Below are some suggestions to help new moms bond with their baby. While this is not a magic formula, it does help ease the journey.
- Take time for skin-to-skin contact during cuddle time as this is both soothing and relaxing for the baby.
- Breastfeeding often has also been shown to enhance wellness and allow feelings of attachment for the mom.
- Look into the baby’s eyes, as you talk and sing to him. Play with him daily to help forge the bond. Some moms will find that reading also helps with bonding.
- If you can, carry the baby in a front carrier to allow physical closeness.
- Join a new mommy group to help you through the journey, and you will be amazed at how many other moms feel the same way you do.
When should you be concerned?
Many new moms tend to create wonderful bonds with their babies over a period of time. If, however, after a couple of weeks, you do not feel more attached than you did after birth, it is important to talk to someone. Remember, postpartum bonding is an individual experience, and if you are worried you may be suffering from PPD, there is no shame in asking for help.