What Is Bonding and Why Doesn't It Happen Quickly for Some New Moms?
It’s often said, kids don’t come with a manual. But, in reality there are countless parenting books and magazines on the market. Not to mention the mass of information, some good, some bad, swirling around the internet. Currently, there seems to be an influx of information out there and an increased pressure around bonding with our newborn babies. Unfortunately, sometimes these types of trends put strong pressure on us to feel and act a certain way. Otherwise, we’re “just not doing it right.” This is especially true for new parents who also typically suffer a barrage of unsolicited advice from everyone around them. The truth is, every family is different, and every baby different. The best thing parents can do is balance reliable information with their own feelings and intuition, asking for help when they need it from a trusted source. Sometimes, it’s just plain getting the facts that can put our minds at ease.
What is bonding?
Bonding is just what we’ve always known it to be: a process of attachment between two people. When we talk about bonding specifically with our babies, it’s a special attachment between parents and their babies. This connection drives an instinctual desire to give our babies the best care, nurturing them, and tending to their every need. Some parents feel that strong bond, sometimes described as “falling instantly in love,” with our babies. But sometimes, and for many reasons, it just doesn’t happen that quickly. And that’s okay too.
Why doesn’t bonding happen quickly for some of us?
That fulfilled feeling of bonding with our newborns can often take more time. In most cases, this is completely normal. It may take hours, days, weeks, or even months. Some research shows that approximately 20 percent of parents, moms or dads, may not feel that emotional connection that is bonding for some time after the delivery. Oftentimes, as parents go through the process and routines of caring for our babies, gaining more confidence as we go, that attachment will naturally form before we know it. What won’t help is allowing guilt or anxiety to perpetuate the problem. What can help, for one, is being patient and letting time do its thing. Second, is sharing our feelings and getting the facts from a trusted professional if we’re getting to the point where it’s affecting our emotional well-being.
Common causes of delayed bonding can include undergoing a C-section where we don’t see our baby right away, if they’re born prematurely and are whisked away to spend a length of time in the NICU, if we’ve adopted our baby, or we’ve developed postpartum depression. Other difficulties that may be contributing to the delay in bonding for either parent may include their own lack of a positive parental role model, a history of mental illness, the previous loss of a child, or just plain life stress in general that is taking up our focus.
In the event the bonding delay starts to feel too much and is causing distress for the parent and/or the family, talking to the pediatrician can be a great first step. In some cases, a psychological or health issue may be at the root of the problem.
What can our family do?
There are several actions we can take to maximize our chances for earlier bonding with our babies. Early skin-to-skin contact wherever possible has been shown to have positive effects on bonding. At home, spending time with our babies, including using our voice and touch, can help. Dads feeling left out of the direct contact breastfeeding offers can help out with other aspects of the baby’s care. Some activities dads can take on are bathing, changing, and especially, taking on feedings while moms are resting.
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