There is an all too common myth that the moment you set eyes on your baby it will be instant love and you will be bonded for ever. However it is completely normal to take some time to feel a special bond with your new baby. Around a third (32%) of UK mothers experience difficulties bonding with baby, according to new research by NCT.
In addition, more than 1 in 10 new mothers (12%) said they are embarrassed to speak to a health professional, GP or midwife about these issues, prompting the parents’ charity to urge mums and dads not to suffer in silence.
What is bonding ?
There probably won’t be one magical moment when you suddenly feel this overwhelming love, it will be more of a gradual process. It is important not to feel under any pressure or to feel a failure as a new mum. There are a few reasons you might not bond straight away:
- If you’ve had a long labour and/or a difficult and traumatic birth.
- If you’re exhausted.
- If your baby has a health problem or has to be looked after in special care.
- If you are finding breastfeeding difficult and stressful.
- If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your new responsibilities and not in control.
- Suffering from postnatal depression.
Even if you don’t meet any of these reasons bonding can still take time, bear with it, don’t feel pressured, and it will come.
What are the best ways to bond?
Just being with your baby is the best way to bond however here are some of our top tips to help you connect.
Go for skin-to-skin
Holding your baby close, with your skin next to theirs, as soon as you can after the birth can really help with the bonding process. If you can manage to do this within 30 minutes in a calm and relaxed environment, then that’s the ideal. But on a busy ward it’s not always easy, and some mums can’t if they’ve had a Caesarean or their baby is in special care. So if you can’t, don’t panic. Ask your midwife or doctor to let you know when you can.
Chat and smile
No, they won’t understand you, but your baby will already know your voice, and research shows even newborn babies can recognise a smile. So right from the start, stroke their cheek, lean close towards them and smile (at this point they can only see about 30cms in front of them), chat and sing.
Sing and dance with your baby
It doesn’t have to be a nursery rhyme and it doesn’t have to be in tune! You’re not performing to Simon Cowell here, you are singing to your biggest fan – if you enjoy it, your baby will love it too. Dancing with your child close to you can be very relaxing if they are upset or tired, while they may love being twirled around, jiggled about and flipped over if they’re in a more playful mood.
Ration the visitors
Bonding happens when the atmosphere is calm and relaxed and you’ve got time to focus one-to-one on your baby. If you’ve got home from the hospital to find your house has been taken over by an endless procession of well-meaning visitors all of whom want to cuddle baby it may be time to ask your partner to act as bouncer!
Try baby massage
Lots of mums have found this really helps with bonding. Baby massage encourages the release of your body’s feel-good hormone oxytocin and can lift your mood. The one-to-one contact with your baby will help you spend some quality time with them.
Is there a problem ?
If you think you are still not bonding with baby, you feel very detached and resentful towards your baby, and it’s interfering with your ability to look after both of you, then you may need some extra support. Speak to your health visitor or Doctor as it is really common and they will be on the look out for signs of post-natal depression . Remember there is nothing wrong with asking for help as soon as you think you need it, even having someone to talk to can be help to reassure your worries.
You can contact the NCT’s helpline, 0300 330 0700 which offers practical and emotional support in all areas of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood.