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Bonding With Your Baby

You've waited nine months for your baby to arrive, but what happens if you struggle to feel that initial bond? It's important to know that not all parents experience an immediate connection with their newborn, and that's okay. Bonding is a process that can take time to develop.

The fear of not loving your baby once they're born can be very real for many new mums!

It’s a fear bred from the idea that you might be that rare case that strays away from the age-old 'myth' that all mums instantly and instinctually love their bundles of joy once they’re born.

However, it’s important to acknowledge that for many, this simply isn't the case at first, and more importantly, it doesn’t define your ability to be a loving parent.

The expectation that maternal love is immediate and all-consuming can place immense pressure on new mothers. The reality is that every mother’s experience is unique, and the bonding process can vary greatly from one individual to another.

Understanding Your Feelings

The truth is many mothers do not feel an immediate, overwhelming love for their newborns. In fact, around 32% of UK mothers experience difficulties bonding with their baby.* This does not make you, or them any less of a mother, it’s just for some it can take time. We believe it’s so important to debunk any myths surrounding bonding with your baby and focus on the reality of being a mum to a newborn.

Firstly, let’s get down to what feeds our fears and our ability to be a ‘good’ mother, and how do these fears reveal themselves to us.

Societal Expectations:

Well let’s start with social media, which often depicts motherhood as an instantaneous connection filled with overwhelming love. This portrayal can lead to unrealistic expectations for new moms and these images are everywhere from washing detergent commercials, to TV shows and all-over social media bombarding new mums on a daily basis. Let’s be honest here, they rarely show the chaos of a new mum, juggling taking care of her newborn, exhaustion and keeping up with household chores, not to mention other family members.

Emotional Adjustments:

We chat quite openly here at Lil-Lets about the ‘postpartum period’ and what a significant, emotional and physical time of adjustment it can be, no matter how prepared you are! Hormonal changes, exhaustion, and the challenges of caring for a newborn can affect your emotions and bonding process, so don’t be too hard on yourself, your body has been on quite a journey for the last 9 months.

Fear of Being Different:

The fear and guilt of not loving your baby immediately can stem from a concern about being different or inadequate as a mother, often worrying about how others will see and judge you, or comparing your interaction with your baby to other new mums. So, it’s important to remember that many mothers share these feelings and that you are not alone, and it’s something we should be talking about more.

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Dad And Baby Shutterstock 1887452395

Prioritise Self-Care

Taking care of your own physical and emotional needs is crucial, after all how can you hope to look after another person, if you’re not taking care of yourself first! We’re not saying leave your baby for hours on end, but we do advocate rest, nutrition, and self-care whenever you can. And let’s face it we all feel better and ready to take on the world, once we’ve had a little bit of ‘ME’ time. So, don’t be too afraid to ask a partner, friend or family member to help out so you can spend time getting back to your old self. An improvement in your mood and overall well-being, can help you relax and feel more connected to your baby.

Be patient, the love and bond between you and your child can develop and deepen over time. Embrace the journey, be patient with yourself, and cherish the everyday moments that contribute to building a strong, loving relationship.  Every stage of their life brings new opportunities for bonding and love, and it really doesn’t have to be a big moment, sometimes just watching your baby sleep peacefully can bring you great joy.

The fear of not loving your baby immediately is a common and understandable concern for many new mothers, and every mother’s journey is unique, there is no right or wrong way to experience and express maternal love. Recognise that both you and your baby are learning and adapting. Bonding is a mutual process that involves getting to know each other and developing trust.

Practical Tips For Bonding With Your Baby

Just like parents, babies have different temperaments and ways of interacting with the world. Some may be more expressive and responsive right away, while others might take a bit longer to show their personalities. Give yourself and your baby time to adapt and connect.

 Skin-to-Skin Contact: Holding your baby close, especially skin-to-skin, can enhance feelings of closeness and help release bonding hormones like oxytocin.

Eye Contact and Talking: Make eye contact and talk to your baby regularly. Your baby will recognise your voice and facial expressions, helping to build a sense of familiarity and trust.

Babywearing: Carrying your baby in a sling or carrier keeps them close and allows for more interaction throughout the day. This proximity can help strengthen your bond.

Responsive Caregiving: Respond promptly to your baby’s needs. This builds trust and security, making your baby feel loved and cared for.

Enjoy Quiet Moments Together: Spend quiet time just holding or gently rocking your baby. These peaceful moments can foster a deep emotional connection.

The love and affection you feel for your baby can grow and deepen as you spend more time together and get to know each other better. It’s not uncommon for this bond to develop slowly, especially as you learn to understand your baby’s unique personality and needs.

However, if you find you cannot bond with your baby and have thoughts about harming yourself or your baby, it’s crucial to speak to someone or contact your midwife/doctor immediately.

Reaching out for help is a brave and important step towards ensuring the well-being of both you and your baby. Remember, you are not alone, and there are resources and support systems available to assist you through this challenging time.

* Difficulties with baby bonding affect a third of UK mums | News | NCT

Home-Start groups for parents and children

Mental health and wellbeing | Tommy's (tommys.org)

Perinatal Mental Health (PMH) – During and After Pregnancy

Frequently Asked Questions

When does bonding start?

For some bonding can start during pregnancy as parents talk to and feel the baby move. It continues to develop after birth through everyday interactions like holding, feeding, and soothing the baby. It's not always instantaneous, so don't feel the bond has to be there immediately following birth.

Can fathers and other caregivers bond with the baby?

Yes, fathers and other caregivers can bond with the baby through similar activities: skin-to-skin contact, feeding, talking, playing, and comforting the baby. Each interaction helps build a strong emotional connection.

What if I don’t feel an instant bond with my baby?

It’s common not to feel an instant bond. Many parents find that the bond develops gradually over time as they get to know their baby. Be patient with yourself and engage in bonding activities regularly.

How does bonding affect my baby’s development?

A strong bond provides a foundation for your baby’s emotional security and overall well-being. It helps them develop trust, regulate stress, and build healthy relationships in the future.

Can I bond with my baby if they spend time in the NICU?

Yes, bonding with a baby in the NICU can still occur. You can engage in skin-to-skin contact, talk to your baby, and be involved in their care as much as possible. NICU staff can provide guidance on how to bond in this environment.

What should I do if I’m struggling to bond with my baby?

If you’re struggling to bond, it’s important to seek support. Talk to your healthcare provider, a therapist, or a support group for parents. They can offer strategies and reassurance to help you develop a strong bond with your baby.


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