Forming a connection with your new baby is a primitive desire for most parents. For many, this bond is apparent from day one, but for others developing a connection can take time. Whatever your journey, the bond with your child will be everlasting and tie you together for the rest of their lives.
Bonding from birth
For many parents, a connection with their baby-to-be can begin from as early as the first confirmation of conception. From the moment you learn your life is set to change, your priorities may begin to shift and your protective instincts kick in.
The beautiful and challenging journey of pregnancy is the beginning of a mother’s intimate bond with their baby. Your body is their home for nine-months and you have shared so many moments together already, before their day of birth arrives.
Because of this, many mums expect to feel an instant connect with their baby from the first time they hold their child. We often make the assumption that this is the usual reaction, that all parents look into the eyes of their newborn and feel a joy that will last forever.
The reality is however, the long and demanding process of childbirth can have a significant impact on the early relationship between mother and baby. Some mothers have an immediate and strong bond with their baby. But not every mother will feel immediately attached to their newborn. If this sounds surprising, it’s only because few discuss these feelings with those around them. It’s more common than most people realise.
In the hours following birth, the outpouring of maternal hormones can substantially affect the bonding process. Connection techniques are encouraged at this stage, such as attempting to breastfeed a baby in the first hours of its life and frequent periods of skin-to-skin connection, to capitalise on a mother’s influx of hormones.
For many mothers, the battle to bond with their baby continues or increases during the early weeks, when establishing a new routine at home. An unsettled baby can affect the psychological adjustment of the parents and their relationship with the newborn. This is also the period when some women have pre-existing anxiety and/or depression, which can affect them in the postnatal period.
It’s important to remember, bonding is often an ongoing process rather than a bolt of lightning and this helps explain why many people have such different experiences. A baby whose basic needs are being met won't suffer if the bond isn't strong at first. And even if bonding takes time, it normally happens for all parents eventually.
Bonding for mums, dads and partners
Whilst a bond between mother and baby can come naturally, it’s often dad or partners who struggle the most with developing a connection with their new additions. Mum, dad or partners can form an intimate bond with their baby from as early as the pregnancy experience has begun.
Making time to talk, sing or play music to your unborn baby are easy ways to begin a dialogue with your child. Being involved with the preparation for their arrival, like setting up the nursery, purchasing essentials like prams and reading parenting resources, can help partners feel they have contributed as part of the pregnancy journey.
Once baby has arrived, partners now have the opportunity to be involved in the everyday caregiving responsibilities - supporting their baby’s important needs. There are many moments in the daily routine that partners can lead. Bathing, nappy changes, outings, play and tummy time. are some occasions for partners to begin building their bond with baby. These are vital moments for you to contribute to your child's cognitive, physical and emotional development, and occasions where your intimate connections with blossom. I encourage partners to lean in as much as they are able, the moments may be fleeting, but the memories will be everlasting.
Connect One Day at a Time
Early support is important in encouraging your bond. New parents are often exhausted, burnt out and anxious. It’s a good idea to reach out to family and friends for support, just to take the pressure off and give you a chance to experience some undemanding and playful times with your baby. Engaging with a baby when the atmosphere isn’t charged with tension and stress is an enormous help.
You don’t have to be a perfect parent all the time in order to bond with your baby. Just do your best and as your confidence grows, you’ll feel more and more reassured you’re on the right path. Remember, every parent will form a connection in their own time. You may not be aware it’s happening, until one day you see their first smile. It’s for you and nothing else in life can beat that feeling.
Last Published* June, 2023
*Please note that the published date may not be the same as the date that the content was created and that information above may have changed since.