Bonding with your baby is the first step in building a lifetime of memories with your little one. It is however, not always as easy as many parents assume it to be. At times, the bond does not appear instinctively. If the mother had a traumatic experience, a caesarean section that left her with pain and discomfort, or if the baby was born with some challenges, bonding with the baby may be difficult.
When you don’t automatically bond with your baby, you often question your abilities as a mother. You may feel inadequate, which might lead you to constantly compare your relationship with your baby to that of other mothers.
There are a number of factors that may contribute to the ‘distance’ felt.
Single, unemployed and very young moms are particularly at risk for delayed bonding. Because of their special circumstances, they may be reluctant to admit to friends and family that they are not coping with the responsibilities of caring for the baby.
Occasionally things don’t go as planned. Sick or premature babies may be separated from their mothers at birth. Or the baby might be placed up for adoption and it’s a while before they meet their adoptive mother. In other instances, new mothers may experience depression and may battle to interact with their newborn.
Specific psychological or maternal issue can delay bonding. But if mom is willing to reach out to other people, this unbreakable bond and trusting relationship with the baby can grow. If the daddy is involved in the relationship, it may help the mother to create some “own time” with shared responsibilities.
New parents have the first year of their baby’s life to start creating that bond, that will only get stronger with each passing year. It’s never too late to form a bond and certainly no parent should ever feel inadequate for doing their best.
Your relationship with your newborn is just as important as mom’s. Any new parent, mom or dad, may struggle to find their feet and figure out how to bond with their baby. Dads might feel like mom breastfeeding is the ultimate bonding experience… But you can also do a few things to build that bond. The more you hold, touch and cuddle your baby, the sooner this mystical bond will start to develop.
It can be difficult for dads to understand how to bond. But the more they assist with the physical care of the baby, the more confident they will get and the sooner the emotional attachment will start.
This is especially difficult for young dads who still want to “play the field” and do “normal” things. But this new baby depends on you to develop into an independent human being with hopes and dreams and desires. As such, for example, take a moment and sit with your baby in a quiet room looking into their eyes, talking to them and comforting them. Additionally, you can also take long walks together or read or sing to them.
As a parent, you can never say you know it all or the information you have read is enough.
So here are a few more tips that you may find useful while trying to bond with your baby.
- During the first week you should spend time doing things that require as much skin-to-skin and eye-to-eye contact as possible. This is how you build the foundation to your bond.
- As a mom, breastfeed your baby as often and as long as you can. It provide your baby with the nutrients they need to grow healthy and strong, and provides much needed bonding. This may be challenging for moms who need to go back to work. Feed the baby as often as you can to provide him with a great start in life. And when mom is not around to breastfeed, dad can help by feeding the baby expressed milk. Encourage daddy to touch and talk to the baby as much as possible while feeding.
- Try using a Snoedel. This simple and effective concept offers parents a means to comfort and bond with your baby, even when you’re still in the hospital. The soft wool in the flannel doll absorbs your scent and releases it slowly throughout the day. This provides your baby with comfort.
- It’s important to read up on the topic to find different ways, which may work for you, to help the bonding process. Speak to your doctor, mid-wife or clinic sister, who has lots of experience on matters like this and will be able to assist.
However, the most important thing for all parents, be it the mom or the dad, is to give it time. Any new parent will tell you that new babies can be very demanding. With all the tasks at hand, many forget that it’s okay to take time to enjoy the experience… Enjoy the smiles, giggles and newborn smells. Don’t rush things, and even through the long nights, laughter can be found and a bond can develop.
*This article is an exclusive column from Dr Diana Du Plessis, spokesperson for Philips Mother and Child Division.