The experience of becoming a mum is different for everyone, and of course, no one experience is the same as the next. Though bonding with your baby is something that we generally expect will happen instantly and automatically, for some it may take some time to develop a connection with your baby.
I’m going to brave it and say; I didn’t immediately bond with my baby. I was curious about her; I wanted to inspect her translucent sharp nails, her full head of jet-black silken hair, and how exactly she made those snorty noises. But, was I overwhelmed by gushing love? No. I felt wonder, surprise, relief and exhaustion. And yet, I tried very hard to look like I was ‘bonding’ with her, because I felt a huge invisible pressure to be a good mother. It took me a while for those feelings to develop and I did feel relieved when my nurse/GP told me that this is a very normal part of the transition from being pregnant to being a mum.
Mother baby bonding after birth
Bonding is multi-sensory experience that allows us to develop a heightened awareness of the vulnerability of our child. The release of oxytocin - the hormone that among other things makes you seek closer attachment - into your bloodstream during labour and birth aids this. This motivates us at a primal level to make sure our child is given the warmth, food, and care that he needs. Nonetheless there is often such high expectation around bonding, as if it can only happen in one prescribed way. No wonder new mothers may feel confused and overwhelmed.
Bonding may have felt fantasy like as you felt your bump grow, saw the ultrasound scans and fell in love with your growing baby. Once your child is born, bonding may take a more physical form because of the very practical tasks of feeding, bathing, and getting the baby to sleep, so there can seem to be very little time to reflect on how you feel for your child. This can make you wonder if you have the ‘magical maternal bond’ that you’ve read about. All of this practical interaction however, is exactly what will help you bond.
One way to bond with your baby, as in all healthy relationships, is to develop routines - something that belongs to just the two of you. It might be the bath and bed ritual or your walk, when you cuddle or smile at him, or sing her your favourite non-nursery rhyme. You’ll come to learn what suits you best.
Sometimes feelings of attachment may not appear for a long time. If you consistently feel numb or indifferent or have concerns it’s important to speak to your midwife or healthcare professional to seek support about how you feel. Motherhood is a complex emotional and psychological journey and it is different for every woman.
The bonds you will have with your child are a lifelong work. Some may be for specific phases, and will grow, change and move on, like nursing. Some you may be happy to see the back of, while others you will always have fond memories of. Remind yourself that it is a process, rather than one final singular moment.
How are you? If you feel like you want more advice and support, there are a range of services you can access:
- PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia) PANDA - Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia supports women, men and families across Australia to recover from post and antenatal depression and anxiety, a serious illness that affects around 100,000 Australian families every year. Its helpline operates PANDA National Helpline (Mon to Fri, 9am - 7.30pm AEST) Call 1300 726 306. http://www.panda.org.au/
- Beyond Blue provides information and support to help everyone in Australia achieve their best possible mental health, whatever their age and wherever they live. Its 24-hour/7 day a week helpline offers free, confidential support with a mental health professional. Tel. 1300 22 4636. https://www.beyondblue.org.au/
- Just Speak Up is a Beyond Blue initiative and features personal stories about experiencing depression and anxiety around the time of becoming a parent. Have a read of the community members' stories of hope, recovery and resilience – then share your own, or jump on our online forums to join the conversation. https://healthyfamilies.beyondblue.org.au/pregnancy-and-new-parents/just-speak-up?sekw=35394356376
- BluePages provides information on treatments for depression based on the latest scientific evidence. It also offers screening tests for depression and anxiety, and links to other helpful resources. https://bluepages.anu.edu.au/
- COPE (Centre of Perinatal Excellence) provides high quality, practical information to help YOU work through all the emotional challenges of becoming a parent. http://cope.org.au/ and you can contact COPE @ (03) 9376 6321
- You can call Lifeline on 13 11 14 for help and advice on a number of emotional and mental health topics. Lifeline is a national charity providing all Australians experiencing a personal crisis with access to 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention services.