From the portrayal of motherhood in Hollywood, we’re led to believe that all mothers give birth and immediately fall in love with the baby they’ve brought into the world. This is the image that most of us are fed from childhood, but what happens when it’s not like that? What happens when it’s not love at first sight?
Plenty of parents don’t experience the picture-perfect feeling of love at first sight when their newborn arrives, especially if the birth was traumatic or did not go according to plan. Coming to terms with having a new person in your life can be difficult and parenthood can be really daunting at first. This is a common feeling that many parents experience, though it’s rarely talked about.
If this is something you’re struggling with, there are some methods you can try to help you bond with your new baby. Remember that every family is different so it’s important to take it slow and do what works for you.
Ask for help
One of the best things you can do if you’re struggling to bond with your baby and are feeling lost or hopeless is to ask for help. This feeling is much more common than you might think and many new parents will be going through the same thing. It’s really important to talk about your feelings with someone you trust and to ask their advice.
This is especially important for coping with Post Natal Depression. PND and other post-natal mental illnesses are common among new mothers and can also affect fathers, but despite this, they are also often misunderstood. Being open and honest with someone you trust can help you to put things into perspective and allow you to get help faster if it’s something more serious. You don’t need to go through motherhood alone, find your support network and reach out to them, whether it’s your parents, a friend, your partner or your midwife.
Try skin-to-skin contact
As well as sharing your feelings with your loved ones and if needed, getting professional help, there are also some things you can do at home to try and build up more feelings of connection with your new baby. One of the best methods is skin-to-skin contact with your little one. Just 60 minutes of lying with baby on your bare chest every day for the first 12 weeks can make a massive difference to your bonding.
Skin-to-skin can be hugely beneficial for both baby and parents, reducing cortisol levels, the hormone responsible for stress and anxiety, and boosting oxytocin and dopamine, the feel-good hormones. Oxytocin is especially important for increasing feelings of connection between baby and parent – it’s the same hormone that’s released when you’re breastfeeding. The full range of benefits of skin-to-skin contact are still being discovered, from reducing the amount babies cry to helping premature babies gain weight faster, so you have all the more reason to get your top off and have some skin-to-skin snuggles!
Give babywearing a go
On top of lots of skin-to-skin contact, you could also try babywearing to help you bond more with your newborn. Babywearing is another great method to keep your baby close to you and like skin-to-skin, it boosts oxytocin levels whilst lessening stress hormones. This response happens in your body and baby’s body so it’s beneficial to both of you.
Babywearing also gives you the chance to establish more of a routine with your new baby. You can do the activities you want whilst they’re napping, without having to worry about leaving them in another room. Whether that’s pampering yourself, catching up on chores or seeing friends, getting on with your day-to-day with your new baby can really help you to feel more in control. All that time, your baby will be close to your chest, giving you the chance to get used to life with them in tow. Over time, your bond can start to grow.
Every family is different
Don’t forget that every parent-baby connection is different. There is no time scale to bonding with your baby and it will happen in its own time. The most important thing to focus on is keeping yourself and your newborn healthy. The rest will follow.
It doesn’t always have to be love at first sight when your new baby arrives and often it isn’t, motherhood is a journey and it looks different for every person. Try to concentrate on finding your own way and don’t think too much about what the world expects from you. At the end of the day, all that matters is finding out what works for you and your baby, regardless of what the movies say.