kids

When you don't bond with your baby instantly

By Marni Dixit July 27, 2016
Bonding with baby

In this age when 'having it all' feels more achievable than ever, motherhood and being a perfect parent is the biggest source of pressure for women today.

It's accepted thought that when handed her newborn for the first time, a mother will feel an instant rush of unconditional love and an unshakeable bond with their child. But what happens when that's not the case? 

Experts are urging new mums to change their perceptions about bonding with their newborns as it may be more difficult than you think. And in the process to ditch this age old misconception and the guilt.

A recent study of over 500 mums conducted by the "midwife in your pocket" app, WOTBaby, found almost 70 percent of mothers expected to bond with their baby straight away, however, only 10 per cent of them actually did.

Suzanne Robinson

IMAGE | SUZANNE ROBINSON VIA INSTAGRAM

In fact it can take a new mum up to six months before she feels a full connection with her child. 

Jen Hamilton, a nurse with over 27 years’ experience, and founder of WOTBaby explained:

“It’s all you see in advertising and the movies. Mums are depicted as forming an immediate bond, when in reality it can take much longer to form a true rhythm with their baby.”

“There are some key fundamentals that result in a successful bond between parent and baby, and so many out-of-control factors can effect that experience, including labour, health, support systems, relationships, personality and personal history or adjustment with things like feeding. In my experience, I generally find on average, mums truly bonding with their child at four to five months.”

Blue Mountains-based mother-of-three and blogger at Mummy to Twins Plus One, Suzanne Robinson, told smooth she had a vision before giving birth to her twin girls, Julia and Lillian, seven, that she'd be able to get things done, the babies would sleep for the required number of hours and it wouldn't be quite so stressful, but the reality was quite different:

"You read all the literature, you see the movies, you see the media and you think ‘Oh that shouldn’t be too bad’. I know it’s going to be tough, because it will be tough, but you never know until you actually do it."

Suzanne Robinson

IMAGE | SUZANNE ROBINSON VIA INSTAGRAM

Suzanne is one of many women who found it hard to bond straight away with her daughters because they arrived six weeks early and had to stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). This mean there was no time to cuddle or bond from the very beginning. 

The twins' stay in the NICU lasted for six weeks and the bond between them and Suzanne took time to form, that’s not to say she didn’t love them, but that connection wasn’t there straight away.

“In the early days, it’s the fact it’s all new. It’s different, it’s a shock to yourself, your body, you’re tired, you’re upset if you’re not doing something right. You think you are and then if something doesn’t go right you panic or you get upset and depressed and you judge yourself.”

SUZANNE ROBINSON

IMAGE | SUZANNE ROBINSON VIA INSTAGRAM

When it came time for her to welcome her third baby, Alexander, now six months old, her experience was quite different. Even though she and her husband, James, now had three children to look after, she bonded with Alexander much more quickly. As Suzanne explains bonding with a baby is like any other relationship, it just takes time for it to grow:

“Bonding is a personal experience and it shouldn’t be measured or judged by other people. It’s really all down to you and your baby and really it’ll happen in its own time. So basically, don’t put a time pressure on it. And don’t confuse bonding with not loving your child, obviously you love your baby.”

“A lot of other women have had the same experience… they said ‘Oh that happened to me, I just never wanted to say that because I didn’t want people to think I was a horrible mother!’ But it’s natural it’s something that everybody deals with, it’s just that nobody wants to talk about it.”

Considering how common this feeling is, it's a surprise it's been such a taboo subject until now.

SUZANNE ROBINSON

IMAGE | SUZANNE ROBINSON VIA INSTAGRAM

It's vital new mothers who don't bond instantly with their babies don't tear themselves down over it.

It's important to balance me time with the care of a newborn. From enjoying a coffee, sleeping in one day of the week, or even enjoying a bath by themselves, new mums should have time to take care of themselves - if you're not caring for yourself how can you care for a little one? 

If you or someone you know is having trouble bonding with their baby or is suffering from postnatal anxiety and depression contact PANDA on 1300 726 306.