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There’s nothing stronger than a mom’s love for her little ones. Yet, this love doesn’t happen overnight. It’s possible that you may not feel a bond to your new baby immediately after birth (yes, even if you choose to breastfeed). And that’s something you shouldn’t feel guilty about at all.
Studies have shown that 20% of new moms feel no real emotional attachment to their babies after delivery. Although you’ve dreamt about your baby and spent time preparing for their arrival, your newborn will still be a stranger to you at first.
The bond will grow stronger over time. Yet, if you want to inspire the warm and fuzzy feeling a baby can give quickly, this guide can help. Here, we’ll help you understand how to bond with your baby and share insights on why that bond could take extra time to grow.
In the hours after birth, you’ll be exhausted and may feel a bit overwhelmed. After all, there’s a brand new human who needs your care and attention. To build a bond, here are six things you should prioritize.
Breastfeeding is something special. There’s just something about using what you have to give to feed your baby. Breastfeeding also requires skin-to-skin contact (more on this below) that can help stimulate a bond between you and your baby.
There are many ways you can breastfeed. For example, you can choose to exclusively breastfeed, breastfeed and pump or even exclusively pump. Which one is right for you will depend on your baby’s needs, your lifestyle and comfort level.
Mama, it’s also true that simply feeding your baby, regardless of method, will help you bond. One study found that breastfeeding alone isn’t a central factor in mother-infant bonding. If breastfeeding isn’t the right choice for you, that’s okay—simply feeding your baby is enough.
After birth, many birthing centers, midwives and beyond will agree that skin-to-skin contact is critical. There are many benefits to skin-to-skin contact, one being the release of oxytocin for the mom.
According to Stanford Children’s Health, oxytocin, also known as the love hormone, helps warm your skin for your baby and helps you and baby get to know each other’s unique scent. This helps jumpstart a beautiful bonding experience.
A critical part of bonding is simply spending time together. And babies love to be spoken to. Try reading a book to your baby once you get snuggled in back at home. Or, sing some of your favorite tunes while holding your sweet bundle. Remember, at this stage, it’s all about getting to know one another.
Eye contact is one of the best communication methods as it helps us better connect with those we speak to. The same goes for you and your baby. Making eye contact simply enables you to connect on a deeper level with your little one. The best part? Experts say that babies can make eye contact as early as birth.
After discussing skin-to-skin contact, we’ve now highlighted the importance of close contact. Being close to your baby can lead to a more secure bond. Wearing your baby in a sling is another great way to stay close.
There are many options out there when it comes to babywearing. For example, you can use a wrap, sling or even a structured carrier. Carrying your baby this way can also free up your hands to complete those small household to-dos. Finally, you can clear that sink full of bottles, mom.
Guess what—you can’t spoil your baby. It’s true. So, don’t wait to respond to your baby’s needs, whatever they may be. For example, look for hunger cues such as lip smacks and clenched hands. And if your baby cries from simply wanting to be held, go for it.
Understanding and responding to these cues can help build your confidence. And as a result, you’ll feel more connected to this new role and your new baby.
Mother-baby bonding problems are common. And if you feel as if you’re struggling to love your baby at first, know that this is normal. There are several reasons why you might have a hard time bonding with your newborn.
Sometimes, babies need more extensive care after birth. For example, some babies may need a stay in the NICU for various reasons. An elongated hospital stay for you or your baby can impact bonding. In fact, studies have shown that NICU stays can disrupt parent-infant bonding.
Postpartum depression is common for mamas after birth. Some of the symptoms of postpartum depression include depressed mood, excessive crying, withdrawal from family, inability to sleep, extreme fatigue and more.
These symptoms can make it too overwhelming to care for your baby. You may rely on others such as your partner for feedings and diaper changes. While this can make bonding difficult, it’s not your fault. Postpartum depression is a serious complication of pregnancy and you shouldn’t feel guilty.
If you’re suffering from postpartum depression, there’s help available to you. Reach out to your doctor or OB/GYN. They can help you determine the next steps you must take to get you feeling like yourself again.
Sometimes, the birthing process can be hard. Some new moms suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after a particularly difficult experience. Some symptoms of PTSD after birth include nightmares, panic attacks, avoidance of hospitals or doctors and feeling detached from others.
It’s also possible to feel detached from your baby. Or, the other symptoms such as nightmares can lead to insomnia which may have you feeling drained. All of these factors may make it hard for you and your baby to bond.
If you believe you’re suffering from PTSD after birth, it’s time to seek help. Speak to your doctor or OB/GYN. Ask for help from your support system. Whatever you do, don’t try and get through it alone.
New moms have a lot to juggle. From taking care of a new human and keeping house to cleaning bottle after bottle and supporting other kids at home, there’s so much to do. This can lead to moms feeling burnt out and as if they’re running on empty.
You may feel you’re taking care of your baby using muscle memory. And you may feel detached as you simply do what it takes to get through the day. Unfortunately, this may affect the bond between you and your newborn.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, reach out to your partner or support system for help. Ask a friend to come over and babysit for a while so you can simply take a shower. Find a sitter you trust for a couple of hours and go to a movie or out to lunch. Self-care is important. You can’t pour from an empty cup.
Simply holding your baby, sharing some sweet kisses and breathing in their scent can strengthen your bond. You can do just that while still pumping your baby’s next meal with Willow, the hands-free, wearable breast pump.
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