Ask most mums if there’s anything that compares to the moment they first hold their newborn, and there’s usually one straight answer: nothing in the world. We all have bonds before we have our babies – with our families, friends and partners. But the bond with that bundle of new life is one of the most unique and special you’ll ever feel.
Bonding isn’t the same for every mum, though. For many, bonding begins before birth, where you’re very attached and in tune with your bump. For others, it can be a gradual process after the birth. Baby expert Megan Faure (www.babysense.co.za) explains:
“Bonding is more than a warm fuzzy feeling – it is a critical, deep emotional involvement with another person. And about trusting them, too. It is a misconception that bonding is an event, or occurs at a given moment such as birth. Bonding is in fact a journey, a process of getting to know, trust and rely on another person.” When that’s your baby, you can feel under pressure to bond instantly. But there are a few ways it can happen.
Infatuation – when you bond before you’ve met your baby
“Some parents have waited a long time for their little one and being pregnant brings wonderful feelings of joy,” says Megan.
“For many pregnant mums, the hormones and expectancy lead her into a love relationship right from the start. You might find yourself dreaming of your baby and feel the swell of love for your baby as you rub your tummy. Technology helps – by 13 weeks, you and your partner should have seen your little one at least once. We share early photos of our baby in the womb and so begin to bond early.
When your baby beings to move and wriggle you may feel love for this little person. In fact many mums ‘mourn’ the end of those fluttery feelings after their babies are born.”
“As soon as my bump showed I felt like I was carrying a precious cargo’ and just wanted to hold my baby. When Ellie arrived, I was overwhelmed with emotion,” said Julie Sands, 25, from Swindon, mum to Ellie, 3 months.
For some mums pregnancy may be difficult, unwanted or scary. Megan says, “Antenatal depression is being recognised more and more and we now know that it is not uncommon for a woman to feel very ambivalent towards her baby.
“Likewise, dads may experience depression and anxiety in pregnancy and this will impact on their bond with their baby.” The good news is, that doesn’t mean you won’t bond when you meet your little one.
Love at first sight – the immediate bond
“The moment we meet our babies we expect to feel overwhelming love. For some parents, this is the experience, as they look at this tiny, beautiful, helpless being they are flooded with feelings of love,” says Megan. “Natural delivery of your baby will facilitate this emotional response as all the hormones released by birth create a flood of endorphins that give you a high.”
No love at first sight?
If the delivery is difficult or very long, or either mum or baby are in danger, the feelings may be very different, Megan explains. “Exhaustion and despair if things don’t turn out well can negatively impact on those love juices. Your feeling may be of gloom and being overwhelmed and this will mean you don’t feel like you are bonding. On the other hand, some mums have a wonderful birth experience and meet their perfect baby and yet feel no love or great fascination with their newborn.”
Long-term love story – when bonding takes time
For other parents, love is a long slow journey. There are no ‘a-ha!’ moments, just a gradual development of a love relationship. If this love develops within the context of a caring, consistent relationship, it is no problem at all for your baby. Be patient, and take every little moment as a sign you’re bonding.
“For me bonding’s about the small moments. A smile or a gurgle make my tummy flip with love for Joshua. It’s an ongoing process,” said Catherine Hoath, 30, from Littlehampton, mum to Joshua, 11 months.
“After an emergency C-section delivery I didn’t feel like I’d ‘had’ my baby. It took me a couple of days to feel like I was really a mum. Skin-to-skin contact and establishing breastfeeding helped me bond with Miles,” said Vicky Blackwood, 29, from Glasgow, mum to Miles, 6 months.
Still struggling to bond with your baby?
“It’s vital that mums know that not everyone is overwhelmed with love at the sight of their baby,” says Megan. “If, however, you never feel love towards your baby, your mothering role is a process of acting out the motions and you are overcome with depression or anxiety, you need to get help for postnatal depression as this condition may impact on your baby emotionally. Try www.pndsupport.co.uk, or the meet a mum association www.mama.co.uk, or speak to your health visitor or GP – even just a friend.