Mother and baby relationship questions answered

Our health visitor answers your questions on your mummy-baby relationship and bonding

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1) Is it normal to feel angry when my baby cries?

Q. My baby’s 6 months old and I adore him but sometimes I feel angry when he cries. What can I do?

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A. It is all too common to have feelings of anger, frustration and anxiousness as a mum, and it’s brave of you to recognise that you may need some support. Try these steps:

  • Focus on what you feel goes well with your baby, and enjoy those times.
  • Take a break if you’re getting frustrated. Put your baby in his cot or another safe place (even if he cries) and go to another room until you can think clearly.
  • Take some deep breaths, play music, have a cup of tea, whatever will help you.
  • Talk through how you’ re feeling with your own doctor and health visitor. They’re trained to help.

2) I don’t feel like I’m bonding

Q. I don’t feel as if I’m bonding with my three month old as well as I should be and I’m really starting to worry about it. Is this normal?

A. Three months after a baby is born can be a tricky time. Practical help can be less forthcoming as friends and relatives become less attentive as they assume that all is well. The reality may be quite different. It’s still early days in terms of adjusting to parenthood. Those initial euphoric feelings may have faded as the reality of coping with a young baby takes its toll. It may also be a time when symptoms of post natal depression – such as irritability or anxiety – come to light, which can contribute to doubts about bonding with your baby.

Talk to those close to you and get out every day. Discuss your feelings with your health visitor and GP. If you can find a local baby massage group join up. Research shows that massaging your baby can help you feel closer, reduce baby’s crying and give mums the skills needed to deepen their understanding of how to communicate and enjoy their babies.

3) He won’t settle without me

Q. Every time I put my new baby down he cries. He stops when I pick him up but that means I’m always holding him. Am I spoiling him?

A. Crying is the only way your little one can let you know he wants food, changing, sleep, warmth, or just you. Babies don’t manipulate situations, no matter what others tell you! Rather than spoiling him, when you pick him up it reassures him that you’re there and trying to help.

Newborns cry more between 2 and 6 weeks old and if in this period a baby receives lots of cuddling and isn’t left to cry for long periods, he’s reassured he’s not alone, and begins to relax. That’s why the crying decreases. A sling or carrier might make you feel more independent while keeping him close. Accept all offers of help, and sleep when he does. It’s a tough time but does get better.

4) I want to feel closer to my baby

Q. My baby spent a few days in the special care unit when he was born. We’re now home, but I feel we’ve missed out, as I didn’t see him in his early hours. I know it’s silly, but I feel as though it’s affecting our bond. How can I feel closer to him?

A. Your feelings about missing precious time with your new baby aren’t silly. Early glimpses of your child are special, and parents often feel robbed when babies need urgent medical attention.

Talk to someone close to you who’ll be sympathetic. It’ll help to acknowledge that the first few days didn’t go as hoped. It’s the first step to accepting the loss and to starting to focus on what you can do now. Your health visitor or midwife may also be able to fill in any gaps about what happened to your little one. Share your feelings with them, too. It can sometimes help to return to the hospital and talk to the special care staff who looked after him.

Spend time holding your baby close, with skin-to-skin contact if it feels right (it may not yet).

Enrol in a baby massage class, which can help you get to know your little one. With support your bond will develop, and you will feel close to your baby, just give yourself permission to do it slowly.

5) He’s very clingy

Q. My 8 month old cries when I put him down. How can I convince him I’ll be back?

A. At this age babies learn they can move away from you, and that you can move away too, but your child hasn’t worked out that you won’t be gone forever.

It‘ll take time for him to understand you’ll always come back so give him reassurance. He’s not being controlling, he’s just worried. Try games like hiding his toy car under a blanket and then revealing it’s still there, to show that out of sight doesn’t mean completely disappeared.

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Gradually, he’ll begin to understand and you’ll be able to leave him without him crying.

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