If you are about to give birth for the first time, you could be wondering about the mysterious ‘bonding’ between you and you child that is so talked about. You might even be worried that it may not happen; that it may not happen as soon as the child is born…or you may even be wondering what on earth this ‘bonding’ is.
Bonding is love
Lets dispel some myths. Firstly, bonding is not some weird and mythical process that you are supposed to have learned all about, or that you may not know how to do. It is, quite simply, just another description for love. It is the love that a mother and baby feel for each other. Of course, it ‘s a different kind of love from that which you feel for your husband or your sister…but it’s love just the same. So, there’s no need to worry . You know all about love, don’t you?
Will I bond instantly with my first baby?
Just as every love relationship between husband and wife is different, so is every mother/child bonding. Your feelings when you first see your baby depend on many factors, not least of which will be how exhausted you are after the birth! Some women find that the baby doesn’t look as they had imagined he or she would, and it can take a little time to recognise this wrinkled little bundle as the baby you’ve been nurturing inside you for so long. Other mums will feel that magical rush of love immediately.
How fast it happens doesn’t matter. Your relationship with your baby is unique and can never be compared to that between another mother and child. What does matter is that you do establish that bond, whether it happens instantly or over a period of time.
Will I be able to bond with my second child as easily as with my first?
It isn’t only moms who are expecting their first babies who feel a little anxious about bonding. It’s quite common for second time around moms to worry that they won’t be able to feel the same instant love for their second child as they do for the one they have known for two or more years.
The key here is to remember that you have had time to build the bond between you and the first child. Your second baby is a completely new individual, and if it takes time to get to know and love him, that’s normal. One thing you don’t need to worry about though is that there isn’t enough love to spare for two children. The more love you give, the more you have to give.
Tips to help you form a strong bond with your baby
Whether this is your first baby or your fourth, there are a few things you can do to help the bonding process.
- Look after yourself! It might sound as though it has little to do with the bond between you and your baby, but if you are feeling healthy, strong and happy you will find the bonding process far easier and more natural than if you are exhausted and feeling out of sorts with the world. Get enough sleep. If this is tough to do with a demanding newborn try to get someone else to take over as much as possible to give you a break, or at least, give up on the chores and sleep when the baby sleeps!
- Get some help with the housework if possible. That way, not only are you less stressed and tired, but you also have more time to relax and get to know your baby.
- Eat well. Drink plenty of water, especially if you are breastfeeding, and eat nutritious foods that keep your energy levels high. Don’t miss meals because you are too tired, or too busy. If possible, have someone else prepare meals so you don’t have to worry about that for a while.
- Spend some time away from your baby. Yes, that’s right. The happiest moms form the strongest bonds with their babies, and you need a little time to be you. Try to see if someone can look after the baby for an hour to let you go to the shops, go to the hairdresser or just have a coffee with your friends without having to worry about the baby crying or needing your attention. It doesn’t have to be a long time…in the early days, especially if you are breastfeeding, you won’t want to be apart for long, but try to make just a little time for yourself.
- Have lots of cuddles with your baby. If possible, make these cuddles skin on skin contact, which is very soothing and pleasant for both of you. When you take a bath, ask your partner (or your mom if you don’t have a partner) to lay the baby on your chest for a little while. The warmth of the water, the skin to skin contact and the calm atmosphere can make this a unique bonding time. For safety’s sake though, it’s best to have somone on hand to help pass you the baby and to lift him away after your cuddle.
- If you have an older child, try to include them in the cuddling and bonding process too. Make feed times for the baby cuddle and story time for the toddler too, perhaps. You can settle the older child next to you on the sofa while you feed the baby and tell him or her a story. This not only strengthens the bond between you and the baby (who will enjoy the sound of your voice and assosciate it with the pleasure of feeding), it also helps build a bond between the older child and the little one and eases the natural feelings of jealousy an older child may experience.
- Don’t expect too much of yourself. You have only just become a mom, no one, least of all your baby, expects you to be an expert. The perfect mother doesn’t exist, but most moms end up being pretty good, and pretty good is enough for your baby. He or she just wants YOU.
Getting to know your baby
Every baby is an individual. You can bet your boots that whatever you imagined your child would be, he or she will confound those expectations at every turn. It’s all part of the fun of having a baby! You have brought a real, unique and amazing person into the world, so take some time getting to know him. Don’t be upset if he doesn’t like having his toes tickled, for example, get to know what he does enjoy instead. Watch how he reacts not only to you but to the world around him. He may be soothed by having music on in the background, or he may prefer quiet. He may enjoy being around the noise and bustle of the family or he may prefer to be put in a quieter place to sleep. None of it is right or wrong, it is just your baby being the person he is.
Learn your baby’s language
Your baby will be rapidly developing a way of communicating with you too. Observe him and you will find that you quickly pick up on the cues. He may cry when he is hungry, but he may signal that he needs a feed long before he cries by turning his head into your body and nuzzling you. If you understand what your baby is telling you, you will be able to establish a close and mutually pleasurable relationship. Picking up on these cues is all part of bonding.
Play with your baby
In the early days, your baby will mainly just want to eat and sleep, but very soon she will begin to intract with you. Playing with her is important. Learn what makes her smile and laugh, and laugh along with her. Making faces, playing peek a boo, singing to her and tickling her (if she enjoys it) are all ways to strengthen that bond between you.
Let your baby touch you. Even from soon after birth, you will notice that your baby fixes her eyes on your face and turns her head to the sound of your voice. Soon she will extend this getting to know you process by reaching out her hand to touch your face. Touch is one of the baby’s ways of communicating.
Dads can bond too
So much of what is written about bonding seems to refer only to moms and babies, but if Dad is around, he needs to bond with the baby too. In fact, the only thing he can’t do is breastfeed, so don’t leave him out! Dad’s can have cuddle time with babies, can talk to them, sing to them, and get to know them just like you can.
And…moms, give dads a chance! They may seem a little inept at first, but this is usually just a lack of confidence and you can help by encouraging your man to spend time with the baby. Help him to establish a relationship, and don’t be too critical of his efforts!
If bonding is difficult…
There are some circumstances where the bonding process doesn’t go as easily and smoothly as you might hope. If you have had a very difficult birth, or a Ceasarean birth, for example, you may be tired, sore and feel a degree of resentment towards this little stranger who has caused you pain. Don’t worry, it’s nomal. These feelings usually wear off quite quickly, but if not, don’t waste time in asking for help from your midwife or doctor. Some moms suffer from baby blues or even a more serious post natal depression that can interfere with the bonding process. Get help, and things should soon be the way they ought to be.
Other factors that may affect bonding are:
- Your own childhood experiences. If you had an unhappy childhood with unsatisfactory relationshipes with your parents, you may find it harder to bond with your child. Again, ask for help from the professionals.
- Alcohol or drug addiction. If this is a problem, you really need proper help and advice. You won’t be able to form a safe and healthy relationship with your baby while you are addicted to drugs or alcohol. You owe it to yourself and your child to sort these things out. If ever there were a good reason to get clean, your baby is it!
- A poor living environment. If you don’t have a safe, comfortable home in which to bring up your baby, bonding may easily be afrfected. Once more, help is available. Talk to your midwife, doctor or health ptofessional to see what help you could be entitled to.
- A handicapped or sick baby. If your baby is born with a handicap or needs special medical care in the early days, bonding may take a little longer to achieve. Ask for help from the medical profession who will be used to these situations.
In most normal circumstances, (excluding those mentioned directly above where outside help will be needed) bonding with your baby is a natural process that should come easily to you as long as you give it time and follow a few simple guidelines. Enjoy it! The early days will be over before you know it, so make the most of them.