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Forming a Bond With Your Baby -- Why It Isn't Always Immediate

Bonding refers to the special attachment that forms between a mother and father and their new baby. That bond is what sends parents rushing into their newborn's room in the middle of the night at the slightest whimper. It's also what makes parents want to instinctively care for and nurture their child.

Sometimes, the bond is immediate -- parents fall in love the instant they set eyes on their little "bundle of joy." Other times, bonding with baby takes longer. Studies have found that about 20% of new moms and dads feel no real emotional attachment to their newborn in the hours after delivery. Sometimes, it takes weeks or even months to feel that attachment. If you haven't begun bonding with your baby, don't feel anxious or guilty -- it should come with time.

 

Why Do Parents Bond With Their Baby?

Bonding is an important human instinct that gives babies a sense of security and self-esteem. Bonding also helps parents feel connected to their newest family member. It begins to happen even before the baby is born -- when you feel the first little flutters in your belly or see your baby kick on the ultrasound screen. Your baby also starts getting to know you in the womb through the sound of your voice.

How Does Parent-Baby Bonding Happen?

Bonding happens in many ways. When you look at your newborn, touch her skin, feed her, and care for her, you're bonding. Rocking your baby to sleep or stroking her back can establish your new relationship and make her feel more comfortable. When you gaze at your newborn, she will look back at you. In mothers who are breastfeeding, baby's cries will stimulate the let-down of milk.

Why Am I Not Bonding With My Baby?

Although bonding can be immediate for some people, others stare at the tiny, bawling creature they have just brought home from the hospital and wonder, "Who is this person?" Don't feel guilty if you aren't bonding with your baby right from the start. Remember that the process sometimes takes time. As you care for your new baby, you may find that your attachment grows. It may not be until the first time your baby shoots you a toothless grin that you suddenly realize you have bonded.

Bonding can be especially difficult if you had a C-section and couldn't see your baby right after the birth. It can also be difficult if your baby was premature and had to spend time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), or if you adopted. It may take longer to bond in these instances, but it should still happen.

Some mothers develop postpartum depression, which prevents them from completely bonding with their baby. The pain and exhaustion from childbirth -- especially from a difficult delivery -- can also get in the way of the bonding process.

Sometimes, a mother or father's situation can affect their relationship with their new baby. Any of the following can interfere with your efforts at bonding:

  • A childhood that lacked a positive parental role model
  • A history of depression or mental illness
  • A past pregnancy loss or loss of a child
  • Lack of a social network
  • Life stresses such as a difficult job or money troubles
  • Marital problems

WebMD Medical Reference

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