Bonding with your baby

Bonding with your baby is something that we generally expect will happen instantly and automatically.

For some parents, having a baby marks the time when all their hopes and dreams have come true.  You may feel an overwhelming sense of love for your baby, and find yourself constantly watching, holding and touching your baby as you look at them with love, wonder and amazement that you have created someone so precious. Many fathers particularly describe feeling great pride, wonder and protectiveness towards their baby.

Whilst this experience can reflect some people’s experiences, this is certainly not the experience for all parents, in fact some parents report they have very rare moments like this at all.

I was unprepared for the numb, lack of bonding I felt. I was not depressed… I just didn’t bond with my baby at all for the first two months. No one had mentioned that I may feel that way.

Despite images in the media that portray instant and constant strong, loving connections and precious moments between parents and their infants, for lots of reasons it may take some time to develop a connection with your baby.

You hear and see about your baby is born and you love them immediately… and you just want to be with them. I didn’t have that. I loved him, but I wasn’t in love with him.

Some facts about bonding:

  • Bonding does not necessarily happen instantly – it can take  days, weeks or even months before you feel a connection with your baby.
  • Taking time to bond with your baby is not uncommon – nor is it a sign that you are not a ‘good’ or ‘natural’ parent.
  • Be aware – of what you are watching, reading and when talking to others about their experiences.
  • Try to not put additional pressure on yourself – encourage your friends and supports to talk openly and honestly.

Remember all relationships take time and investment – some naturally take longer than others, so give you and your baby time to establish your new relationship.

Understanding secure attachment

Your attachment with your baby is important for your relationship – and also your baby’s development.

Research tells us that a secure attachment relationship helps to build the foundation for your baby’s positive sense of self, feeling safe, and developing capacities to cope with distress.

Babies form attachments to significant carers in their lives, usually their parents, but also with other people such as their siblings, grandparents, other relatives and those paid to provide childcare.  Attachment research suggests a baby’s early positive experience with their parents and carers enables them to use their relationship as a ‘secure base’ from which to explore the world.  This secure base also provides your baby with a foundation for secure attachment in their future relationships.  In turn this also has a positive affect on their ability to explore, grow and develop.

Strategies to help you bond with your baby

Some of the ways that you can help to develop a secure attachment include:

  • Reliably and sensitively responding to your baby’s cues for comfort when they cry or are distressed.  You can do this by holding and cuddling, talking, smiling, and gently rocking your baby.
  • Imagining how your baby may experience the world. Try to take time to see the world from their point of view.
  • Taking time to delight in your baby and their experience.
  • Getting to know your baby as a person and thinking of him or her as a unique little person (as opposed to simply ‘a baby’).
  • Engage in play, massage and talking with your baby will not only stimulate their senses, but also build a strong, positive connection between you both.

A relationship is a two way street. By taking time to develop and nurture your relationship with your baby in the first months, you will find that this will help you to not only understand and know your baby, but this will also help to foster that special relationship that this there for life. It may take time, that is okay.

If you feel concerned about your bond with your baby, you can seek professional help here.