Giving birth is not just a physical experience, it’s very much an emotional one, too. Movies and photos show scenes of new moms overcome with emotions as she holds her baby for the first time. It may be natural to expect it, but what if that instant mother-child bond isn’t there?
According to research by the UK’s National Childbirth Trust (NCT), the country's biggest parents’ charity, as many as a third of new moms find it difficult bonding with their newborn. And, one out of 10 are embarrassed admit their feelings to a professional.
“The bond a baby has with its parents acts as a template that shapes the child’s emotions and relationships later in life, so it’s a crucial process,” says Elizabeth Duff, the NCT’s senior policy advisor.
For the study, the NCT surveyed more than 1,500 new parents and was set to coincide with the UK’s first "Infant Mental Health Awareness Week," which will begin next week Monday.
Results showed that 32 percent of new moms said they had experienced difficulties bonding with their baby. Twelve percent said they would feel embarrassed talking to health professionals about it.
“Parents who don’t feel an instant connection with their new baby often experience strong feelings of guilt, shame and inadequacy,” said Duff. “We hope our research reassures new parents that they are not alone if they don’t instantly bond with their baby and that this can often take time.”
In fact, this study isn’t the first to say that parents can lack that instant connection with their baby. The process does take time for some parents. It may take days, weeks or even months for the bond between parent and child to fully develop.
If you’re one of the moms who has yet to feel the full intense connection with your baby, bonding activities will help the process along.
The first few days of life are believed to be best time for bonding to take place, says Dr. Mary Beth Steinfeld of the UC Davis Health Center in the US. There should be a lot of holding and caring for the first days. Skin-to-skin contact, where the baby is placed on a parent’s bare chest, is also recommended.
Once the baby is home, bonding should be well established within the first few months. “Respond to the baby’s cues, and offer love and comfort when distressed,” says Steinfeld.
There’s loads you can do to build your bond with your baby. Look into your baby’s eyes, talk to her, smile at her, sing to her and read to her. When you’re not holding your baby, try to keep her close where she can see you. Respond to your baby when she’s both upset and happy. Rest assured that, gradually, while caring for your baby your love for her will grow and flourish.