A woman spends nine months growing this other human being inside of her. From the moment that little plus sign passes through the pregnancy test, she starts talking to her tummy and fantasizing about the day when she finally sees that fabulously fantastic face on the outside. With every kick, every hiccup and every strangely scary ghost-like ultrasound picture a sense of mommy-glee washes over her.
As the trimesters tick by this mom-to-be gets more and more super-psyched to meet that little stranger inside of her. Instead of answering emails and texting hesr boss back, she daydreams about snuggling up with a swaddled newborn. She imagines gently rocking and looking deeply into those little eyes as she puts her hand close to her baby as they wraps those teeny tiny fingers around mom's pinky.
Thinking about this makes mom-to-be smile and know that she and the baby will have an absolutely inseparable bond that will never be broken. And, then the fantasy becomes reality.
Um, wait. What if that crazy-strong bond mom imagined isn’t there? She holds the baby, she rocks the baby, she looks at that squishy pink face and – nothing. Nope. No bond.
What? Aren’t all mamas supposed to have an insta-bond with their babies? She's seen something like a zillion pics on FB and IG that say so. Her friends post about how overjoyed they are to be new mommies and how totally, completely and entirely in love they are with their babies. So, why the heck doesn’t she feel that way?
15 Wind Up With A Preemie Surprise
You still have a month (or more) left until your due date. Then suddenly you’re being rushed into delivery. Surprise, you’re having a baby – today! The shock of delivering early is enough to take your anxiety level from medium-low to super extra high. The trauma of the experience may make bonding more difficult than you expected.
You may worry that your baby won’t be okay, and keep her at a distance (an emotional distance, that is).
Even if you want to get close to your preemie, you might not be able to – literally. Your baby may be in an incubator or have tubes, a respirator and other medical devices getting in the way. With all of the med-tech keeping the two of you separated, you may feel like snuggling with your new little gal or guy just won’t ever happen. It will.
But, it may take time. As your baby gets stronger you’ll get to take on more of the care-giving duties. You’ll be able to hold, feed, change and help your baby. The more time you get to spend with your preemie, the more likely it is that the two of you will develop that mother-child bond.
14 Fear Of Being A New Mom
Some fears aren’t related to a disorder, condition or some sort of hormonal problem. Plenty of new mamas have a fear of messing it up the first time around. There are so--oh-so many things that you could get wrong. Okay, so as long as you love your baby and take care of her you aren’t going to permanently ruin her. But, that won’t stop you from freaking out now and again.
Sometimes the fear of being a new mom can get in the way of bonding. When you’re so overwhelmed with the feeling that you absolutely, positively won’t get it right you might have trouble doing anything at all. This includes bonding with your baby. It’s almost like the fear of not knowing what you’re doing freezes every little mommy instinct. That’s okay. You aren’t alone. Every new mama is scared. Anything that’s new is scary.
You just need to dive in head first and be the mommy you know you can be!
13 There's A Lack Of Support
It takes a village. Right? You’re totally overwhelmed. You read the books, and you read the blogs. But, real-life parenting isn’t anything like what you thought it would be. You’re scared, you’re tired and you’re feeling totally frustrated. There’s a mountain of laundry looming in the corner, your baby is crying (again) and you can’t find the extra pack of diapers. Whoa! It’s all too much.
Those first few days after baby’s birth day were perfectly fine. But, you did have the help of a professional staff (the hospital staff, that is) 24-7. Then you went home. Your S.O. hung out and helped. And, then he went back to work. So, your MIL came over. But, she had to get back to her life. Now what? You’re all alone and have what feels like no support.
When you’re worried about how you’ll find a few spare moments to throw together dinner, do laundry, feed the dog and maybe, possibly take at least one shower this week, it’s not easy to bond with baby.
But, the inability to get it all done isn’t the only reason why you need support right now. You need emotional support too. Having a cheerleader (or a few) in your corner can make you feel more secure. This also gives you a possible mommy mentor, who can answer questions and help you out. Without this, you may worry or feel too anxious to bond right away.
12 Enveloped By Postpartum Depression
PPD is serious business. This isn’t just the “baby blues” and it’s not something that any mother should ignore. Postpartum depression is characterized by severe sadness, feelings of hopelessness, excessive moodiness, anxiety, crying for no known reason, losing interest in things you may have found enjoyable in the past, physical aches and pains that have no medical explanation (such as headaches and stomach aches) and withdrawing from loved ones.
In some cases women think about harming themselves or their babies.
While the cause isn’t entirely clear, it’s likely that it has to do with hormonal changes during and after pregnancy combined with the stress of being a new mother. PPD typically persists, and won’t go away after a few days or weeks (the baby blues do). The depression, anxiety and complete hopelessness that some moms feel puts a wall up between them and those around them – including the baby. PPD can make it challenging, to say the least, to bond with the baby.
Between the lack of bonding and all of the other symptoms (some of which can be extremely severe), it’s important to get help for PPD right away. If you feel like you may have this condition or you know someone who is showing the signs, contact a qualified professional for further evaluation. There are ways to the pros can help you (or your loved one) to work through this tough time.
11 Can't Shake The Baby Blues
The “baby blues” are a form of depression – just not as severe as PPD. This after-pregnancy condition is common, with roughly 70 to 80 percent of new mamas experiencing some degree of sadness. If you have the “baby blues” you might not notice the sadness or moodiness right away. Some new moms don’t start seeing the symptoms until a few days to a week postpartum.
Unlike PPD, this type of depression typically doesn’t take over your life. While you may feel swings of sadness, you may also feel happy (or more like yourself) at times. It also usually only lasts for a few weeks max. If you’re still feeling depressed, hopeless or highly irritable longer than that, it may be PPD.
The sadness and other psychological symptoms of the “baby blues” may interfere when it comes to bonding with your baby. You may not have much interest in being around the baby or may not feel a loving connection. Keep in mind, after this temporary condition ends it’s likely that you’ll be able to start the bonding process.
10 Gripped By Anxiety Disorders
Not every psychological condition has to do with depression. While PPD and the “baby blues” are fairly common (and conditions that you’ve probably heard about no less than a zillion times – okay, maybe that’s overstating it), postpartum anxiety doesn’t get as much attention. Whether you had an anxiety disorder before getting pregnant or it started after giving birth, it can completely affect how you bond with your baby.
You feel nervous, you're worried all of the time and maybe even start panicking for no particular reason. It’s entirely possible that you know your fears are irrational, but you just can’t stop them. Your anxiety may make it challenging to care for your child. You may worry that you aren’t doing the ‘right’ thing or that you might harm your child.
This may make you less likely to bond with her. Like PPD, you can get help for postpartum (or non-pregnancy-related) anxiety. If your anxiety is getting in the way of your life or stopping you from caring for your child, consult a qualified professional immediately.
9 Buried Alive By Parenting Worries
If the newness of having a baby doesn’t get you, a more general parenting worry might. Like other fears and anxieties, this can make you not want to parent at all (and consequently stop you from bonding with your little one).
Parenting worry strikes when you aren’t sure about your abilities to parent – now and in the future. Imagine yourself a few weeks, months or even years down the road. If you see all of the flaws, fails and rough patches, it might make bonding a challenge.
So, what are you worrying about? Are you worrying that you’ll pick the wrong parenting style? Maybe you won’t be able to help your child be the best she can be? Or, maybe you have some other worry. Whatever your major parenting worry is, you can get over it. Every parent makes mistakes and every parent has fears. It’s completely normal to think that you suck at this whole mommy-ing thing.
But, if that gets in the way of bonding, you have a growing problem. Talk to your mommy-friends, your significant other, your own mother or (if needed) a professional, and get your parenting worry under control.
8 Endless Spiral Of Inadequacy Anxieties
You aren’t worried that you’ll fail as a mommy. You know it. Um, to start with – you won’t. Fail, that is. You love your little one completely and only want the best for her. That’s why you feel totally and utterly inadequate right now.
How can inadequacy anxieties make bonding extra-tricky? If you’re constantly down on yourself, you might not give yourself the chance to bond with your baby. Beyond that, you might even feel like you don’t deserve to bond with her. Well, you do.
It’s easy to feel inadequate as a new parent. This is even more of a possibility with the hefty amount of social media use that’s going on. You see pics and posts of your friends cuddling with their babies. They write things like, “Overjoyed with my darling angel. I’m the luckiest mommy” or, “So in love with my little baby!” And, you feel like a dud.
Take a step back and remember that not everything you see on social media is true. Stop comparing yourself to anyone else and cut yourself some parenting slack. As your confidence grows you’ll be more and more ready to bond with baby.
7 Possible C-Section Issues Get In The Way
More than 32 percent of deliveries are via C-section, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While plenty of moms who have C-sections are able to bond with their babies, it can cause difficulties. The physical recovery process is a major challenge that may lead to a delay in bonding.
The new mom is trying to heal, and may have trouble holding, cuddling or caring for her baby. It’s not easy – obviously. As if taking care of a newborn wasn’t difficult enough, add in the pain, stitches and possible complications of a C-section.
Along with difficulty caring for baby, the trauma of a surprise C-section may interfere with bonding. You’ve planned for a natural birth. You took the classes, read the books and practiced the breathing exercises. When the big day arrived you were ready to go all out natural. You labored, you pushed and then something happened.
No, the baby didn’t just pop out. It was more like, the doctor rushed in and said that you needed to get into the OR pronto.
The trauma of an emergency C-section and the feelings of disappointment or even failure in having to change your birth plan may make you ambivalent or avoidant when it comes to binding with your baby. So yes, you had to stray from your plan. But, don’t think that you’re a failure – not even for one moment. The most important part of childbirth is having a healthy baby, and not how that baby got here.
6 Scary Medical Matters
Needing a C-section isn’t the only medical issue that can stop bonding. Having a baby is scary. Really scary. You don’t know what to expect, and the seemingly infinite number of things that could go wrong are constantly flashing through your head. Okay, so chances are that everything will go smoothly and all of your worry is for nothing.
But, if something does go wrong, it can interfere with what happens after your baby gets here.
Like with a C-section, another type of complication can make you feel like you’ve failed at the whole labor and delivery process. You may have wanted to go without any pain meds, and suddenly you need an IV of them. Or, maybe you had a completely blissed out picture of what childbirth looked like. And, yours was far from it.
Along with lingering disappointment, you may not be in the physical condition to care for your newborn, hold her or even breastfeed. If you’re in pain, are sick or are on meds you may feel extra-groggy. Not only may meds make you extra out of it, but they may be contraindicated when it comes to breastfeeding. This can stop (or slow) the bonding process as well.
5 An Ongoing Hospital Stay
Having a preemie may mean that your baby has to stay in the hospital longer than you do. You and your S.O. are turfed, and your little one can’t leave. This makes bonding tough. The same is true for babies who have other medical issues. If your baby requires more medical attention, surgery or some other in-hospital intervention, you won’t get to take her home with you.
When you’re physically separated the two of you don’t get that mommy-baby time you need so much right now.
The same may be true if the roles are reversed. In some cases mom needs to stay in the hospital longer than her baby. Why? If you have a medical condition or had a complication that requires further treatment, the doctor may want to keep you under a close watch. But, if your baby is perfectly fine (or doing well enough to be without constant medical care) she may be released.
Yes, your family can bring your baby to see you. Even so, you won’t have the ability to completely bond right away. Ten minutes here and 30 minutes there aren’t the same as 24-7 mommy-baby time. Don’t stress. When you’re both home you’ll have plenty of chances to start bonding.
4 The Whole Process Takes Time
The idea that every mother immediately bonds with her baby isn’t always true. You have this picture in your head of what it will be like to have a baby. It’s that movie-made vision, where your baby pops out (well, maybe not pops out), someone puts her on your chest and you’re suddenly overwhelmed with feelings of love and an intense need to be with that little person all of the time. And then – it doesn’t happen.
Yep, it’s true. Sometimes women don’t bond with their babies right away. Why not? No one really knows. There are plenty of possibilities. But, there isn’t always a real reason. For some women the bond needs to develop over time. This can seem strange or even disappointing if you think that every mommy-baby duo has an insta-bond.
After all, you’ve been carrying around the baby for nine months. You’ve been talking to her, singing to her and building what you thought was a bond. When she gets her for real, that bond just isn’t there. Hey, wait! That doesn’t mean you won’t bond with your baby. It may just mean that you need time. Even though your baby is part of you, it’s still possible that you need time to get to know her.
3 Building An Attachment
Why do some mamas need that extra time to bond with baby? Well, to build an attachment. For some moms attachments don’t just happen. They aren’t always automatic, and they can require work. Wait, work? Yep, that’s right.
Just because this new little person grew inside of your womb for three trimesters doesn’t mean that you don’t need to build an attachment. If you don’t feel an immediate bond, you may just need to start building that attachment. Ignoring the ambivalence you feel won’t help the matter.
So, what can you do? Spend time with your baby. And, not just time with her. Spend time interacting with her. You need to be present. Not just physically present, but mentally and emotionally present too. Rock her while looking into her eyes. Talk to her (even though she can’t answer back, she needs to hear your voice right now) and spend mommy-child time getting to know each other.
It may sound sort of silly, but some moms need to get to know their babies. Just like you spent time getting to know, and fall in love with, your S.O., you may need to take the long route to bonding with your baby.
2 Mom Is Just Overwhelmed With Motherhood
You’re a mama now. Whoa! Up until now you’ve lived life pretty much for yourself. Sure, you’ve taken care of other people. You care for your S.O., your BFF and your family. But, you’ve never been solely responsible for the entire life of someone else. Yikes! This is serious business. And, scary business.
There’s so much that goes into motherhood. Yeah, there was a time (like when your grandmother was a new mother) when things were simple. But, now you’ve got a few dozen parenting styles to choose from, social media to contend with and a constant stream of mommy shamers who are out there and ready to question your each and every move.
It’s totally overwhelming. Oh yeah, and that’s not even mentioning the fact that breastfeeding isn’t exactly easy for everyone, you’ll have more diapers to change than you could have ever imagined and you still have to handle everything else that you would have in your pre-baby days. Um, help.
When motherhood gets overwhelming it becomes more difficult to do just about everything – including bonding with your baby.
1 There Were Labor And Delivery Dilemmas
The trauma of labor and delivery may not end at the birth. You’re in pain. Unbelievable pain. You knew it would hurt, but didn’t know how much. Okay, don’t get scared. You’ll totally get through it. It sucks. But, it’s part of life – or at least, part of giving life.
How can the trauma of labor and delivery affect the bond you share with your baby? There are several culprits that may slow the bonding process at work here. If your childbirth experience didn’t go at all as planned you may not feel that immediate bond. You’re exhausted, you’re disappointed and you’re pretty sure that everything else will go at least slightly wrong.
Just because L and D didn’t go as planned doesn’t mean the rest of your parenting days will suck. This is just the beginning, and things can (and will) change pretty quickly.
Obviously, having major complications (with either you or your baby) during delivery can put a pinch on the bonding process. But, you can also have a completely normal delivery that goes 100 percent as planned, and still feel some sort of trauma. The intensity of childbirth is often unimaginable. This is a defining moment in your life and it’s super-heavy.
The monumental nature of this moment may overwhelm you to the point of detachment. Will this last forever? Nope. Most likely you’re experiencing a temporary emotional overload (the hormones don’t help). As you get more clarity on the situation (and your hormones even out), you’ll be ready to bond!
Sources: AmericanPregnancy.com, Marchofdimes.org, CDC.gov, NIMH.NIH.gov