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When The Bonding Isn't Instant...

Many expectant mums are given a rose-tinted view of what to expect when it comes to bonding with their newborn…

‘Oh, the moment you clap eyes on your baby, you’ll feel love like never before!’

True, for some lucky new mummies. For others, it isn’t quite as simple as a bond magically manifesting the moment you and your baby meet for the first time. This expectation can set a new mother up for a big emotional fall if she struggles to bond with her new baby. It can lead to horrible feelings like…

  • Feeling like a terrible mum
  • Feeling like you’re doing something catastrophically wrong
  • Worrying that your baby doesn’t like you

To someone with a rational head on them, these sound daft, right? Well, to a hormonal, exhausted and perhaps even traumatised new mum, they may struggle to see things the same way and with the same degree of rationality. The post partum period (aka Fourth Trimester) is a tender and vulnerable time in the life of a new mother, and feeling like you’re not bonding with your baby can be absolutely devastating!

You’ve spent 9 months carrying this much wanted little baby, and possibly much longer yearning for them, and there you are, with the one thing you’d have given anything for… only to feel nothing, or emotions that you didn’t anticipate.

It goes without saying that if you are struggling with this very same thing, you are absolutely not alone in this, and it won’t last forever so take heart, and cut yourself some slack.

Here’s some insight from real mummies who struggled to bond with their baby…

Bethany Collings: I didn’t bond at all with my first pregnancy. I had a friend who lost her child towards the start of her third trimester, so felt awful for being pregnant. I told myself my baby would die too and accepted that, so didn’t get my hopes up. I did go on to have a healthy baby and as soon as she was placed on my chest all was forgotten.

Emilié Hamilton: When I was pregnant I was told it would be instant love, a feeling like winning the lottery, but when my baby was put into my arms all I felt was nervous and dreadful, I spent weeks feeling guilty about this, slowly building up a bond with my daughter and learning things everyday. When I spoke to my HV about this she explained how normal it is, and that it doesn’t make anyone a bad parent for feeling this way. I wish I spoke to someone about these feelings sooner. Now me and my 5 week old have the best bond and I feel like I know my baby.

Jordan Mavin: When I gave birth to my first baby the bond was there straight away but then 3 months later I fell pregnant again and when I gave birth to my second I didn’t feel the same way I did with my first I couldn’t understand why. I didn’t tell anyone the way I was felling I just thought I’ll get over it but then when I was at home I felt like I couldn’t cope with my little boy when he was crying I would get his dad to see to him. I always found it easier to deal with my oldest son and not really ignore my youngest but just let his dad sort him out, I didn’t want be left alone with him either tbh. Then I got to the point I knew I needed to speak to someone so I spoke to my mum and broke down to find out the way I was feeling was the exact same way she felt with my brother when she had him. I spoke to my health visitor and she advised me to phone a number called talking matters and they were so understanding and helpful they got me through my my rough patch and me and my son are stronger than ever. I will always feel guilty about the way I felt towards him but I know now I wasn’t alone. To anyone who feels like this to please speak to someone, there is always help out there.

Caitlin Macleod: I found it hard to bond because I had received a cancer diagnosis a couple of weeks before I found out I was pregnant and was due an operation within the month. At first I didn’t know if I would be able to keep my baby as the decision had to be made as to whether the risk to me was too high and I would have to abort or if I could continue with the pregnancy and have the surgery afterwards. However that meant I spent the rest of the pregnancy constantly having tests done and couldn’t relax and enjoy it and I also knew that as soon as I had had my baby I would need surgery and possibly radiotherapy. It meant for my own sanity I kept my baby at arms length and only started to bond properly when he was a few months old. I knew I loved him and would give my life for him because he was my son, but I didn’t feel that instant connection and love you expect to feel until much later. I must’ve faked it well though as even my mother didn’t know how I felt until much later. Now I couldn’t imagine life without him and would do anything for my child and our bond is the most precious thing in my life, but it took time.

My suggestion is definitely ‘fake it till you make it’. You’re not a bad mother if you don’t instantly bond. Give yourself time to adjust and trust that the connection will come. Worst thing is to pressure yourself or let others pressure you. I envied the mothers who felt that instant connection, but now I know that what me and my son have is priceless and he never knew I didn’t connect with him when he was first born as I still cared for him and did everything I knew I had to do as his mom, whether I felt it or not.

Kay Assheton: With my first son, the bond was there instantly. It was like I was always supposed to be a mum and I knew everything I needed to do. With my second, it was not so easy. I couldn’t get him to settle, he cried constantly and I felt that time had been taken away from my eldest because the baby was so demanding. I was diagnosed with post natal anxiety by my HV and my youngest is still being investigated for gastro related issues. It’s been 15months since he arrived and I only now feel like we’re getting a good bond. I will always feel guilty.

We really hope that this has helped at least one new mummy to feel less alone. If you have your own insight that you’d love us to share, email [email protected] to discuss further.

If you’re seriously struggling to cope, please don’t feel afraid to speak to your midwife, Health Visitor or GP.

Love from Katie & Team BBY. Xx

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