We’re led to expect a great rush of love when we see and touch our new baby. But sometimes it’s not exactly a Kodak® moment.
There’s this big promise of immediate bonding that’s supposed to ensure that the new parent is ready to care for and protect their child. And if it doesn’t happen, here comes the guilt, because we’ve been told that bonding is essential for babies. Without it, and without human touch, babies can fail to thrive.
Karyn J. thought the moment she held her newborn she’d be in love. Karyn, however, had a C-section and didn’t get to that moment for a few hours. “They left me in the recovery room until my blood pressure was stable. The longer they left me there, away from my new daughter, the more distressed I became.”
Karyn remembers the rush of love when she saw her daughter for the first time, but she has to admit that it wasn’t the way she had envisioned the moment. She was in pain, she was exhausted and the meeting seemed so sterile. To further their problems, her daughter wasn’t getting enough breast milk due to the pain medication Karyn was on and her daughter became crankier and crankier. To add insult to injury, Karyn was struck with mastitis. Her milk ducts were infected and nursing became a nightmare.
“Every time she cried, I felt a little streak of terror go through me,” says Karyn. “I just didn’t get the bonding, loving time I had expected and I felt terribly guilty.”
Bonding doesn’t happen for some parents
CAESAREAN BIRTH: Mothers who have caesareans often have trouble bonding with their babies. In natural birth, contractions help trigger the release of the hormone oxytocin, which is thought to shape a mother’s behaviour. Hormones are not released in the same way during a caesarean section.
DREAM BABY: Some parents might have fantasized about their baby, and that first meeting versus their ‘dream baby’ might take some adjustment for new parents. A baby’s face is their principal communication tool and plays a major role in bonding with their parents.
SEPARATION: If a newborn is separated due to either the baby’s or the mother’s needing medical attention, bonding can be difficult at first. Nursing staff will help parents whose children are in special care to caress and feed their newborns as much as possible.
How newborns bond
TOUCH: Skin-to-skin contact with parents through bathing, caressing, cuddling and while feeding. Using soft baby carriers that keep baby close to their parents’ body and not overusing equipment such as carriers and strollers.
EYE CONTACT: There is nothing more fascinating to babies as their parents’ faces up close. Babies will try to mimic your facial expressions. Mirroring theirs can promote bonding.
VOICE: Softly cooing, talking or singing to babies helps them to learn how to communicate.
Through time, love and patience Karyn and her daughter deeply bonded. “It just took us a bit longer than I expected.”
Could it be PPD?
Serious postpartum depression occurs in 10 to 15 percent of women who have just given birth.
Moms who think they are experiencing five or more of the following symptoms for more than two weeks should speak to their doctor.
- Depressed mood: Tearfulness, hopelessness and feeling empty inside, with or without severe anxiety.
- Loss of pleasure in either all or almost all daily activities.
- Appetite and weight change – usually a drop in appetite and weight, but sometimes the opposite.
- Sleep problems – trouble sleeping even when the baby is sleeping.
- Noticeable change in how you walk and talk – restlessness or sometimes sluggishness.
- Extreme fatigue or loss of energy.
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt with no reasonable cause.
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions.
- Thoughts about death or suicide. Some women with PPD have fleeting, frightening thoughts of harming their babies: these thoughts tend to be fearful thoughts, rather than urges to harm.