It’s not always love at first sight when you meet your baby. That bond may take a while to form, and as alarming as it feels, it’s pretty standard and – surprisingly – normal.
Many facets of motherhood stand out as challenging or overwhelming, especially for first-time moms. The postpartum period is one of the strangest, wildest, most exhilarating, and exhausting times that you will go through.
Is it normal not to feel attached to your baby?
After giving birth, a mom may feel plenty of varying emotions. One unexpected and often overlooked is the lack of an immediate bond with your newborn.
Some new moms feel an instant connection to their baby and have a miraculous moment when they first hold their newborn. Others? They think, “oh, there’s a baby here now.”
Want to know a secret? Both feelings are appropriate and expected. Every postpartum journey is different and can even vary from pregnancy to pregnancy.
Why you not might feel like you love your newborn
Many women who don’t feel that instant bond will eventually grow to have that closeness with the baby. For some, it just takes time. There are multiple reasons why a new mom might not bond with her baby instantly, including:
- There was an unplanned cesarean
- There are older siblings at home
- The baby required a NICU stay
- Hormones are on a rollercoaster
- Postpartum depression or anxiety
- A history of loss
- The baby was born prematurely
- Lack of support system
1. There was an unplanned cesarean
If the person giving birth has an unplanned or emergency cesarean delivery, she can feel exhausted, hormonal, and overwhelmed by the sudden changes in events.
Suddenly, there are tons of people in an operating room, you’ve been cut open, and your birth plan was thrown out the window. Chances are you didn’t receive adequate time to breastfeed (if you wanted to) and have skin-to-skin contact before being wheeled out of the operating room.
2. There are older siblings at home
Older siblings require a lot of attention from their mothers, especially when bringing home a new baby.
Between quality time for the oldest, recovery from delivery, and getting back to real life (hello, you’ve got other little people to feed, too), the amount of time spent with your newborn may be much less than the first time around.
A helpful tip: moms must spend at least ten uninterrupted minutes a day without electronics with their older kids. This can help to reduce significantly the number of tantrums or the jealous behavior that new parents can see when bringing home a new sibling.
3. Baby required a NICU stay
If a baby needs to spend time in the NICU, they might have wires or a cradle around them, making it extremely hard to touch, hold, and feed the baby. All of this can also delay bonding and also cause feelings of anxiety.
4. Hormones are on a rollercoaster
It’s normal for your hormones to take a colossal crash right after delivery. This can cause nausea, shakes, and uncontrolled emotional outbursts, you name it. Having your hormones feel out of whack – while normal – can impact how you bond with your baby.
Read next: Your Postpartum Hormone Timeline
5. Postpartum depression could be at play
Postpartum depression is more common than many new parents think. It’s estimated that one in seven people who give birth will experience it.
The constant crying, feelings of unworthiness, and desolation can be hard to manage. These emotions can get in the way of quality bonding time with the baby.
If you believe you are experiencing postpartum depression: reach out to your care provider for an evaluation or find a therapist near you. Postpartum depression is common and often easily treatable with the proper support.
6. Postpartum anxiety might be the cause
- Are you worried about every little thing?
- Spending time researching what is normal for yourself and your baby?
- Are you losing sleep because of it?
These are all symptoms and signs of postpartum anxiety. Getting consumed in the unknown and worrying can negatively affect time spent bonding with the baby.
7. A history of loss
If you’ve had a previous history of loss, it can be tough to bond with a new baby because those feelings might still be lingering.
Much like women with postpartum anxiety, women who have experienced loss may have a heightened sense of worry about their newborn, questioning everything and anything.
8. Your baby was born prematurely
If the baby is born prematurely, it can be hard to bond due to a general lack of preparedness and the immense amount of shock.
9. Lack of strong (or any) support system
Let’s face it, having a baby is hard work. Trying to find time to shower, snuggle baby, take care of yourself, learn how to feed a baby, and wash a million bottle parts daily; it’s hard.
Without a proper support system in place, it can be downright exhausting, and you might be too tired by the “doing” to properly bond with your baby.
You’re not alone in these feelings
Many parents feel guilty or ashamed if they cannot bond with their baby right away.
Often, society pressures new moms to lead a picture-perfect life with no ill thoughts or emotions and have the mother-baby bond that TV likes to portray.
However, I asked 200 new moms if they felt that fantastic, instant connection with their new baby. A whopping 20% (that’s 41 moms!!) said they didn’t feel a bond at all, and some were still forming it three months postpartum.
Let’s normalize the fact that this bond doesn’t occur right away.
Tips on how to better bond with your baby
Attachment and bonding take time. New parents must recognize this and work on getting some rest before jumping into a fully bonded relationship with their little one.
So what can we, as mothers, do to help ourselves bond with the baby?
1. Take some deep breaths to re-center
Take the time daily to do some breathing exercises, make sure you’ve got a place free from distractions, and put one hand on your belly, focusing on your breath and feeling your torso expand as you exhale.
2. Create small moments of care
Prioritize taking a shower over things like doing the laundry or dishes. I can tell you from experience that a shower when postpartum can make you feel like a brand new person.
Once cleared by a doctor, try to find the time (maybe during the baby’s first or second nap when they usually sleep a bit better) to take a bath. If that seems impossible, let me share what I did: I took my bath while eating my food and drinking coffee.
3. Ask for more support
Hiring a postpartum doula to help you is another excellent way to get the support that you deserve during postpartum. Postpartum doulas will come to your house or conduct virtual sessions.
They can cook, clean, draw a bath, hold the baby while you nap, and even do some laundry. Virtual doulas will hold your hand, tell you everything will be okay, give you a safe space to vent and work through your new emotions, and help you determine what is expected, what is not, and who needs to be contacted.