Everybody has heard about the falling-in-love part of having a baby. We’ve all read stories about how, when the baby is born, the mother feels an incredibly intense rush of love like nothing she’s ever felt before. How, in moments, the bond between mother and baby is cemented in an embrace like no other.
The Love Hormone: Oxytocin
Before we can understand bonding, we need to understand why it happens. Biologically speaking, during and just after birth, our bodies experience a rush of the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin is known as the “love hormone”, and for good reason! It is the same hormone that is released when we orgasm, and also when we nurse our babies. It’s the hormone that gives us a severe case of the ‘warm fuzzies’, to put it in simple terms.
The reasons why parents bond with their children are obviously far more complex than just hormones, but hormones definitely lend a hand in helping forge the initial connection between mother and child – it’s the body’s way of making sure that the baby will be protected from the minute they are born.
How To Bond With Baby
However, not all mothers (or fathers, for that matter) experience that huge rush. For many, the falling in love process takes a little longer – and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean that you love your baby any less, or that you won’t love them in the same way that everybody else does.
It’s important to be gentle with yourself in the first few weeks following the birth. Remember that you’ve experienced a huge upheaval, and that it may take a little while for you to get your head around the huge changes that have taken place.
Some mothers find that they experience a euphoric rush at the point of birth, but that they struggle to connect with their baby in the days that follow. This, too, is totally normal and is often reported after traumatic deliveries, separation of mother and baby after the birth (however brief), and by first time parents. However, if these feelings persist for more than a couple of weeks, it may be worth having a chat with your doctor as this can be a symptom of Postnatal Depression, a common and very treatable illness that can affect both mothers and fathers in the 12 months following birth.
There are some wonderful ways to promote bonding with your baby if you feel your connection needs a little attention (or just because you want to!)
Skin To Skin Contact
Skin-to-skin contact is one of the most wonderful things you can do with your baby. Skin-to-skin contact helps stimulate more of that lovely oxytocin, and is a great way for fathers to bond with their little ones. Oxytocin also helps to increase breastmilk supply, and skin-to-skin contact with baby helps those who are reluctant to breastfeed to latch on. Just strip off your top half, strip your baby down to their nappy and rest a cotton blanket loosely over the both of you.
Other ways of promoting bonding include bathing with your baby, breastfeeding them (or ‘bottle nursing’ if you aren’t breastfeeding), wearing them in a good-quality cloth sling, baby massage and just simply spending some good old fashioned quality time playing peekaboo.
Above all, just enjoy your baby. Take each day as it comes, and try not to worry about what you feel or don’t feel. You’ll know when it happens, whether it’s an immediate rush or a slow falling-in-love – and don’t be afraid to talk to your healthcare provider if you are worried about anything.
All articles on the blog and website are intended as information only. Please do not consider any of the information provided here as a substitute for medical advice. At all times seek medical advice directly with your own doctor and medical team.