“Just as there is no warning for childbirth, there is no preparation for the sight of a first child. I studied his face, fingers, the folds in his boneless little legs, the whorls of his ears, the tiny nipples on his chest. I held my breath as he sighed, laughed when he yawned, wondered at his grasp on my thumb. I could not get my fill of looking.
“There should be a song for women to sing at this moment, or a prayer to recite. But perhaps there is none because there are no words strong enough to name that moment. Like every mother since the first mother, I was overcome and bereft, exalted and ravaged. I had crossed over from girlhood. I beheld myself as an infant in my mother's arms, and caught a glimpse of my own death. I wept without knowing whether I rejoiced or mourned. My mothers and their mothers were with me as I held my baby.
‘Bar-Shalem,' I whispered. He took my breast and fed in his sleep.”
- The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant
This description of a mother's first moments with her newborn paints a powerful picture of mother-baby bonding. The mother is overwhelmed by love for and fascination with her newborn child; you can feel her hormone-filled euphoria and intense emotion. They settle into a quiet post-partum moment of contentment, and breastfeeding seems to cement that incredible bond.
Bonding is a powerful attachment to and love for your baby. It is usually coupled with a sense of responsibility for this new life entrusted to you which, experts believe, is nature's way of ensuring the survival of these helpless little beings. As parents, our instincts drive us to feed, shelter and protect them at all costs.
It is not only the baby's physical safety that is assured by a close parental bond. Psychologists believe that early relationship between the baby and his parents is very significant, forming the basis for the child's other intimate relationships.
For many women, bonding starts in pregnancy. Perhaps you felt the first stirrings of love when you saw the tiny heartbeat fluttering on the scan, or when he first moved inside you. For some, the first glimpse of the newborn and it's love at first sight. For others, the process takes longer. As Jane* puts it: “They handed me my baby and I looked at him for the first time and it was so weird – he was a little stranger.”
Jane clearly isn't feeling the instant love that we often think of as the bonding moment, but that doesn't mean she is destined to be estranged from her child. While the early minutes, days and weeks are an important time, bonding is a process, not a moment. “There is no rush,” says Deborah Jackson in Baby Wisdom. “Babies do not fail to bond with mothers or fathers simply because the mothers or fathers doubt their own feelings. The solution is to keep connecting with the baby in positive, physical ways and let the emotions follow. Skin-to-skin contact is the surest way to elicit strong maternal and paternal reactions.”
Debbie Levin of the Postnatal Depression Support Association concurs, “Very often, mothers expect to feel completely bonded straight away. Quite often that doesn't happen; it can take a while. However, if a mother does not feel attached or bonded after a fair adjustment period, say six weeks, she should get help.”
Bonding - What helps bonding? [more...]
Bonding - What hinders bonding? [more...]
Bonding - If you aren't bonding. [more...]
Postnatal Depression Support Association
- National helpline 082 882 0072 082 882 0072
Published by: Your Baby and reproduced with permission from www.YourParenting.co.za