As a mum to both biological children (of the womb) and foster children (of the heart), the issue of ‘bonding’ with each baby/child has been a topic I’ve held close.
There was never a question as to whether I loved each baby. Of course, I did. They were each longed for and anticipated and they belonged. But in many cases, bonding wasn’t as simple as I’d thought.
I’d assumed, as the mothering-type, that my motherly affections would build with each day that passed. However, in many instances, the connections I experienced with these little ones might have been less like building blocks, more like Snakes and Ladders.
In my less-bonded moments, I recall thinking:
‘My baby won't take my milk, she doesn’t like me’ - Seems funny now, but was said through tears at the time. (She’s now a delightful 15 year old and we’re very close).
‘This baby looks nothing like me. In fact, she smells kinda weird.’ - The truth was, she wasn’t from my womb, but five years later we’re the apple of each other’s eyes.
‘I have no idea how to comfort her. Nothing I do works’ - And it didn’t. But later on… I’m the one she cries to for cuddles and comfort.
Some of this might sound overly-sensitive, and perhaps like I just needed a good night’s sleep, but it was in fact real and I was not content with it.
I was to quickly learn that I wasn’t on my own with this. I later came to understand that a lack of bonding and connection was a common source of tension for many types of parents at different stages of parenting.
What did I know?
I knew bonding made babies grow! Sounds cute and I knew was in fact very true! I needed to take hold of every opportunity to increase these connections. I knew a well-bonded baby/child paved the way for healthy life-long adult relationships for the future. This was important and I needed to get bonding!
Did you know…?
When a baby experiences love, the brain produces essential chemicals that develop and connect cells together that quite literally make a baby grow - emotionally and physically. In other words, bonding matters!
So, how would I bond and connect with each baby?
A baby’s world is much more about hearing, seeing, and feeling than it is about thinking. Therefore, I learned it was essential to provide experiences that would engage each baby’s senses.
Here are some things that pulled me through my disconnect and into healthy bonding….
Top Mum/Baby connectors
1. Breastfeed, where possible.
Breastfeeding releases hormones in a woman’s body that promote feelings of attachment and love. So, where able, this is valuable. I haven’t been able to breastfeed most of my babies, as they were not my biological children. So, If you have heart-babies, lift that top up and get some skin-to-skin action going.
2. Have plenty of skin-to-skin snuggle time.
By holding and cuddling her, your touch will make her feel safe and soothe her (and you!). Touch sparks the brain to produce chemicals that make you both feel good.
3. Play with her
Engage her in baby fun. She’ll love your face the most. You are her bestie :)
4. Talk/read/sing to her
As you do this, look into her dreamy eyes. Talk to her throughout the day - tell her what you’re doing and what you’re thinking and feeling. Make facial expressions when you look at her and speak/sing in soothing, reassuring tones. She will learn quickly to identify your face to your voice and will be learning the basics of the language. You’ll be her first linguistics coach and choirmaster.
5. Carry her
By using a sling or front carrier, your baby can feel your warmth and smell your scent. You can smell hers too. Make sure you look down at her often and make eye contact.
6. Be face-to-face
Face-to-face connection is super important. Smile at her, and be amazed at how quickly she smiles back. You’re her most favorite thing!
Bonding can take time, so don’t stress about it. Make sure you take care of your baby’s basic needs and cuddle her regularly and she won't suffer.
And go easy on yourself. Being a new mum, and all that it entails is exhausting! and that’s not to mention the effects of sleep deprivation or the healing time required after birth. The good news is many mums feel overwhelmed and a little stressed at first but feel closer to their baby over time. So, if you’re not there yet, take heart, you both soon will be!
**If after a couple of weeks you don’t feel more attached to your baby than you did the first day, let your healthcare provider know.