The Importance of Attachment to Your Newborn, by Meri Levy, MFT.
Most new mothers face a number of fears as they look forward to welcoming their first child. Will they be “ready” when the baby comes? Will they have everything they need? Will the birth go smoothly, without too much pain? Will the baby be healthy? Will they know how to care for their new child?
But the process of bonding with a new baby is rarely considered. Of course you will love your new baby. Of course you will feel attached, and be able to relate to your own flesh and blood.
What is bonding?
Bonding is the process of attachment which, when everything goes smoothly, creates a symbiotic relationship between mother and baby. The mother feels a loving bond with her baby and feels capable of meeting her baby’s needs. The mother’s hormones (aided by breastfeeding in the best case), combined with the babies reflexive response to soothing by the mother, help the two form a positive attachment. Add in a good dose of mother/infant physical and eye contact and the bond between mother and baby are virtually guaranteed, in the absence of other barriers.
What can cause bonding difficulties?
Sometimes the process of bonding doesn’t go as smoothly as expected. There are many factors that can contribute to a new mom having difficulty bonding with her baby. Among others, these include:
- A traumatic birth experience and/or a difficult recovery
- A colicky or fussy baby who is difficult to care for or soothe
- Feeding difficulties
- Separation from the baby associated with medical interventions
- A lack of support for the new mother, causing feelings of being overwhelmed or unable to cope.
- Perinatal depression or anxiety, which can also be correlated with the other factors
Sometimes, a combination of these or other variables can cause a new mom to feel disconnected from her baby. She may feel unable to calm her baby, like the baby isn’t really “hers,” or that she is a bad mother.
Early intervention in the case of bonding difficulties can have a dramatic effect on the well-being of both the baby and the mother. Prolonged failure to bond can be associated with attachment-related mental health problems in the developing child, as well as a sense of failure by the mother. Getting help early on to recover physically and mentally from birth, addressing feeding and calming difficulties, maintaining close physical contact between the baby and mother, and addressing other barriers to bonding can have a huge impact on the lifelong relationship between mother and child.