A woman holds her baby nervously while darkness creeps in around her

Struggles in Bonding With Your Baby

As a doula, I've spoken with many new parents about struggles in bonding with their new baby. Whether it takes minutes, hours, days, weeks or even months, for some parents it's a feeling that must be learned, rather than acquired automatically. This is even more challenging with new parents who struggle with PMADS (perinatal mood and/or anxiety disorders).

I'd like to start by sharing my experience with my living daughter, who is now 4.5 years old...

When things don't feel "right"

When my daughter was born, I instantly felt a shift in the universe. We were just getting to know her when she had to be routed through the NICU for a short time. While she was in her incubator, I felt like my heart was in 2 pieces – one with her, and one with me.

But when we brought her home, it didn't automatically feel "right." Or rather, it didn't feel how I expected.

Postpartum depression's effect on bonding with my baby

I was struggling with symptoms of postpartum depression, and when I added sleeplessness, trying to learn how to breastfeed and pump, and being instantly launched into caring for another human-being 24 hours a day with no breaks, I had trouble looking at her with overwhelming affection.

I loved her, that was abundantly clear. But I didn’t feel like I was the center of her world.

My depression made me feel like she didn't need me or want me. That she'd prefer my husband or our doula. In retrospect, I know these were lies. But at the time, they felt like really big, emotional feelings.

Trouble with nursing

And our trouble with nursing just increased these feelings. She had a really small mouth and struggled to latch, so when she was nursing she was getting a lot of air and not much milk, which made us both really frustrated.

There were so many days I wanted to hide under the covers, but that's clearly not an option when you have a newborn.

Ways to bond with your baby during postpartum

After a raising my daughter to the little girl stage, and caring for many infants and new families, I've gathered some suggestions I'd like to share to help support you in bonding with your baby, especially if you're experiencing symptoms of PMADs and struggling with your mental health.

  • Set aside some time everyday to spend with your baby outside of caring for them. This is time that you're not feeding, changing, or bathing them. Any time you can spend with them where you don't have to do anything but love on them and get to know them can help. And the amount of time you do this can start short and lengthen as it feels more comfortable.
  • Skin to skin time. This is a really powerful way to sync with your baby. Your heartbeat helps regulate your baby, and their heartbeat can honestly help regulate you.
  • Take good care of yourself. To bond with your baby, you need to feel more like yourself. For some, this means taking a long shower, getting your nails done, going to the grocery store alone, and even taking a nap. If you have someone else who can watch your baby during those times, they'll help to restore your mental health a little and allow you a little more space to bond with your baby.
  • Talk to a professional. If you're living with postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD, or psychosis, it's critical to have a mental health professional to support you. They can also help you come up with ideas on bonding with your baby while you navigate your mental and physical health as well.

If you struggled to bond with your baby at the beginning of parenthood, remember, you're not alone.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Postpartum.Mental-Health-Community.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.