It may take a while to feel comfortable around your newborn. Here are some tips to help with the bonding process.
A new baby is often a source of new challenges, uncertainty, and stress. It’s normal if you don’t feel comfortable with them right away. Learn what you can do to foster a loving bond with your child.
Why do some parents find it difficult to bond with their newborn?
The image of parents who fall instantly in love with their newborn baby is a hard one to shake. But in real life, it can take hours, weeks, or even months for parents to bond with their baby.
It’s important that you give yourself the time you need to adjust to your baby and new role as a parent. Your confidence in your parenting skills and love for your baby will grow as you get to know and care for them.
Parents of newborns may feel insecure for any number of reasons, such as the following:
- A longer than expected adjustment period. Even parents who have done their homework and have an idea of what parenthood is like can find it more difficult than expected. Some new parents have a hard time adjusting to the sleep deprivation, constant care, and life changes brought about by their baby. Furthermore, some people just need more time to get used to a big change like becoming a parent.
- Your baby’s personality. A baby with a more difficult temperament–who cries often, struggles to latch, or requires special care—may leave parents feeling shaken, ambushed, or overwhelmed. This can make interactions with their baby less positive and diminish the happy moments necessary for bonding.
- A difficult childbirth. If your delivery did not go as planned or was especially difficult, you may be experiencing a range of emotions such as sadness, disappointment, anger, and frustration. These overwhelming feelings may lead you to be less emotionally available for your child, hampering the bonding process.
- Hormonal changes. After childbirth, hormonal fluctuations and exhaustion may lead to the baby blues, a temporary depressed state which can last anywhere from a few days to about two weeks. New mothers may find they’re more irritable, anxious, vulnerable, or prone to mood swings. As a result, they may lose confidence and have a harder time bonding with their baby.
- Figuring out your role as a father. Men who are new to fatherhood may have a hard time defining their role as a parent and understanding how to be useful. For example, they may feel awkward or intimidated by the almost symbiotic relationship between the mother and baby. Consequently, they may be more distant or have difficulty relating to their newborn.
Here are some tips for developing a loving bond with your baby
Every time you respond to your baby’s needs, you’re developing an attachment bond. In the beginning, the most important thing is to meet your baby’s basic needs. If you don’t feel a strong emotional connection at first, that’s okay. Your baby won’t be affected.
Over time, the number of positive interactions you have with your baby will increase. Your baby will learn to express joy when you make them happy, and you’ll learn to interpret their signals. The more you care for your baby, the more confident you’ll be in your parenting skills. You’ll feel increasingly relaxed as you build your relationship.
Here are some suggestions on how to build a loving relationship and become more comfortable with your baby.
- Take the time to observe your baby closely. Focus on their facial features, their tiny hands and feet, and their chubby thighs.
- Hold your baby close and talk to them in warm, loving tones about what you or they are doing. Give them plenty of little hugs and kisses.
- Gently caress their bare skin when they’re undressed. Physical affection, such as cuddling, makes your baby feel good and helps build the parent-child bond.
- Gently place your finger in the palm of their hand so they can squeeze it with their fingers.
- Sing a song or tell them a story. Even though they’re still so little, it’s comforting to hear your voice. Choose whatever tune or tale you like—just be yourself!
- Have fun with your baby by playing little games (link in French) with them. For instance, you can hide your face behind your hands, then reveal it and say: “Peekaboo!”
Feel free to adapt the activities we’ve suggested to suit your personality.
- Have realistic expectations about your role as a parent and your relationship with your baby. While it’s important to take good care of your baby, you have to give yourself room for trial and error. Let go of your image of the ideal parent-child bond and accept that you’ll be building your relationship slowly but surely.
- Talk to your partner and loved ones about the difficulties you’re experiencing. Being listened to and supported can help you gain confidence in your new role.
- Take note of all the positive moments with your baby. For example, you can keep count of their smiles or write down happy moments. Realizing that your relationship is improving may help you feel more comfortable and capable as a parent.
When should you worry?
If, after two or three weeks, you still feel disconnected from your baby and unable to care for them, ask your partner or a loved one for help. This can be a sign of postpartum depression, which requires professional help. Consult your doctor or contact your CLSC to find out what services are available in your area. You can also dial 811 for help from Info-Santé or Info-Social.
Furthermore, if you don’t understand your baby’s needs, even though you’re able to care for them, talk to your doctor. It could be a sign that your baby is having health problems.
Things to keep in mind
- It’s normal to not feel an immediate bond with your newborn. Your love and confidence will grow as you continue to care for your baby.
- Unexpected life changes, a difficult delivery, and a demanding baby are some of the reasons why parents may find it difficult to bond with their baby.
- Observing, playing with, and cuddling your baby are good ways to build a loving relationship.
Scientific review: Lory Zephyr, psychologist
Research and copywriting: The Naître et grandir team
Updated: April 2021
Photos: iStock.com/DaydreamsGirl and GettyImages/LumiNola
Sources and references
Note: The links to other websites are not updated regularly, and some URLs may have changed since publication. If a link is no longer valid, please use search engines to find the relevant information.
Cassidy, Jude, and Phillip R. Shaver. Handbook of Attachment: Theory, Research and Clinical Applications. Guilford Press, 2018, 1,069 pp.
Doré, Nicole, and Danielle Le Hénaff. From Tiny Tot to Toddler: A practical guide for parents from pregnancy to age two. Quebec City, Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ). www.inspq.qc.ca
Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development. “Parent-child attachment: A bond of trust.” June 2012. www.child-encyclopedia.com
Gauthier, Yves, et al. L’attachement, un départ pour la vie. Parlons Parents series, Montreal, Éditions du CHU Sainte-Justine, 2020, 140 pp.
KidsHealth. “Bonding With Your Baby.” www.kidshealth.org
Krief, Sonia. J’accueille mon bébé: 30 premiers jours essentiels pour créer du lien. Éditions Albin Michel, 2019, 192 pp.
Zephyr, Lory. Maman en construction: petit chantier de réflexion sur la maternité. Montreal, Éditions de l’Homme, 2018, 208 pp.