During pregnancy, we are all told about this overwhelming feeling of pure love that mothers get immediately post birth. The whole idea that mothers experience an immediate rush of instant love towards their newborn baby after birth has been memorialised in movies and TV, parenting magazines and marketing campaigns for everything from nappies to bottles to baby soap. But it’s not always instant. And that’s totally normal.
During birth, your body releases endorphins to help you through the physical pain of labor and delivery. This flood of euphoric hormones can contribute to feelings of bonding with your newborn right after giving birth.
Many women report that the euphoria associated with childbirth is short-lived, and they are left feeling sad or depressed.
A decrease in endorphins, along with feelings of sadness, mood swings and negative thoughts that can be triggered by the hormonal changes new moms experience are all common: around 70 to 80% of new mothers go through “baby blues” post birth that peak around day 3 postpartum.
It’s normal not to feel that immediate bond with your baby.
For some women, falling in love with their new baby happens quickly and easily.
But let’s be honest: giving birth is a big deal, physically and emotionally. For most women—even those who have had children before—it is also confusing and scary.
On top of that, it’s literally life-changing. You get to the finish line that is birth, and you’re an entirely different person. You battle physical exhaustion, the most immense hormonal shifts you will experience in your life and the pain of your healing body for weeks to come. Not to forget the mental and emotional upheaval of bringing a new life into the world that you’re 100% responsible for.
Not falling in love with your baby right away doesn’t mean you’re failing at being a mother—it simply means that, as a human being adjusting to major life changes, you need some time.
Why you might not feel an instant connection with your newborn
You’re a new person and your world has changed.
It takes time to adjust to all of these changes, physically and mentally. Many factors can play into how you feel about your newborn baby—it may be difficult for you to take in all that has happened during pregnancy, labour and birth. Cut yourself some slack mama!
You may not feel the love right away. It’s normal to be nervous, tired and overwhelmed. But if you and your baby spend time together regularly and interact with each other, a bond will form over time.
Get Plenty of Skin to Skin Contact
The physical bond between a mother and a baby is obvious, but it’s important to remember that you can’t force a connection to develop. Your baby is a new human being, getting used to the outside world; and you are a new mother, getting to know and understand your new baby. It takes time for you both to get used to one another and for your body chemistry to adjust accordingly. It’s easy to feel anxious when you’re worried about bonding with your baby, so here are some things that might help:
Hold them skin-to-skin as often as possible after birth; this helps facilitate bonding between parents and babies while also helping regulate body temperature and reducing stress levels both parties experience during the transition period between the womb environment and the outside world. See our post on the Power of Skin to Skin.
Use a baby sling or carrier-like ring slings which allow close contact between parent & child. This way you can be as mobile as you want to be and still keep your baby close and reap all the benefits of skin-to-skin.
It may take a while for your hormones to settle down after giving birth.
It’s important to keep in mind that falling in love with your baby might take time. You’re still getting used to parenthood, and there are so many adjustments that need to be made. Your hormones can also affect how you feel about your child, as they can make you feel tired and emotional, disconnected from your baby or even anxious or depressed. It’s completely normal.
It may take some time for those hormones to settle down after giving birth. If the feeling of love doesn’t happen for you right away, remember that it doesn’t mean anything is wrong—it just means that this is how things work out for some people!
If you feel down post-birth, talk to someone.
If you feel anxious or depressed after birth, talk to your midwife or GP. You don’t have to be struggling with post-natal depression to benefit from some support. Mothers often wait it out to see if the feeling subsides as we are so often told that the “baby blues” are a normal part of postpartum. We wait to see if it develops into something more serious before we speak out.
It’s so important to normalise these feelings. It’s OK not to feel connected and in love immediately – and it’s OK to talk about it openly without judgement.
Talk about your feelings with your partner or other new parents. Don’t wait. Other mums will be able to relate and share their experiences of motherhood – which can often help you feel less alone.
If you feel that things do develop past this, then please do seek professional help from your GP or similar. There is no shame in postpartum depression. It’s simply a hormonal imbalance and getting help does not make you a bad mother. A doctor once told me, “seeking help with postpartum depression is the biggest act of love you can do for your family”.
Sometimes it takes time for the feelings of love and bonding to develop between you and your baby, but that doesn’t mean it will never happen.
If you’re struggling with your feelings of love, it’s okay. You are not alone. The process of bonding with your baby can be overwhelming, difficult, and even a little hard.
The feelings associated with “falling in love” with your baby might not be immediate—and that is absolutely okay! It can take time for that bond between parent and child to develop naturally over time as they get to know each other and form their own special relationship.
The bottom line is that this experience is normal, and there are many reasons why it might take a little while for you to feel a bond with your baby. Just remember that if this happens to you, you’re not alone—and it does get better.