I don’t feel an attachment to my newborn – what does this mean and what can I do?
Every mum and every baby are different, so it’s no surprise that we all form attachments at different times and in different ways with our babies. Some mums might bond with their baby the first time they see them, like love at first sight. Some mums might not feel an instant connection. Louise Hurley explains why this is perfectly OK as well as when and how to reach out for help if it’s needed.
Forming attachments and a strong bond with your newborn is a vital part of their development. It’s also important for your mental health too; caring for a newborn is intense and exhausting but having that loving bond with your little one can be so rewarding. It keeps you pouring from your cup even though it feels empty.
Every mum and every baby are different, so it’s no surprise that we all form attachments at different times and in different ways with our babies. Some mums might bond with their baby the first time they see them, like love at first sight. Some mums might not feel an instant connection – and you know what? That’s OK.
Think about it like this: You’re exhausted from giving birth, you’re not getting much sleep, a tiny person is placed in your arms and needs you for absolutely everything, they’re demanding, they don’t understand you, you don’t understand them, they can’t tell you plainly what they need and they’re the source of your exhaustion. On top of this you’re trying to make sense of what has just happened to your body. It’s no wonder falling in love with your baby isn’t instant!
What can I do if I don’t feel an instant attachment to my newborn?
- Be kind and patient with yourself as a new mum. Bonding and attachment can sometimes take weeks or months of getting to know and understand your baby.
- Find a supportive and welcoming mothers’ group where you feel that you can ask questions. COVID restrictions may make this hard at present so you could look for a local playgroup or even a mum and bub’s fitness group. Surround yourself with supportive mums.
- Talk to your partner, close family member or friend as well as your doctor, midwife or healthcare visitor. There is no such thing as a silly question and it’s important to reach out for help and support if you feel that you need it.
Although bonding with your baby can take time, it’s important to know that there are certain circumstances or life events that make bonding with your baby more difficult:
- Postnatal depression and other mental health issues
Mums who experience postnatal depression and other mental health issues may find it hard to be responsive all of the time to their baby’s cues, which can affect the attachment between mum and baby. If you feel that you are experiencing postnatal depression or any other mental health issue, reach out to your partner, a close family member or friend AND your doctor as soon as possible. You can also find a list of mental health services and support lines at the end of this article.
- Being separated from your baby for long periods of time
Being separated from your baby for long periods of time can make forming an attachment more difficult. Reach out for advice and support if you feel that you are unable to avoid being separated from your baby.
- Health issues within the family, with mum or with your baby
Illness in the family, whether it’s yourself, a sibling, or another family member, can make it extremely difficult to meet the demands of a new baby. If you feel that your family circumstances are making it difficult to bond with your baby reach out to a health professional who you trust and feel comfortable with.
Where can I find help and support?
It’s important to firstly seek support from your GP as well as get information, support and guidance from the following services:
In summary, we all form attachments and bonds with our babies in different ways and at different times. It’s OK if you don’t feel that instant devotion. BUT if you’re feeling as though your mental health or other circumstances are stopping you from bonding with your new baby, reach out and talk to someone close to you AND a medical professional. The sooner you can start to get help and support the sooner you can start to enjoy those first few months of motherhood.
Louise runs Strong Mums in Gosford, NSW. She has a background in clinical and research psychology and became a mums’ fitness professional after having her first baby.