Written by Judy Romano, MD, FAAP. Dr Romano has been a pediatrician for 30 years and has a special interests in early childhood development, NAS and parenting.
Bonding is the term often used to describe the intense attachment between a parent and child.
We are going to examine some thoughts and feelings you may experience when your baby is born, when you are in the hospital and lastly, when you go home.
Bonding at Birth
Being introduced to your newborn is an exciting and life- altering event!
For some, it is love at first sight no matter what the circumstance. Many women already have begun bonding with their baby during pregnancy and feel quite prepared to meet. Other women do not feel the attachment until they actually see and touch baby. And there are as many variations in between as there are different moms and babies. It is very important to accept where you are without judgment!
Sometimes you will have a particular idea how your baby may look and sound- then surprised when the baby in your arms is different than the one you imagined. This too is normal and one thing is for sure, every new mom needs to take time to get to know her baby and ease into this new role.
Having a difficult labor and birth may also impact the bonding experience. Giving yourself time to rest and recover will help you. Hormonal fluctuations can also influence the way you feel.
If possible, having skin to skin contact with baby immediately after birth as well as breast-feeding can have positive effects.
Bonding while in the hospital
If you and your baby are both doing well, it is helpful for the bonding process for you to care for your baby as much as possible. Many babies need to be monitored for development of NAS depending on exposures during pregnancy. Your presence and care during this time is exactly what your baby needs. If your baby develops NAS you are the most important medicine there is! There are times that your baby may have difficulty with feeding or to be consoled but you can work through this together which will only strengthen your bond.
Simply talking, holding, touching and gently rocking baby while providing care turns these activities into magic!
Discussing these things with someone before delivery is very helpful so that you will know what to expect. Also having the support of the nursing staff, your partner and trusted family members is very important.
Bonding after leaving the hospital
Some babies who develop NAS may have to stay in the hospital after you have been discharged. This does not have to interrupt your bonding process. Talk to the staff to see if you may stay with your baby after you are discharged. If this is not possible find out the best times to visit so that you can be there for feedings and other activities around your babies care. Any amount of time spent with baby will strengthen your bond.
When taking baby home you will need help. All new parents need support! Arranging for home visiting services is a great idea-these professionals are there to support you and baby together. Also accept help from family and friends.
Bonding with baby is a process which is just the beginning of the attachment which will last a lifetime! Enjoy!