What if I Don't Immediately Fall in Love With My Baby? - Baby Chick
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What if I Don’t Immediately Fall in Love With My Baby?

Find out what can prevent you from bonding right away with your new baby and discover helpful tips for building a strong bond.

Updated May 14, 2024

by Maria Yakimchuk

Certified Transformational EFT Coach

Medically reviewed by Rachel Tomlinson

Registered Psychologist
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When we, moms, picture birth, the moment we look forward to the most is laying eyes on our beautiful little bundle of joy. We imagine their soft, warm body tightly pressed against ours, tears rolling down our eyes, our heart growing larger than it has ever been. We imagine falling, no, plummeting into all-consuming love toward this helpless little human. How disappointing is it when this doesn’t happen, and you don’t immediately fall in love with your baby?

Am I the Only One Not in Love With My Baby?

It can be disappointing and even shocking when we hold our newborn and feel nothing toward them. The multitude of thoughts that pass through our heads at this moment is enough to swallow us whole and potentially bring us down into a dark spiral of shame. We start wondering what is wrong with us. All other moms fall in love with their babies immediately. None of the movies we ever saw showed a mom who wasn’t instantly enamored with her wriggly offspring. So, a conclusion emerges — there must be something wrong with me.

The truth is, there is nothing wrong with not bonding right away with your baby. Some research indicates that between 6% and 41% of mothers do not bond immediately with their newborns.1 Sometimes, they only start feeling the bond days, weeks, or months after birth. Again, there is nothing wrong with that, though it may not feel like it at the moment.

What Can Prevent the Bond From Happening Right Away?

Now that you know you’re not the only parent who didn’t fall in love with their baby immediately, you may still wonder why this happened. There are many reasons for this, but the most common are exhaustion from a difficult birth, a C-section, birth complications for mom or baby (including preterm birth or illness of their child), baby being rushed to NICU, anxiety, and postpartum depression.1

Traumatic and challenging labor may leave mom feeling completely exhausted, in pain, and wanting nothing more than to eat and sleep afterward. She may be potentially focused on her own recovery. Or, if this baby came after a previous pregnancy loss, mom can feel incredibly ambivalent toward the baby who is alive and in her arms. Feelings of guilt for loving this new being can stand in the way of a budding bond.6

In addition, it’s not just the mom’s physical and mental health. The support she has during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum can affect her ability to bond with her little one. The influence of all these different factors can manifest in the way a woman reacts and responds to her baby.1

My First Birth Experience

I’ll share a personal story about bonding. I have two sons. My first was born via an unplanned C-section, while my second was a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) baby. My first labor was long, drawn-out, and full of interruptions (I was transferred from a birth center to a hospital because my labor stalled for too long), an unexpected C-section, unsupportive medical staff at the hospital, and a poor reaction to anesthesia. I couldn’t hold my son until over an hour after his birth due to being strapped to the operating table. I also suffered from perinatal depression that began during my pregnancy.

Needless to say, when I was finally able to hold him, I felt absolutely nothing. I felt nothing for almost four months. My postpartum depression prevented me from forming a bond with my child. It was stressful, confusing, and excruciating. I did not experience that with my second.

My Second Birth Experience

With my second, I felt instant love and adoration. But I had shorter labor, was surrounded by supportive staff, and succeeded in my VBAC plans. So, all the cards were stacked right this time. Now, five years have passed since the birth of my first and two years since the birth of my second. I am bonded to both of them equally. And I bet not a single person could tell that my eldest and I had a rocky start to our relationship.

Why did I share this with you? To show you that the lack of bonding happens through no fault of yours or your baby’s. Just because you didn’t bond right away doesn’t mean you can’t bond later. There are plenty of romances that don’t start with flames. You can build that flame by caring for your child and spending time with them.

What Can You Do if You Didn’t Immediately Fall in Love With Your Baby?

First and foremost, don’t despair, blame yourself, or think you’re a horrible mother. It’s not a helpful line of thinking. What is helpful is realizing that, yes, it happens, but it doesn’t mean anything for your bond with your child in the long run. But it is still important to build that bond. Your baby depends on you and needs a strong bond for survival and safety. So, let’s work on creating it:

  • Do lots of skin-to-skin cuddles and nursing sessions. This will help with the bonding by releasing oxytocin, and it will also help with breastfeeding.3
  • Room-in with baby at the hospital and at home. Put the crib, bassinet, or pack-and-play in your room and have baby sleep in there. The more you are around baby, the more likely your bond will form.4
  • Wear baby in a wrap or carrier around the house and on walks outside. Babywearing is wonderful because it creates a bond and helps baby regulate their body temperature and feel safe and secure.7,8 Plus, it provides a rocking motion for better sleep (similar to the point on skin-to-skin contact).
  • Engage in all parts of caring for baby. That includes diaper changes, baths, picking and changing outfits, etc. The more you do for baby, the more bonded you will feel.
  • Learn how to do baby massage. Baby massages are a great activity to bond with your baby and help you relieve some stress. Ensure you use unscented and high-quality products for the massages to prevent irritating baby’s skin.5

A Word of Caution

As I mentioned, postpartum depression can come in between you and your baby. Postpartum depression is a serious illness that affects 1 in 7 moms and can present itself with many different symptoms, one of which is a lack of bond with your baby.2 If you suspect that you may be suffering from postpartum depression, reach out to your doctor and find a referral to a therapist. The faster you address the issues associated with postpartum depression, the better your motherhood experience will be.

Resources for Postpartum Support

Here are some resources you can check out if you’re looking for support:

  • Postpartum Support International (PSI) — PSI offers online support groups, teletherapy local provider referrals, Helpline, Online Professional training, and other services for you.
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) — This is a mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline — This organization offers free 24/7 helplines available for people in a crisis who may be considering taking their lives.
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Maria Yakimchuk
Maria Yakimchuk Certified Transformational EFT Coach
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Maria is a Certified Transformational EFT Coach who helps moms struggling to find joy and fulfillment in motherhood and clear past traumas and emotional blocks so they can live in… Read more

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