If you’re preparing to welcome your new bundle of joy, or you’re in the process of family planning and thinking ahead, you’ve come to the right place. It’s easy to feel a mix of anticipation, excitement and anxiety at the idea of becoming a new parent. And as a non-gestational parent, there are lots of factors to consider, including how best to prepare to bond with your newborn.
For one, know that giving birth to a baby does not immediately create a bonding experience. For many birthing parents, it takes time to establish a bond with their baby. And plenty of new parents may not feel immediately connected to their little one right away. This is completely normal. It’s like starting a new job — perhaps the most important job of your life – you’re going to feel a bit awkward and uncomfortable at first, but you’ll get into the swing of things in no time.
Newborns look fragile, the stakes feel high. We’re socialized to believe we should immediately know what to do when so often we don’t. The good news is that you can prepare to bond with your new arrival and this can help make the actual experience go smoothly. It will get easier and more natural.
If you are welcoming a newborn, that skin-to-skin contact is key to helping you bond with baby early. If your partner is breastfeeding or planning to breastfeed, they’ll get skin-to-skin time throughout the day. This act causes a release of oxytocin, which is a “bonding” hormone that stimulates breast milk flow. This type of closeness is just as important for you. Schedule skin-to-skin contact in your day, maybe when giving your baby a bottle or before putting them down to sleep.
Check in with yourself
Take the time to acknowledge the range of emotions you might be feeling and validate them. It doesn’t take much more than a quick Google search or scroll through an online parent forum or social media to see that you’re far from alone in whatever you might be feeling. Connecting with others, including through new parent classes, whether in person or virtually, can also be helpful. Sometimes by watching others, you can pick up new ways of interacting with your baby.
Okay we know your little one can’t really understand you yet, but talking to your baby is still a great way to connect with them! Sing to them or read them stories. Even though baby may not understand what you’re saying, they’ll become familiar with your voice, your scent, your touch. And you will feel more connected to them the more you interact.
Holding your baby is important. There is no such thing as spoiling a baby by holding them too much (don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!). Wearing baby with a carrier or wrap is one great way to keep them close and still have arms free for other tasks.
If you’re adopting a little one who’s older, be mindful that they may need time to acclimate. Go slow and take small steps towards greater physical interaction. Don’t introduce too many variables or gadgets at once; be aware of potential sensory overload. Bonding in these instances may take a little more work and time.
At the end of the day, our message is simple: be gentle and kind to yourself. Becoming a parent is the hardest job you will ever have, but this part will get easier with time.
Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team