The Myth About Postpartum Bonding

As this post goes live, I’ll actually be on my way to Michigan–without my toddler. I’m sure as I’m sitting in the airplane about to travel thousands of miles away from my home, I’ll be having mixed emotions. On the one hand, I always welcome a much needed break, some time to myself and my wellbeing; however, I know I’ll miss the little hands that caress my face in a rare moment of calm, and the constant “Mom! Mom! Mom!” as downtime will allow me to reflect on what is now my status quo.

These feelings of attachment weren’t always there though. In fact, I somewhat jokingly tell people that for the first two years, I would stare at Grey and say, “Is that really my child? Is this really happening?” But if you ask my husband, he’ll tell you I really did ask those questions, and often.

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Me with Grey at 12 mos.

Grey was a surprise, and this fact alone gave me the feeling that bonding might be a bit difficult at the beginning. I’m also extremely self-aware and this awareness gave me clues to how I might react to motherhood. None of these thoughts and feelings were negative, just real. So, I tried to prepare myself for this by reading everything I could about postpartum bonding. As I read, I discovered that these feelings were actually very natural, and that bonding wasn’t necessarily going to happen as soon as they put Grey in my arms (though it does for some).

Heidi Murkoff  one of the authors of  What to Expect When You’re Expecting states, “The process of newborn bonding is different for every parent and every baby, and it doesn’t come with a time limit.  Though some moms bond faster than others with their newborns… few find that attachment forming with super-glue speed.  The bonds that last a lifetime don’t bind overnight; rather, they form gradually, over time. In fact, nearly half of all new moms report not feeling any genuine feelings for their baby until the end of the first week. One study even found that it takes an average of two to nine weeks for mothers to have positive feelings toward their newborns. What’s more, experts believe that a really strong attachment to a child doesn’t completely take hold until somewhere in the second half of a baby’s first year.”

In more scientific terms, Ellen Galinsky’s stages of parenthood theory describes the bonding or “nurturing” stage as a time when “parents compare image and actual experience during the time from baby’s birth to toddler’s first use of the word “no” (about age 18 to 24 months). This is a period of attachment and also of questioning. Parents may question their priorities and also how they spend their time.”

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Me with Grey at 2 yrs

From a real mom, who had a bit of a tough time bonding, let me say that it’s okay. As long as you are there for your child, and ensuring their wellbeing and safety–the bond will form.

Please note that if you are having feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion that may make it difficult for to complete daily care activities for yourself or for others this could be a sign of a much more serious disorder called postpartum depression. For more info on Postpartum Depression check out the National Institute of Mental Health page. If you are exhibiting any of these signs or symptoms contact your health care provider immediately.

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