Bonding With Your Newborn: What to Know If You Don’t Feel Connected Right Away
An ob-gyn shares why bonding with a new baby can be a gradual process.
It may seem like all parents feel an instant, deep connection to their baby. That’s how it goes in the movies, and maybe you’ve heard the same from friends and family. But this is not how it works for everyone.
Many new parents need more time to bond. Bonding is when you develop feelings of unconditional love for your newborn. Often, bonding happens gradually over the baby’s first year of life. So if you don’t feel these strong feelings of closeness in the first days or weeks after birth, that’s normal.
Still, there are some steps you can take to help you bond with your newborn. There also are some things that can slow the process. But given time—and with continued, close contact with your baby—it will happen.
Here’s what to understand if you have concerns about bonding with your newborn.
Skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding are helpful.
Bonding often begins with skin-to-skin contact in the first hour after delivery. This is when delivery room staff place your newborn baby down on your bare chest.
As you lie together, you and your baby feel, hear, and smell each other for the first time. You gaze into each other’s eyes. This contact signals your body to start making milk, and you may start to breastfeed. All of these things help you bond.
But don’t worry if something prevents you from having skin-to-skin contact or from breastfeeding right away—or at all. It’s close contact and attention to your baby over time that create bonding, not just in the minutes right after birth. Bonding is not a once-in-a-lifetime event.
The “baby blues” can affect bonding.
Many new mothers get the baby blues in the days just after birth. These are feelings of anxiety, distress, or sadness that can come and go. They may make you feel angry. You may wonder if you’ll be able to care for your child.
The baby blues usually go away in 2 to 3 weeks. Then you may start to feel more bonded with your child.
It’s important to get treatment if you have postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression is different from the baby blues. It’s more intense and can interfere with bonding. It also can cause other serious problems. Unlike the baby blues, depression does not go away on its own. It can become severe and should be treated.
With postpartum depression, you may
have strong feelings of sadness or despair
feel anxious or worried for no clear reason
feel scared or panicky
cry a lot
lose interest in things you used to enjoy
feel so unhappy that you can’t sleep, eat well, or do daily tasks
think about hurting yourself or your baby
Anxiety often happens along with depression. If you or a family member think you have postpartum depression or anxiety, talk with your ob-gyn as soon as possible. There are treatment options that can help you feel better. With treatment, you can become healthier and more able to bond with your baby.
A lack of support and time for self-care make bonding harder.
Many new mothers aren’t able to get enough sleep. Some are still learning how to care for their child. They may worry their baby is not feeding well or gaining enough weight. And often, new moms put their own needs at the bottom of their to-do list.
Being tired, stressed, and not having time for yourself make bonding harder. If you feel overwhelmed, you may need more support. Friends, family, and health care professionals all can be sources of support. Community resources, such as food and housing aid, support groups, and parenting classes, also can help relieve stress.
Your ob-gyn and health care team can help answer questions about feeding and make sure you and your baby are healthy. Your baby’s doctor also can answer questions. They can connect you with other resources, such as lactation counselors, if you want to breastfeed and you’re struggling.
You also should have breaks from caring for your baby to relax and do things you enjoy. When your own emotional needs are met, you will find it easier to bond with and care for your child. Ask your family or close friends for more help. Talk with your ob-gyn or your baby’s doctor if you need help finding extra support resources.
You can strengthen your bond with your child with lots of touch, talk, and care.
Talk to your baby. Touch and stroke your baby’s skin, and spend time gazing into your baby’s eyes. Pick your baby up when they cry, and rock and soothe your baby. This kind of contact will help your bond grow. Remember, you can’t spoil a newborn baby.
You may do these things and still not feel as connected to your baby as you think you should. Don’t feel guilty or ashamed. With regular attention to your baby—and enough support and time for self-care—the bond will form. And in the meantime, your ob-gyn and your baby’s doctor are there to answer questions.
Published: January 2022
Last reviewed: January 2022
Copyright 2023 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. All rights reserved. Read copyright and permissions information.
This information is designed as an educational aid for the public. It offers current information and opinions related to women's health. It is not intended as a statement of the standard of care. It does not explain all of the proper treatments or methods of care. It is not a substitute for the advice of a physician. Read ACOG’s complete disclaimer.