Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Seven Baby B's: (1) Birth Bonding

The first of the seven Baby B’s focuses on the beginning of your baby’s life and of your parenting journey. The ways in which a mother (and, of course, father) and baby interact during the first few days and weeks of its life shape the foundation of their relationship. The better mother and child are able to bond after birth, the stronger their initial attachment will be.
However, this important bonding time should not be seen as a window of opportunity that can be missed for good, should circumstances not be favorable. There are so many situations in which the bonding process cannot begin directly after birth, such as medical complications for mother and/or baby, or even adoption, etc. Dr. Sears is very clear in saying that the bonding process can start at any time in a baby’s life, which he then calls “catch-up bonding”. The time immediately after birth is not an all-or-nothing bonding chance, but more of a time in which the parent-infant relationship can get a “headstart”.
As a birth doula, I am painfully aware of the many medical interventions- some necessary, most not- that can have a negative influence on the mother and baby after birth. Some mothers feel so detached from their babies after a traumatic birth experience that the bonding process is very slow starting.
Thankfully, it is never too late to get the bond stronger. Mothers can take a number of steps that will help them feel more connected to their baby and will make the mutual love grow stronger. The most simple and essential method is bodily contact, preferably skin to skin. A wonderful way to get mother and baby to bond is to have them spend an entire day together, just by themselves, snuggled up skin to skin (this is also wonderful for the breastfeeding relationship) The scent and physical touch work wonders! Mother and baby should spend as much time together as possible- after all, they are just getting to know each other. Babywearing (which I will be writing about in a few days) makes spending extra time together especially easy. And if all else fails, the mother can revert back to her primal instincts and try licking her baby.
I had an unpleasant birth experience with my first child. I can honestly say that I felt detached from her for the first few weeks, especially due to the extreme pain I experienced while breastfeeding her and from a tear that was overlooked and not treated. None of this was her fault, of course- I had no idea what I was doing, neither when I was giving birth nor when I was handling my baby. Looking back on things three years later, I wish I had known what I know now because I still feel guilty about the lack of a bond between us in the first few weeks. Some days, it seems as though I am still trying to catch up. R and I do not have a consistent connection and I frequently struggle to keep our attachment strong…
Even though my son was born via c-section, our bond was immediate. I knew what to do, I knew what babies were like, and things just fell into place for us, even though I was recovering from major surgery while also trying to care for my almost 20 month old. I feel very attached to my son and I have so far never feared that our connection may not be strong enough. Here’s hoping I can keep it that way!
Tomorrow: Breastfeeding! If you have a post about Birth Bonding, please link up!

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