The name is bond

I sat in the meeting, pregnant with my second son. Suddenly, bored by the long hours of sitting still, he began to do somersaults in my belly, with a few karate chops and high kicks thrown in. An incredible warmth flowed through me, as I felt the deep connection with my little secret friend.

With my older son it happened later, and with a whole lot more emotional rearranging as this alien identity of mother took me over. I looked at his face just after he was born, and it was that of a beloved stranger. It took a day or two before I truly felt he was mine.

Bonding comes differently for every parent. Some fathers find it difficult to bond at all until the baby responds to them. And for some mothers, the pain of not bonding is entwined with the other dark feelings of post-natal depression.

Specific instances such as disability, or a tricky relationship between the parents can also make it harder for either mother or father to make that everlasting heart connection. As can a difficult birth or prematurity.

“Bonding is surely affected by prematurity – big time,” says Parent24 prematurity expert and midwife Welma Lubbe.  “The pregnancy, birth and normal baby ‘picture’ is disturbed.  Mom can’t hold and cuddle her little one, since there are too many lines, tubes and machines and she is afraid to hurt her little one.  Lengthy separation then leads to bonding becoming more difficult. 

“Early termination of the pregnancy leads to parents not being able to prepare mentally for parenthood, thus influencing bonding.  Medical conditions, and later problems such as feeding problems, sensory problems, can also lead to problems with bonding.”

These specific problems can be assisted by practising kangaroo mother care and other activities to improve the bond.

For the rest of us, though, bonding is something we can work on consciously. “You can bond, nurture and start loving your baby from the moment you know you’re pregnant,” says Dr Miriam Stoppard in her book Bonding with your Bump. She recommends simple but effective techniques like talking to the baby and rubbing the bump to help you make the transition to becoming a family.

Did you find it difficult to form a bond with your baby? When did you first feel that connection?
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