Posts Tagged ‘bonding’

When You Don’t Feel a Bond to Your Baby

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

When my first kid was born, the bond was immediate. The labor was induced, due to preeclampsia, and it went quickly: six hours after the Pitocin drip started, I was holding my tiny, squirming little bundle in my arms. I had dreamed of a natural labor and delivery, in a birthing center, and worried that the change to a hospital birth with medical intervention would impact the bonding process I had read so much about. Instead, my heart broke open and I never loved someone so intensely as I did the moment I saw my precious boy.

Eighteen months later, to the day, I was in labor with my second boy. I had taken all the precautions this time, doing all the things my midwife had advised to avoid preeclampsia, and was actually going to be able to have a home birth this time. We would be in our safe space, without medical intervention, and it was going to create the ultimate bonding opportunity between my child and me. What I couldn’t anticipate, though, was that eighteen hours of back labor, a much longer period of time pushing than the first delivery I experienced, and a baby that was 50 percent larger than my first resulted in me feeling exhausted, pained, and hollow. I looked at my second baby, perfect in every way, and though glad he was safe and healthy, I felt little more than appreciation that the entire process was over.

At the realization that I was not over the moon as I had been with my first, that appreciation was suddenly replaced with a crushing sense of Mommy-guilt. Why didn’t I feel the euphoria I felt before? Why didn’t I feel that bond the second I saw him, as I had before? I had checked all the boxes, done everything right—what was wrong with me?

Turns out, the immediate bond with your child isn’t something that everyone experiences. In fact, 20 percent of new parents don’t feel that intense attachment the second they lay eyes on their new baby. Those feelings are even harder to come by if your birth is traumatic in any way, as having a child doesn’t remove the part of you that is human. Experiencing pain, emotional and/or physical, requires healing, and your brain may require that to happen first before a bond can occur with your child. Worse yet, there is immense pressure to suddenly have an entire identity shift with the birth of a child, so in addition to dealing with the difficult transition to parenthood, a lack of bonding can be accompanied with a giant helping of shame. Those negative feelings, isolation, and other biological factors can spiral into developing postpartum depression, and it’s important to recognize when extra support is needed. In the meantime, removing the pedestal we place motherhood on with all of its attached expectations of perfection allows for more opportunity to talk about the times where we don’t meet expectations.

Four years later, that second boy of mine is full of more goodness than I could ever ask for, and I am fully over the moon for all the things that he is. It took some time to get there, but that doesn’t make me less-than—it makes me human.

Keighty Brigman is terrible at crafting, throwing birthday parties, and making sure there isn’t food on her face. Allegedly, her four children manage to love her anyway. 

Pumping to Let Dad Help

Monday, July 11th, 2016

Pumping so Daddy can HelpI’ve found that though a little bit of a hassle, pumping offers hubby, grandparents, or other close friends the opportunity to bond with baby. As a stay-at-home mom who rarely pulls out the pump, I may have a different experience from mamas who regularly do. Some mamas will say there are many ways to bond with baby and pumping is such an inconvenience for a variety of reasons. That’s true. I like to think occasional pumping gives loved ones the space to enjoy something that I savor so much. To me, being able to share something that brings joy to me makes the annoyance of pumping worth it. I don’t often pump so someone else can feed baby, but I have found a few things that work for us if I do.

Those first few weeks were an opportunity for me to get used to baby and vice versa. Others helping in those first few weeks was not at all or only when absolutely necessary. Experts suggest 4 or 6 weeks being the ideal time to only nurse to establish supply. Once someone assists you, consider alternative methods of feeding if you’re concerned about nipple confusion. You can also encourage feeding that is as similar to nursing as possible.

Pumping a little goes a long way. Especially in those early weeks and months it is hard to pump enough in one sitting for the purpose of replacing a meal. Baby has a way of encouraging more letdowns and milk versus trying to pump. During the day pump if you have an extra few minutes and a little extra milk. I usually have an excess after the first feed in the morning. It’s useful to have full bottles of milk, but getting an ounce or two here or there can add up to a bottle or two a week for daddy to use. That small amount can also work for the top-off method.

Try the top-off method. Nurse your baby as usual and then have an ounce or two that you previously pumped available for another loved one to feed baby. This strategy works particularly well in those evening hours when baby just wants to feed and fuss and feed again. While it’s important to nurse to maintain and grow supply in those evening hours, I never found a couple ounces of milk in the bottle once or twice a week to negatively affect my supply. You may have a different experience than me.

Avoid the at-night scenario. Significant others are so sweet to offer getting up with baby. That said, night is usually not the best way to help. Explain that a bottle at night means you have to wake up and get up to deal with the pump, so you are not getting more sleep (possibly less!).

Instead, pick the meal that is most convenient for you. Maybe it’s every Saturday afternoon or perhaps an evening feed. While someone else feeds, burps, and cuddles babe you can pump and then have some time to yourself to rejuvenate or whatever your family needs. It’s great if that time is followed by baby taking a nap. Especially once established, I liked this option as I could pump and then have a few hours free to run a few errands without babe, spend time with the other kiddos, or take my own nap.  At the same time that someone else gets the opportunity to bond with baby over meal, cuddles, and other aspects of the day.

Consider formula. There. I said it. If the idea of formula is never, ever for baby feel free to skip this paragraph. If you worry that it might mess with your supply, I trust you know your body best. I came to use formula out of sheer desperation. I struggled with multiple infections (mastitis, thrush, and flu) with our third babe that made feeding excruciating. For about two weeks we used a bottle just to get me through some evenings until I could heal.  It gave me reprieve and someone else an opportunity both to bond with baby and help me out. Some families utilize formula for whatever reason so bonding opportunities come more frequently. I know for some mamas a few ounces of formula can offer strength in mental and physical health. That is critical to the long-term success of anything.

Finally, don’t forget to encourage and emphasize all those other ways dad and other loved ones can love and bond with baby. The method of pumping to give someone else the opportunity to feed babe, when used strategically, can offer everyone a positive experience.

Lynette is a mom of three children from 3 months to age four. She has cloth diapered all three since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.

My Pregnancy: Week 23

Friday, January 29th, 2016

week 23Hubby is a fantastic dad to our boys. Pregnancy looks different for him though. This has been the case for all three pregnancies. Baby’s kicks are consistent and somewhat predictable but still soft and not predictable enough. We’ve talked about some of the struggles he’s faced in bonding with the kids and what has helped.

Feeling the baby move is “really cool,” says hubby, but it became something special in the final two months when kicks were strong enough to leave bruising on my internal organs (at least it felt that way). We’d lie down to sleep with my belly to his back which helped him, without effort, feel more of my belly until babe would eventually kick hubby. Cuddle time for us as we drifted to sleep and closeness with baby. Two birds with one stone.

Hubby went to very few appointments in our previous pregnancies and that continues with this one.  Taking off work for such routine visits seems unnecessary when we need to save those days for after baby arrives. He did have one day off though, and going to the appointment was special for him. Seeing the doctor and our routine, which is the same old routine to me, was special for him. Dads also have a relationship with the doctor or midwife that is unique and can be nurtured more or less depending on everyone’s willingness to participate. Hubby still recounts the moments before our previous babe’s birth where he and our doctor “psyched themselves up,” as hubby gowned up right outside of the operating room.

He’s taking note of the bonding he gets to do with our boys as I become more pregnant and continuing on after the birth of #3. I’ll breastfeed, just as with the other two, so his opportunities to bond while feeding are less often. With our first babe I attended a university class one night a week, so he always had that one night to one-man the evening. He still recounts it as a special time for he and our oldest. With babe #2 I took the effort to sometimes get up and pump in the night while hubby fed the babe a bottle. To me this appeared very inefficient as one of us could be asleep, but I recognized the importance of this effort to my hubby and babe. It was their time, in the quiet of a night or two a week, to get to know each other.

This time around we may build in a time when I get some special time with our boys out of the house while he gets to bond and one-man the afternoon with baby. Hubby will be bonding plenty with the older two, especially in those early weeks after my c-section and living with a newborn. The boys will get plenty of his attention while our baby girl gets mine. Me getting away from baby from time to time is important for our other children too though. Even if it’s just to the playground down the road or a trip to get an ice cream cone and laugh at silly conversation.

Last, I have spoken numerous times on the topic of sex and gender as related to this pregnancy and our baby. Now that we know she’s a girl, we both are processing the information in different ways. I’m trying to give him space to do that however he needs to. He’s nervous about having a baby “different” than him but also excited to have a little girl. For me, she seems so familiar but I am conflicted sometimes about the world I’m bringing her into (a sexist, misogynistic one) in a way that did not hit home when I was pregnant with our boys. We talk about these thoughts, fears, and excitement we both hold in different ways. The end result in almost all of these situations is more bonding with the babe, our boys, and each other.

Annie is a mom of a toddler and preschooler who like to give baby a hug and kiss each day. Meanwhile mommy is bidding goodbye to seeing her feet while standing up.

Tags: week 23, second trimester, pregnancy, baby bonding, dads, family, sex, gender 

We Don’t Do Santa, But You do. And that’s OK.

Monday, December 21st, 2015

You are not less-than if you use Santa. You are not less-than if you don’t.There are two types of people in the world: Those who think people can be divided into two groups, and those who recognize that we are all varying shades of gray. This comes into play often in topics related to parenting: There are those who breastfeed, and those who formula feed; those who co-sleep, and those who crib-sleep; those who use a pacifier, and those who don’t.

The difference in approaches becomes divisive. A line is drawn in the sand, creating a false dichotomy, and parents are left in a mindset of Us vs. Anyone Who Does It Differently, and we can become quite defensive about our choices, feeling as though anyone doing something differently undermines the validity of our reality.

And this time of year, one of the most divisive scenarios involves Santa: Those who do, and those who don’t.

Full disclosure: I am Team Don’t.

Now, before Team Santa folks get out their proverbial pitchforks and begin advocating for all the incredibly valid and important reasons for using Santa Claus as a part of their holiday tradition, let me first say that I agree with you. One hundred percent. Incorporating Santa as a mythical creature into your yearly routine adds a sense of magic and wonder, a fantasy that seems so integral to childhood. The mystery and faith seem like the oxygen of innocence, which we so badly want to preserve and protect in our children for as long as we can until they are faced with the reality that much of life isn’t fair, magic doesn’t always show up when we need it to, and sometimes the good kids get coal while the naughty kids get all the good stuff.

I get it. I celebrate it. I am so excited for your family to have found something that bonds you and strengthens you and gives you joy this time of year.

I could list all the reasons why we chose not to use Santa in our family traditions, but those reasons don’t especially matter. There is no need to convince anyone of why my family celebrates the way we do, just as you should not have to defend your traditions to make them valuable. The divisiveness comes from a place of feeling like we must defend our choices or we admit that what we are doing is less-than.

You are not less-than if you use Santa. You are not less-than if you don’t.

Happy Holidays.

Keighty Brigman is terrible at crafting, throwing birthday parties, and making sure there isn’t food on her face. Allegedly, her four children manage to love her anyway.

Talking to Your Baby

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

Talk to your babyAs a first-time mom, I had no idea what to do with my baby. The second time around was easier, but I still needed a ton of help. With that pregnancy, I had an amazing doula who passed on a ton of wisdom. Some of the things she told me sounded quirky, but I did them anyway because it seemed like a good idea. The more time that passes since then, the more I am realizing the truths of what she told me.

One of the things she emphasized was talking to my baby. Like, really talking to her. Telling her what I was going to do before I did it. Asking permission to do things like lay her down or change a diaper. Narrating the things we were doing to together.

Today, there are studies that suggest asking permission can help develop a sense of body autonomy, or the idea that you have ultimate control over your own body. This is a huge concept lately because of the highly publicized sexual crimes against women and children, and the idea that teaching kids to give over control to adults can erode this sense that they have control over the most intimate parts of themselves. Teaching body autonomy means that kids know from day one what parts are private and that no one has the right to touch them in a way—any way—that they aren’t comfortable with. Part of this means you don’t make children physically interact with people if they don’t want to and that you stop when they say “no” or “stop” even if you are tickling or roughhousing for fun.

You can begin teaching body autonomy from day one by asking your baby if you can change his or her diaper, and announcing what you are doing during the process. When babies are nonverbal, you don’t need to get a response before acting, but it’s important that you ask. I remember being so surprised when each of my children responded to my rhetorical questions each time by laying down for a change or saying, “OK!”

Besides teaching body autonomy, talking to your baby has other benefits. Babies whose parents talk to them have larger vocabularies, and this can help boost their ability to learn at age 3. And the more words, the better. Remember that you don’t have to read baby books to babies. You can read the New Yorker, Us Magazine, your favorite blog, or whatever you are reading. What’s important is not the content but the word variety.

Either out of an ingrained sense of this or the loneliness that sometimes is part of being a stay-at-home mom, I got used to narrating my grocery store trips. Now my kids know the names of every fruit and vegetable, but be warned that it’s a hard habit to break. You’ll often find me wandering the aisles childless, muttering, “Oh! We forgot the tomato sauce! Have to go back!” to no one in particular.

Finally, talking to your baby can help build a secure attachment bond with your baby. In addition to things like learning your baby’s cues and responding to your baby’s needs, talking to baby helps build a bond in a way that doesn’t over stimulate or wear them out. In fact, you may just look down into your carrier and realize our baby has fallen asleep listing to your voice. I found it helpful to voice my feelings to baby when I was frustrated with my baby. It’s almost like therapy.

The best thing about talking to your baby is there’s nothing special you need to do. Just talk. Talk about your fears and hopes for them. Tell them your secrets. Talk about your grocery list. Tell them a story or tell them how they were born. Just talk to them.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three girls, ages 6, 3.5 and 2 years old, who lives in Queensbury, New York. She talks to her baby when she can get a word in, which isn’t too often anymore.