Telltale Signs of Bonding (+ What if it Doesn’t Feel Like “Love at First Sight”?)
If you’re a first-time mom (or even if this isn’t your first rodeo), you might find yourself gazing at your little one and thinking: “It’s a given that my child loves me, right? And I them?”
These are very valid questions, and it’s natural to grapple with all the new and sometimes-conflicting emotions you may be experiencing. Today we’re sharing a few simple ways to know that your baby loves you, and is forming an attachment to you—as well as a few things to consider if you’re not feeling the love right away.
When baby does any of the following, you can rest assured that they’re feeling the love and bonding with you:
Gazing or staring at you
Is baby frequently looking in your direction, or turning toward the sound of your voice, even when you walk across the room? This is a nonverbal way of communicating their interest in you. Per psychotherapist Claire Watson, “The baby is sending signals that they want to attach, they want comfort, and they want an emotional response back.” When you gaze lovingly back at baby, it helps to establish trust and also build an emotional connection between the two of you.
And, interestingly enough, researchers at Stanford University observe that, “As early as four months, babies' brains already process faces at nearly adult levels, even while other images are still being analyzed in lower levels of the visual system.”
A smile or a smooch
Do you smile when you see someone that you love? So does baby. It’s as simple as that. And as you get in the habit of smiling at each other, the bond with your infant deepens. As noted by Parents.com, “The first true social smiles start brightening moms' days between six and eight weeks. Your baby may smile when he sees your face—or Dad's or a big sib's. He's starting to associate your face with feeling good.” Baby may also offer you a smooch, and that’s great too!
When baby relaxes in your arms or on your lap, and snuggles against you, it’s a sign that they love and trust you. When you reciprocate by providing a warm embrace, this provides a calming effect for both of you. Skin-to-skin contact is also important in keeping baby healthy and happy.
Now…some of you may be thinking, “This all sounds hunky dory but does not at all match up with my reality,” for one reason or another. In the same way that every baby is different, every mother’s experience is completely her own. Please know that that it’s completely normal if you’re not feeling pure bliss about baby, or if you’re having conflicting feelings. There’s no set way you “should” feel, and no precise timeline.
It’s natural to have any number of mixed emotions after the birth of a child. Fear, uncertainty, sadness, and other such thoughts often creep in as a new mom grapples with her changed identity; the new human she’s now caring for; and what her body has just been through. And for some moms, building the bond with baby takes more time—and more work—than for others.
Very well Family puts it well: “If you spend nine months training to run an actual marathon and then the big day comes, at the finish line you get to celebrate your accomplishment as essentially the same person… Giving birth, though? You get to that finish line, and you’re an entirely different person. You battle physical exhaustion and pain alongside the emotional upheaval of bringing a new life into the world that you’re 100% responsible for.” In other words, feel free to cut yourself some slack.
Also be aware that postpartum depression could be to blame for your blasé attitude about baby or lack of “love at first sight.” If you’re feeling out of sorts for more than a few weeks —and it’s a battle to get through each day—it’s a smart idea to seek professional guidance. For more information, see our blog on How to Deal with the Baby Blues.
Love can be complicated. But, start with the basics, and over time your bond with baby will grow and blossom into something beautiful.
At Finn + Emma We like to celebrate love and we have some great ways to share the love with our I love dad baby bodysuit and I love mom baby bodysuit. We also have an entire baby collection that celebrates love. Check out our Valentines Day Baby Clothes.