The marvellous mystery of parent and baby bonding: Demystifying postnatal depression and the myth of maternal instincts

One of the most heart-wrenching questions I’m asked by mothers at Attuned Psychology in North Adelaide is, how do I bond with my baby?

For many new mums, you’ve been told your baby is your ‘precious bundle of joy’ and you’ve been met with a multitude of messages about how joyful it must be to have your little one, or how your natural maternal instincts must be coming out, or how in love you must feel.

While for some mothers this may not be far from the truth, for many others those early days and weeks can be the most difficult, challenging and overwhelming.

The expectations of ‘maternal instincts’ on autopilot

This view of “maternal instincts” seems to reign in our society, with the hushed alternate reality that once your infant is born, many mothers realise they haven’t actually been taught how to parent.

Rather, all new mothers are suddenly meant to know how:

  • to swaddle their infant
  • much and how often their infant will need to feed
  • to change a nappy not forgetting the nappy cream!

With multiplying questions like these, it’s no wonder that many mums may feel postnatal depression and anxiety, and feel the need for some support with their parenting.

The fear of delayed ‘bonding’ between mum and baby

Then there’s the whole other looming question of how do I bond with my baby?

How on earth are you meant to:

  • connect with this infant?
  • talk to him/her?
  • know how to respond to your infant’s cries?
  • meet his/her emotional needs?

It’s one thing to connect with a new person who can talk and express their needs to you, let alone a tiny infant whose only way of expressing their needs is to cry.

A new infant’s cry is often a source of panic for new parents, who scramble to understand what it means.

What do they do? What if other people think they’re bad parents?

The other bundle of ‘joy’: unexpected emotions

To add even MORE complexity to this, most of us haven’t been warned that having a baby often brings up many emotions that can be overwhelming to feel, understand, and manage.

This is another added factor that new parents are managing when trying to bond with their new infant.

Depending on whatever history you might bring with you – your own childhood, needs that were and weren’t met, your personality, interaction style etc. – a new infant’s needs can be interpreted incredibly personally and hurtfully, rather than as your baby trying to express a need.

With all these dynamics going on, its no wonder that bonding with a new baby can be complicated!

It’s like all of these dynamics are whirling along in fast forward, too fast to make sense of or to even see clearly.

This is where it can be so helpful to slow down these interactions to enable you to actually see what’s going on, and learn to really look at your child.

Why the Marte Meo® approach is often the most successful

Of course it’s not possible to Tivo real life 24/7.

What we can do is use video to capture your interactions with your child, using the Marte Meo® developmental support program.

We are then able to slow these interactions down, moment-by-moment, to lift up moments that are so commonly missed in everyday life.

In this way, our child psychologists can help you to better understand your baby’s needs, and recognise moments where your baby might already be trying to connect with you.

By visually showing you these moments, your brain is better able to recognise them the next day, and the day after that.

In this way, we can support you to focus on the moment-to-moment interactions and connection moments, rather than the whirlwind of fears, doubts and the past.

In future articles, I will share more information on how Marte Meo® can support your child’s connection and healthy development as they grow.

Enquire today about Marte Meo® in Adelaide for you and your child. Call us on 08 8361 7008 or email [email protected].

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