Society teaches new mothers to expect these instant, picture perfect, television moments after the baby’s arrival. However, many moms do not feel that connection instantaneously and struggle to feel connected to their baby. This feeling leaves them wondering what they should do if they don’t have an instant connection with their baby.  

Maternal and child health project director Jazmyn Covington explained that although it is a taboo topic, it is fairly common for moms to not feel connected to their baby right away.

“Not feeling an instant connection with your baby is temporary and does not make you a bad mom,” she told 21Ninety. “There are things that you can do to help strengthen this bond with your baby.” 

Here’s how to navigate not having an instant connection with your baby. 

Mixed Emotions During Postpartum

Maternal health professional and birth doula Teneele Bruce explained that the changes that occur during childbirth can result in a new mom not feeling an instant “warm and fuzzy” connection to her baby.

“Childbirth is a marathon, not a sprint,” Bruce told 21Ninety. “Over time, the body and mind go through a myriad of physical, mental, and emotional changes.”

There can be a variety of feelings associated with not feeling connected to your baby, Covington explained. These can include shame, embarrassment, sadness, fear, distress, or even anger. 

“You expect to have an instant, deep connection with your baby,” Covington said. “When it doesn’t happen the way you were expecting, it can be disappointing.” 

The Impact of the Baby Blues 

Baby blues are extremely common after childbirth and typically last a couple of weeks. Covington explained that during this time, there are a lot of hormonal changes happening in your body. You may also be sleep deprived as you’re learning how to care for your baby. 

“These are big changes that can evoke feelings like sadness, overwhelm, anxiety, or even fear of an inability to care for her baby,” she added. “This can impact a mom’s ability to bond with her baby in the initial weeks after childbirth.”

If the baby blues last beyond a few weeks, Covington encouraged moms to talk to their medical provider. This may be an indicator of a more serious perinatal mental health issue, like postpartum depression or anxiety.

Practical Tips to Build a Connection

One way to navigate feelings of disconnect from your baby is to talk to someone you trust. If you don’t feel comfortable disclosing these feelings to someone you know, Covington suggested trying journaling or joining an online forum or support group, where you can talk about your feelings anonymously.

Another way to build a stronger emotional connection with your baby is to engage in practices, like skin-to-skin contact and baby-wearing, which promote physical touch. This is especially true during “the golden hour,” which is the first hour or so after childbirth when moms can have uninterrupted skin-to-skin with their baby.

“Skin-to-skin contact not only keeps your baby warm and cozy, but it gives them an opportunity to learn and recognize you – your scent, rhythms, voice, and face,” Bruce said. “Both of you are feeling, hearing, and smelling each other for the first time.”

Skin-to-skin can also help establish breastfeeding, regulate hormones for mom and regulate body temperature, breathing, and heart rate for the baby. 

Other ways to ensure a strong connection is to talk to your growing baby, read to them and share your favorite music with them. Bruce also suggested practicing deep breathing and other mindfulness activities, as well as praying over your baby and overall birthing journey.

“Like many good things, forming a lasting connection with your child will take time – be patient with yourself,” Bruce said. “Giving birth to your baby is not the final destination.”