EXCLUSIVE: A good mom bonds with her baby immediately; Myth busted by gynaecologist Dr Alefiya Bapai
Women are seen as naturally maternal. It follows, therefore, that once her baby is born, she will bond with her baby immediately. But this is not always the case. A new mother can experience ups and downs because of the stress of labour and childbearing where the mother may not immediately bond after the delivery. It is not abnormal to experience mood swings and even dislike for the child initially. The good news is that mothers usually develop this bond with time as their own mental and physical health settles. It can take anything between a day to weeks for this bonding to occur.
We have seen mothers sometimes develop negative thoughts even as they do everything they can for their baby. As her hormones fluctuate, a new mother can go into something known as withdrawal. We specifically see this with first-time mothers who don’t yet understand their baby, why he/she is crying. It could be crying because of hunger or colic. But it can lead to stress and that stress then cause her to doubt herself. She can experience mood swings and go into depression. It is also believed that holding your baby can take away any struggle or trauma of hard labour. But it doesn’t happen that way with all mothers. Some of them may resent the baby and take some time to overcome their discomfort.
This is the time when a new mother needs a lot of family support. You cannot keep criticising her. The family must show her that it’s ok and try and help her out of the situation, rather than criticise her for not being normal. She must be told that depression and negative thoughts are absolutely normal and not uncommon.
Physical contact can also help in developing or advancing this connection. At the hospital, we encourage bonding by placing the baby on the mother’s chest. It helps the mother recognise the baby and vice versa. We also encourage breastfeeding, starting from the labour room. All these measures, from rooming-in to skin-to-skin contact, can help the mother with the bonding. We also keep counselling them. We may also ask counsellors to intervene and follow up later. Very rarely do we have to involve a psychologist.
The myth can have negative serious consequences when the failure to immediately bond can lead to excessive guilt which can then spiral into full-fledged depression and psychosis. New mothers need understanding, help, and support at this time.