The First Six Weeks Postpartum: Bonding

Babies are the best, aren’t they? So sweet and chubby and squishy. What’s not to love?

People tend to talk A LOT about how much they love their babies. They talk about how they bonded with them. Partners want to know “How can I bond with my baby?”. Lots and lots of talk about bonding.

I’m here to talk to you about what it’s REALLY like.

EXPECTATION: Baby laughs and eye contact and, well, bonding.

REALITY: The truth is, newborn babies literally eat, sleep, cry and poop. They really aren’t able to interact for a while, and this can be disconcerting to parents who have not been around many newborns. The first few weeks can be rough. Baby needs constant supervision and care without really giving anything back. Know that this time lasts only a short while and take advantage of the frequent naps. You’ll miss it later.

EXPECTATION: We love our new little family so much.

REALITY: Of COURSE you love your new little family, but just like marriage, loving a newborn is more of an action than a feeling. You may fall madly in love instantly and stay that way, but many parents find that this love is hard. Loving a newborn means around-the-clock feedings and waiting on this tiny person hand and foot. Both parents are exhausted, hungry, and overwhelmed. The dishes are piling up, and there’s no coffee because you’re both too out of it to remember to go to the store. Loving each other can also be hard. It’s ok if you don’t really like each other right now. It’s ok if the baby cries and you cry too when you realize it’s your turn to change them. Give it time, know that this part is over quickly, and remember to keep loving in action, the feelings will come back once everyone has had a good chunk of sleep.

EXPECTATION: My partner will take turns feeding baby so they can bond too.

REALITY: Feeding a baby is WORK. Breastfeeding may be biologically normal, but learning how to hold a slippery newborn and get them latched without damaging your nipple AND making sure they’re getting enough, WITH potential family members everywhere is probably one of the most stressful things you’ll ever do in your life. Breastfed babies should avoid bottles for the first few weeks to establish a routine and milk supply. Even if your partner does take a feeding for you, you still have to pump while that’s happening. Bottle feeding may sound like the easier route, but mixing powdered formula, or opening tamper resistant foil packaging while sleep deprived, is about as fun-filled as driving through a snow storm on a bicycle. And don’t forget to use the special, sterile formula water and wash and sterilize those bottles after every use. Are we bonded yet?

These first few weeks can be a little daunting, it’s true, but its still more good than bad, and your baby will grow so fast. They’ll be cooing and smiling and snuggling into your neck before you know it. Bonding with anyone happens over time. It is a continuous process that never stops. It’s ok if it doesn’t happen right away. It’s okay if you don’t feel that ooey gooey blissed-out oxytocin high all the time. Really, that’s asking too much of anyone. Give yourself and your partner grace. Get help. That’s what our professional postpartum doulas in Colorado are for! Get sleep, and focus on the action of love. Colorado Mountain Doulas is here to help take care of all the rest.

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