The National Parenting Center

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First Days: Bonding

Sometimes a baby seems to come out of her mother’s womb and into her arms and heart in a single move. Parents sometimes describe a feeling of instant recognition, so that all the waiting and wanting of pregnancy and labor culminate not just in a baby, but in this baby. But that kind of instant bonding is much rarer than you might think.

If it doesn’t happen to you, if you don’t feel anything for the baby that you can recognize as love, please don’t decide there’s something wrong.

• It may help you to think of previous generations of women who delivered under anesthesia and seldom even saw their babies in the minute after birth. There was no failure of love between them and their children, nor will there be failure between you.

• For most parents the love bond takes time. However you define that word “love”, it has to have something to do with people knowing each other, liking what they know, wanting to know more. A newborn baby is neither lovable nor loving.

• You may love her on sight because she’s your baby, the fulfillment of dreams and plans, but you may not love her as one person loves another, until you begin to know her as an emerging individual, whom you, more than anyone else in the world, can make happy.

Penelope Leach, Ph.D., is one of the world’s most respected (and best-loved) developmental child psychologists. She is most widely known for her best-selling books on child development and parenting. They include Babyhood, Children First: What Society Must Do — and Is Not Doing — for Our Children Today, the classic Your Baby & Child: From Birth to Age Five (now in a new edition for a new generation), and Your Growing Child: From Babyhood Through Adolescence.

 

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