We've all heard stories from mothers who felt an instant bond with their baby, but I have come to believe those stores are true only part of the time. For me, bonding was an ongoing project. I loved my baby instantly, but it took time to get to know each other and connect the way I wanted. If you feel like bonding with your baby is more work than you thought - you aren't alone. Here are some things that worked for me.
Start before the baby is born
Before your baby comes, try to spend some time everyday bonding. I loved to fold and refold my babies clothes while I day dreamed about what he would look like, or I would lie in bed and feel him swoosh around. Whatever it is that makes you feel close to your baby, work it in to your daily routine.
Skin to skin
Skin to skin contact is great for bonding because it releases the hormones that will help you fall in love with your baby. Lay your baby, wearing only a diaper, on your bare chest and cover him with a blanket. This is especially helpful when your child is first born, but it works any time you need a little boost of closeness between you and baby.
Get some help
Whenever possible, get someone to help out with all the non-baby related things, like cleaning up and making dinner, so that you can focus on spending time with your baby. You have such a limited time with a newborn, try to make the most of every minute.
Wear your baby
Trying wearing your baby in a sling when you go out, or work around the house. There are lots of different kinds of slings, some as simple as a piece of fabric you tie around yourself. The Internet is full of great resources to help you find the sling that is right for you and learn how to use it safely.
Cut yourself some slack
Regardless of your parenting philosophy, remember this: You will not ruin your baby if you don't do things exactly right, every time, right from the start. If you want to get your baby on a sleep schedule early on, don't pressure yourself to start immediately, if you are not ready. You can spend a few days holding and snuggling your baby around the clock, and you'll still be able to get them to sleep well when you're ready. The same goes if you are more of an attachment style parent who wants their baby to be held as much as possible. If you need to put him in his crib to nap so you can get some sleep, do it. You won't hurt your baby by deviating from your plan for a few days, or weeks. Being tired and overwhelmed won't help you bond, being well-rested will.
Get in bed
In those early months, when I was having a hard time connecting to my baby, or I just felt overwhelmed, I would carve out a day to take a little "home vacation". I would put on my favorite pajamas, gather everything I might need, diapers, a water bottle, snacks, a book, and I would spend the whole day in bed with my baby. We would snuggle, nap, read books, and recharge for the weeks ahead. It was such a lovely time.
If you are struggling to bond with your baby, try not to feel guilty. Sometimes, it's hard to hear stories from other moms about how they were instantly connected to their child when you are desperately trying to feel that way. Looking back on it, I feel like most of those mothers are remembering through rose-colored glasses. Deep bonding takes time, and it's absolutely worth all the work that goes into it.