“I feel no bond with my baby…”
Read our reply to a sad dad that doesn’t feel any bond between himself and his newborn baby. The situation is common, can be painful, but is by no means hopeless.
My girlfriend gave birth to our son 5 weeks ago. My girlfriend already had a son when we met, and I and he get on so well I think of him as my own. I love him to bits and he loves me the same. But my actual blood son doesn’t seem to want me at all. The only time he will actually lay in my arms or stay with me without crying is when he is asleep.
I have tried laying skin to skin with him, and he just screams. The only way I can get him to settle around me is either put him in his car seat and drive around or put him in his pram and rock him. He just does not seem to want me at all.
He will be 6 weeks old on Monday, and I am feeling more and more distant from him, I am now getting to the point where I don’t want to hold him as I know he will just scream constantly until his mum picks him up from me. It feels horrible, but I honestly feel no bond with my baby!
I know that because he is breastfed he wants his mum all the time. But surely he wouldn’t hate me this much? This is no little crying either, this is constant screaming whenever he is with me.
What do I do, apart from wait until he turns 17 and wants a car? :-(
Bonding With A New Baby As A Dad
First of all, congratulations on your little son! Even if you can’t feel it right now, you’ve just added a lot of future moments of love and happiness to your life.
But right now, you seem to be very disappointed and sad. That’s something I can fully understand! Since you have such a great relationship with your stepson, I can imagine that your expectation was to experience something even deeper with your own blood. But now instead, he prefers mom and shows it.
Newborn Babies and Bonding
Let me tell you a few things about newborn babies that will hopefully ease your mind. First of all, being 5 weeks old, your son is still in the process of adapting to life outside the womb. He came from a small, warm, narrow place where mom’s heartbeat was pounding all the time. And out he goes to a world without limits (their vision is really poor), strange sounds and smells, and it is cold and light. Talk about a scary situation!
Some newborn babies basically just sleep and eat. And while asleep in deep sleep anyone can hold them, obviously. While awake or even while in light sleep, some babies will accept anyone to hold them, but most will only accept mom and possibly dad.
Very often, especially among breastfed babies, they are more or less only awake while breastfeeding and hence only want to be with mom at the breast while awake. This is a time when many dads feel left out, unimportant, and failing completely in their new role. (According to our new dad poll, as many as 60% feel left out to some extent!)
Dad’s Role Has Just Begun!
You just have to adapt to a more realistic time-line regarding your bonding process.
But really, your role as a dad has almost not begun yet! You and your son don’t know each other very well yet and he certainly doesn’t hate you! He just wants to feel secure, and in his very short life so far outside the womb, he has just learned one way to feel secure; in the arms of his mom.
Clayton, I think it is wonderful that you have such high hopes and ambitions regarding your relationship with your son and I am sure that your dedication will lead to the two of you have a great bond. You just have to adapt to a more realistic time-line regarding your bonding process.
Even for most moms, it will take a couple of months or more before a really strong bond has been established – despite the fact that in most cases they are the ones mainly taking care of the baby in the beginning. So you really can’t expect to have a strong bond after only a few weeks.
Take a deep breath and get rid of your hurt feelings. This is your son and it is your responsibility to work to get close to him. He can’t lead the process!
Things Will Improve Soon
At around the age of 6 weeks, the periods of crying peak for newborn babies unless they develop colic. After that, things will slowly start getting better.
At 8 weeks, a lot of babies are becoming more social. They will smile back, coo a little bit, their vision has improved and they are overall more fun to be with.
At that time, it will be easier for you to start interacting with your son to build your bond. You can play with him (find suggestions here on how to play with a 2-month-old ), talk to him and enjoy his company.
The more he sees of you the more he’ll grow to understand in his heart that you are a very special person too, in addition to his mom.
Some Tips to Bond Right Now
Our children are not here to build our self-esteem. We are here to help build theirs.
Try to lie down beside him on the bed and play and cuddle (when he is content and not hungry). If necessary, let his mom lay down too.
Be close to him as much as possible and even consider asking his mom to put one of your worn t-shirts as small blanket on him while breastfeeding, to make your smell signal comfort too. (Here are some more dad tips on how to bond with a baby.)
Things will improve, Clayton. But it will depend on you not letting your hurt feelings affect your efforts. Put them aside and focus on your son. You will notice many times over the years to come that our children are not here to build our self-esteem. We are here to help build theirs.
All the best to you, Clayton. I hope these thoughts will help you keep working on the bonding.
Can anyone relate? Add your comments below.
Paula Dennholt founded Easy Baby Life in 2006 and has been a passionate parenting and pregnancy writer since then. Her parenting approach and writing is based on studies in cognitive-behavioral models and therapy for children and her experience as a mother and stepmother. Life as a parent has convinced her of how crucial it is to put relationships before rules. She strongly believes in positive parenting and a science-based approach.
Paula cooperates with a team of pediatricians that you find here. They write or review all health-related articles.
This Post Has 3 Comments
I too was in the same boat, feeling exactly how Clayton felt, word for word. And after reading Paula’s advice, I now feel a burden has been lifted off of my shoulders. Just this one research was enough for me to understand new fatherhood. Paula, thank you very much for the advice. It really helped and eased the frustrations, the stress, and possible depression.
I now feel at ease with the upcoming days, weeks and months. Thanks again, your information was very helpful. I highly recommend other fathers reading your advice to help cope and that have the same or similar issues.
being a father of newborn and wanting my daughters affection but kind a feeling looked passed. it honestly hurts. I was close during the whole pregnancy. I sang and talked to her as to where she would for sure remember my voice. I hardly left her side from the moment she was born. Practicing skin to skin, cuddling ,making silly voices, and she takes more towards her mother and her family. Her being only close to two weeks old i know its really soon to assume rejection. But I’m thinking about taking and an offshore job which includes being gone for weeks at a time. This troubles me greatly i fear that being gone that long would eventually lead to her not recognize at all. I only considered acquiring this occupation to eventually have a brighter future for my child and her mother OUR family. I don’t want to miss all the precious moment parent are suppose to share together, and i surely don’t my daughter not knowing who her father is. I know in her later years she will definitely know whos dad, but i want her here world to lighten when she sees her dads face those first few months. Im sure whoevers reading understands what I’m saying parent are not. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
What a difficult situation. I can totally understand your wish to create a good economic situation for your family, but you are right to assume that the bonding between you and your daughter will be affected at least in the short term. The bonding process takes time. What you are experiencing right now – that your daughter seems to have become more attached to her mom than to you is actually a good sign that the bonding has started. Most often, the baby first bonds with her mom, and then with the next person – often with dad if he is around a lot. For babies left to daycare or a nanny early, the nanny may very well be next (or first!) in turn for bonding. As long as the bonding is happening, development is going as it should, but of course bonding with the parents is far more important than bonding with the nanny. It can be frustrating and disappointing for the parent who is not preferred from the start, but try to remember that the baby is NOT rejecting anyone and it is NOT personal at all. It is just how development goes and it is actually positive. BUT being around a lot helps. NOT being around means NO bonding is occurring. So if you have to take this job, please be aware that while you are away, there is no bonding going on. Babies have relatively short memory, so if you are away for weeks, she may not be very familiar with you when you come home. You’ll have to take it for what it is then and start over every time you meet. That can be OK, as long as you don’t take it personally if she gets scared, doesn’t want to go to you and so on. Over time, if you get back more into her life, there will be time to grow a strong bond.
While you work away from home, make sure to still let her hear your voice through skype for example singing the same lullaby every time and have a used t-shirt for her to snuggle on. Then at least your voice and smell will be somewhat familiar to her when you meet. When she is old enough to watch you, then saying high on video Skype is an option too.
One thing to remember though, in my experience, toddlers usually do not want to speak on the phone with an absent parent. Maybe it hurst too much or maybe it is simply not interesting. So trying to force her (eventually) to speak might just turn into a power struggle. But reading a book or singing itsy bitsy spider or her favorite song may work. It takes creativity and having fun to communicate with a baby or toddler over distance.
A final word – if it is really important for you that she lightens up when she sees you, as you write, then postponing the offshore job if possible, is likely to be your best choice.
I hope this helps a bit.