My girlfriend gave birth to our son 5 weeks ago. My girlfriend already had a son when we met, and I and him 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.
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.
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!)
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 having 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!
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.
Try to lie down beside him on the bed and play and cuddle (when he in 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.
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