Parents generally anticipate developing a strong attachment following the arrival of their baby; however, birthing and non-birthing parents may in fact struggle to feel an early bond. This can bring about feelings of shame or worry about their child and future relationship. Sometimes this challenge lasts beyond several weeks – spanning months or longer.
Potential influences of bonding challenges include:
– Labor recovery, reduced sleep, learning infant care;
– Complex, traumatic delivery;
– Infant prematurity, congenital / health complications, NICU admission;
– Feeding & lactation challenges, infant’s sleep-wake cycles, responsiveness to soothing;
– Lack of support or community around adoption, LGBTQ+ and single-parenting;
– Prior history of infertility or infant loss.
Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders (PMADS)—including perinatal anxiety, depression, OCD, & PTSD—may be another contributor or accompany these challenges. Common routines of skin-to-skin, talking to and feeding the baby facilitate bonding, but sometimes more support is needed. Many parents who experience these difficulties feel intimidated to discuss with others out of shame or isolation. One of the most effective ways to navigate this process entails talking with a compassionate family member, friend, or individual therapist.
Some therapists, including several at Wild Tree Psychotherapy, specialize in early attachment challenges and work together with parents and their infant, toddler or young child. They foster a supportive environment for parents to bond through play & care routines, learn about their child’s communication cues, and practice co-regulation strategies. Parents are also offered a non-judgmental space to process their unique postpartum experience and identify their strengths as caregivers.
Visit our team page and filter ‘perinatal mental health’ for individual therapy, and/or “children” for parent-child therapy.