Baby wellness and childcare expert Angela Spencer has over 20 years of experience in owning and operating nurseries responsible for the care, development and well-being of thousands of babies and children. Angela has brought together her wealth of knowledge, experience and research used within her nurseries to give parents the tools necessary to follow her child development programme at home, with the creation of Babyopathy. We interviewed Angela about the importance of bonding with your baby, and what happens if things don’t go to plan…
Mother figures are very important throughout our lives, why is it so crucial in the early years or even months to develop a bond?
It is crucial to develop a bond as early as possible as with this bond comes a sense of security for baby. When feeling secure baby will be more likely to feed and sleep much better and less likely to feel anxiety. As they develop, that sense of security will allow independence and natural development to flourish.
For mothers expecting, does everyone bond with their child the moment they are born? What should a new mother expect?
No not at all, there are many reasons for mum not to have the ‘perfect TV birth’ bonding moment. For example, my own births were over 20 hrs of labour each and to be honest I felt more relief it was finally over than anything else, and in particular my second as it was a traumatic birth, followed by an even more traumatic 24 hrs, so it wasn’t until after that my bonding moment finally came. For others that have a very short labour they can be left almost shell-shocked that it all happened so quickly. Every birth experience is different, don’t judge yourself by others experiences, just relax and deal with your own experience as that is what matters.
What’s the best advice you could give to expectant mothers who feel that for whatever reason, they haven’t yet bonded with their child?
First and foremost don’t put pressure on yourself and don’t feel guilty. In today’s busy world we are up from our birthing bed and home, sometimes in 7 hrs and then out and about carrying on as if nothing has happened, and probably with non-stop visitors all looking at you expectantly to be the epitome of modern motherhood! Years ago, mums got to stay in bed for a while and stay at home for the first 6 weeks of the baby’s life, with others taking up the strain of the household chores and daily schedule. Time was allowed for bonding, establishing feeding, and settling in to a routine. My advice would be to take a leaf from the books of the ‘old ways’ and take some time, allow you and your baby time to get to know each other, time to establish feeding etc, and not only will your bond come when it is ready but you also get to see, hear and feel some precious moments that I fear are being lost in today’s busy lifestyles.
If you’re having issues with breastfeeding, or can’t, will this affect your relationship with your baby?
Absolutely not! I get infuriated by those who make mums feel inadequate or even at fault if they are struggling to breastfeed or for whatever reason don’t breastfeed. Time spent skin to skin, stroking your baby’s face, or using massage and interacting with and talking to your baby are all just as important in your baby’s nurturing, well-being, and your relationship.
There are many women that suffer from post-natal depression, how detrimental can this be to the bond between mother and baby, and can the damage be reversed?
It is vital that more is done to educate partners in the signs and symptoms of post-natal depression so that help can be sought as early as possible, this is why I developed my Dad’s Army workshops. Dads or another significant, close people can take up the bonding role for a while if mum is struggling to allow the time she needs to take care of herself. Babies are remarkably resilient and mum can pick up her bonding role when she is able to.
Motherhood doesn’t come naturally to some people, what are your top tips for staying positive and strong throughout the early years?
Unfortunately, I believe because of social media and the celebrity media world we have put unrealistic pressure on people to be the ‘perfect’ mum. Many woman I speak to say they feel inadequate or are failing their babies because they are not the picture of motherhood they feel they should be (or that others appear to be on Facebook or Instagram etc). As long as your baby is well fed, putting on weight, clean and cared for, and you interact with them so they are developing , whilst you cope with the every day pressures and stress of life, then I think you’re doing a great job! Don’t put pressure on yourself it doesn’t have to be any more complicated or fancy than that.
Is it common for a mother to bond with one of their children and not the other? Should they be worried if this happens?
As every baby is unique, I believe you have a unique bond with each of your children. So don’t look for your ‘bond’ to be the same and worry that you feel differently, just embrace each baby for their quirks and individuality. This becomes even more important as they grow as each child will have their own individual personalities that will shape your relationships with each of them.
Where’s the best place for new mothers to seek advice when times get tough?
We run Mentor Mum groups and baby classes which both form a support system for our mums where they can share experiences and seek advice. It is important to always ask for help and advice if you are struggling in any way and if you don’t have the benefit of such support networks then make contact with your local Children’s Centre or ask your GP to point you to some suitable groups.