Around a third (32%) of UK mothers experience difficulties bonding with their baby, according to new research by NCT.
In addition, more than 1 in 10 new mothers (12%) said they are embarrassed to speak to a health professional, GP or midwife about these issues, prompting the parents’ charity to urge mums and dads not to suffer in silence.
The statistics have been released to coincide with the UK’s inaugural Infant Mental Health Awareness Week (6–10 June).
The process of ‘bonding’ refers to the emotional connection between a parent and baby and is known to influence the baby’s response to stress, learning behaviours, and social skills.
NCT Senior Policy Advisor, Elizabeth Duff said: “The bond a baby has with its parents acts as a template that shapes the child’s emotions and relationships later in life so it’s a crucial process.
“Parents who don’t feel an instant connection with their new baby often experience strong feelings of guilt, shame and inadequacy. We hope our research reassures new parents that they are not alone if they don’t instantly bond with their baby and that this can often take time.
“GPs, midwives and health visitors can also play an important role in promoting bonding and it is important that this subject is raised and parents are encouraged to speak up if there is a problem.”
The research builds on NCT’s ongoing #BeyondBabyBlues campaign that encourages people to talk more openly about maternal mental health and to seek help. Factors such as postnatal depression and anxiety can often interfere with the bonding process between mother and baby.
“The good news is that it is often easy for new parents to build or re-establish a relationship with their baby if they are experiencing difficulties bonding,” continued Ms Duff.
To help improve connection and communication between parents and their baby, mothers and fathers are encouraged to:
- Socialise with other parents, who may be going through similar problems, and can be a great source of support and friendship
- Embrace physical closeness, skin-to-skin contact or gentle massage of the baby
- Interact with their baby regularly by talking, reading to, or singing to him or her.
NCT’s helpline, 0300 330 0700, offers practical and emotional support in all areas of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood.