Attachment and bonding are both ways to describe the feelings between you and your baby, but attachment has a broader meaning than bonding.
Attachment is about both you and your baby. It's about how you build a relationship over time that helps your baby feel secure, loved, and ready to face the world.
Bonding is all about you. It's about the surge of love and tenderness you feel for your baby. You may feel it when you're pregnant, perhaps when you see the first blurry image of your baby in an ultrasound. Or you may feel it when you first hold your baby after giving birth, but it can take longer.
Attachment and bonding go hand-in-hand, though. It follows that if you feel a strong bond with your baby, your baby is more likely to develop a secure attachment to you.
Starting at birth, your baby's attachment to you develops in response to the love and attention you give her. Noticing and responding to your baby's needs for warmth, cuddling, play, rest, and food all help her to build a secure early attachment to you.
This strong, positive connection grows with your baby and creates an important foundation. It helps her feel secure and protected from potential danger. It helps her deal with life’s challenges as they come along.
Your baby is wired to test the strength of the attachment between you and her. She may smile, coo, crawl, cry, or hold out her arms in search of a response from you. She'll be hoping for a returned smile or kind word, or a touch or hug.
If you respond sensitively in this way, you reassure your baby that you're there for her. Your baby can then feel free to relax and play or explore. She's secure in the knowledge that you're keeping her in mind while she's busy.
A secure attachment helps babies regulate their thoughts and feelings and build their self-esteem. Attachment is a slow process that builds and deepens over time.
Bonding is about the love, care, and concern that are unique to your relationship with your baby. Having a strong bond with your baby gives you a sense of well-being.
You may feel that you've bonded with your baby before he's born. Maybe your baby's first kick made you feel overwhelming love for him. But if it didn't, that's fine. Bonding can take longer. It can happen at birth, or at any time during your baby's first year.
Moms share reassuring advice on how bonding happened for them.
Bonding doesn't come naturally for everyone. It's understandable if it takes you time to bond with your baby. Something you can't help may be affecting the bonding process.
Maybe you yourself had a distant relationship with your parents. Life events can have an impact too.
For example, if you've had a complicated pregnancy or a difficult birth, you'll need time to recover emotionally. If you've experienced a previous miscarriage, you may have complicated feelings about your healthy baby. Or financial problems or relationship difficulties may be putting pressure on you.
One of the first lessons of parenthood is that you can't get it right all of the time. That would be impossible. So give yourself time to feel that bond, and bear in mind that your feelings of love and care may vary by the moment or over longer stretches of time.