Bonding with Your Second Baby – Tips & Timing
One of the hardest things about being pregnant with your second baby is the guilt a 2nd-time mom can often feel for her firstborn. Typically, our firstborn is the center of our universe, perfect to us in almost every way. Often, up until now, we haven’t loved anything or anyone as much. So it’s natural when you are pregnant with your second baby to wonder how you will ever love this 2nd baby as much as you love your firstborn.
The good news is that YOU WILL! We are designed to love every baby that we are blessed with. True, your relationship with your firstborn is unique. No one can take his/her place. Your second baby will also be unique. You will bond with him usually as much as you bonded with your first. Sometimes it happens while the baby is in utero, but for many moms, during pregnancy we can’t imagine that we will love our second as much as our first. For many women, and dads too, as soon as they are given their newborn, they feel a strong love for him/her. Some moms say it took longer than expected to have the same intense feelings for the second baby as they have for their first. Remember, one reason you are so attached to your older child is you have an established 2 or 3 year relationship with him or her. You’ve had him since he was a newborn, developed a bond as you daily cared for him. Likewise, you need time to bond as closely to your second. For some it is instantaneous, for other parents, it takes some time. Either way, it’s okay. Don’t stress yourself about it. You will love your second as much as your first!
As a doula and the owner of MothersCare Doula Services in CT, we have seen different reactions to the second baby from moms and sometimes from dads. One family that sticks out in my memory is a young couple who I was with at night after the birth of their first and second babies. As all first-time parents they needed a lot of initial guidance and reassurance…and sleep. When I was asked back for their second baby, I was asked to come from the first night home and they used me and another doula for many months to care for the baby exclusively at night. During the first few months, I grew a little concerned. It didn’t seem like they were bonding with this new baby at all. When I would come in and after barely washing my hands, I would pick-up the baby. The parents and I would chat for a few minutes and I’d go upstairs with the baby. They didn’t kiss the baby goodnight, or come over to touch his little head to say goodnight. It was more like a wave and off we went. It just seemed like they weren’t interested in him very much. This was from the first night home till about week 12. I shared this overnight doula assignment with another doula. We’d talk about what we could do to help encourage some bonding so we decided we’d gush over what a sweet, easy baby he was to the parents. (He was truly the easiest baby I had ever worked with at night up until that time and since. You could feed him, change him, burp him and put him back in the crib awake and he’d fall asleep all by himself from really early on!) But as a doula, you are limited as to what you can actually say to any one in a family. It’s a really sacred place when a family trusts you enough to work with them postpartum, so you have to use discernment when or if you give any advice or share your observation.
About the time I was thinking there really was a bonding issue with this family, I came in one night and found the parents looking at him and laughing with each other over him. This baby was not only an easy baby, but really smart! He learned that if he cooed at them, he could get their attention. So before I’d arrive, he’d be in his little chair and he’d start cooing at whatever adult was within sight and they had to notice him! And they clearly, and quickly fell in love with him!
I learned a good lesson from this family. Bonding may not happen instantly, but it will happen. At the point where a baby works his way into the heart of his family, he will be loved for himself and his relationship will be unique between him and his family. For some families, it happens in the delivery room. Sometimes it takes days or weeks or sometimes even months. One way for you to help this bonding process along for you and/or your other family members is to find quiet time to look your baby in his eyes, spend time touching him and talking to him. His sweet little personality will at some point “hook” you and you no longer will have to worry about loving him as much as his older sibling.
Eye contact and touch will help the baby’s siblings bond in the same way. I’ll be writing an article about helping your two-year old to bond with his sibling in a future blog.
About Susan Shepard Keeney
I am the owner/partner of MothersCare Doula Services in CT. I am a Postpartum doula and my business partner, Sheila Marley is a Labor doula. MothersCare places both Labor and Postpartum doulas with CT Families. I am the mom of five beautiful children, one set of twins. The best quote for me as a young mother and the catalyst for MothersCare is “It’s not weakness to know you need help, it’s wisdom.”