“It seems like we’ve taken a lot fewer pictures of Sam than we did of Chase when he was a baby,” my husband mused while scrolling through his phone the other day. After thinking about it, I came to the unsurprising realization that he was right—in fact, there seemed to be a lot less of everything the second time around: less uninterrupted snuggling, less time spent sitting around inspecting his little fingers and toes, fewer opportunities for playing peek-a-boo or practicing tummy time. With a toddler at home who needs my attention constantly, I’ve found myself naturally compensating by giving less of my time to Sam (the quieter of the two squeaky wheels) which can make building a connection much harder. As a result, I’ve been forced to get creative and bond with my second son wherever and however I’m able. If you’re in the same boat or are expecting to be soon, here are some simple ways to bond with your new baby when your attention is divided and your time is limited:
- Utilize Babywearing
This is probably the easiest and most practical way to bond with your baby and still get things done. Aside from very basic necessities, newborn babies don’t need much from you; all they really crave is connection. They want to be close to you, breathing in your scent, listening to your heartbeat, surrounding themselves with the smells and sounds that were their whole world in utero. But, if you don’t have free hands or free time to hold them all day, keeping them close in a carrier or wrap is a really great alternative. You’ll have both hands accessible to do other things (including playing with or helping your older children) and your baby still benefits from the skin-to-skin connection. Even if babywearing isn’t your thing, you can still keep them close while you get things done: put them in a bouncy seat in the kitchen while you cook or let them sleep next to you on the couch while you do work on your computer. They just want to be near you and there are lots of ways to accomplish that.
- Make the Most of Naptime
If your other children still nap, utilize some of that time to spend with your baby. I said some. Naptime is sacred and, oftentimes, it’s the only time of day you have available to accomplish the mountain of things on your to-do list. But your baby truly doesn’t need a lot—spend a few minutes playing peek-a-boo with him in between folding clothes, take her out to the yard and push her in the baby swing, blow raspberries on his belly until he giggles. So many of us feel like we’re not doing enough with our babies, but they’re often perfectly content with the simple pleasure of our attention, even if it’s just for a few minutes at a time.
- Prioritize One-on-One Time
When my second baby was born, I was concerned about my older son feeling abandoned and, therefore, became very intentional about planning specific activities or outings that were just for the two of us to do together. Oddly enough, however, for the first few months of being a mom to two kids, I never thought to do the same with my baby, though it was just as important for me to have a one-on-one connection with him, too. If you can, schedule some time that’s just for you and your baby. Maybe it’s when your older child is having bathtime upstairs with daddy or your other kids are spending the night at grandma’s—whether a few hours or just a few minutes, completely uninterrupted time with your baby is an important part of bonding. But, if it’s not planned for, it can easily fall by the wayside, so try to schedule it like you would any other commitment.
- Make Feeding Time Special
It can often feel like all you ever do is a feed a new baby. For me, I wasn’t yet used to the demands of breastfeeding and didn’t expect that I’d have virtually no time to build a connection my son outside of nursing. That is, until I started to view feeding time as bonding time, rather than as an excuse to watch TV or scroll through my newsfeed (which was often a nice distraction during midnight feedings, I’ll fully admit.) Now, I try really hard to be present when I’m feeding him—holding him close, breathing in that amazing new baby scent, smiling at him when he’s awake and looking up at me. It’s made breastfeeding feel like less of a chore and more of a point of connection with this baby whose needs are so often overshadowed by those of his older brother. This doesn’t just apply to breastfeeding moms, by the way—you can do exactly the same things if you’re bottle-feeding your baby.
- Fake It Til You Make It
Sometimes, you just don’t bond with your baby right away. You hold him, gaze at his little face and while, of course, you love him, you just don’t experience that overwhelming rush of emotion you felt with your other babies. I’ll let you in on a little secret: there are lots of women who feel that way at first, but don’t talk about it because they think it makes them a bad mom. It absolutely doesn’t. No matter how old your other children are, for at least the past nine months, you were used to a different way of life that didn’t include this new baby. So, it stands to reason that it might take some time to adjust. All you can really do is keep trying to forge a connection by practicing the tips suggested above, until, one day, that feeling of all-consuming love takes over and it’s like it was always that way. Even if that seems impossible right now, I promise it will happen. Just give it time.
That being said, if you’re having feelings about harming your baby (or yourself) make sure you seek professional support. There are many ways to assist a new mom coping with postpartum depression, but it all starts with admitting you need a little help. And who among us doesn’t need help every now and then?