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It’s Okay Not to Love Your Newborn

by Amanda on February 12, 2008
category: 0 – 1 year (baby)

acenewborn.jpg Before I had my daughter I had a few moms tell me that it is okay if I am not immediately head over heals in love with my newborn. They shared their own experience of how they loved their babies, but they did not automatically have a gushy kind of love for them.

One mom told me how one day when her baby was a few months old she was playing with her baby and it just hit her. She instantly fell in love with her baby. Another mom said that it was a gradual feeling and how it took a few months for that overflowing kind of love to come.

I was very thankful for this advice. I was proud of my baby and I loved her, but I didn’t have that overwhelming kind of love for her when I brought her home. I was wrapped up in recovering from labor, learning how to breastfeed, guests and dinners, and getting sleep. I didn’t really have time to focus on her as my daughter. I was doing what I had to do. I remember I kept saying to myself, “I have a daughter!” Mother’s Day was six days after my baby was born and it still didn’t sink in that I was a mom. Eventually over a few weeks that ushy-gushy, overwhelming love came. I would do anything for her and I really love her.

I think it is important to remember that we aren’t bad moms if we don’t immediately love our newborns. For some moms they are instantly in love with their babies, but not every mom is the same. I was thankful that I was warned because it gave me freedom to not feel condemned for how I was feeling. I knew that the affection for my new baby would eventually come.

Did you have any experience with this?

29 Responses to It’s Okay Not to Love Your Newborn

  • Comment by Sharon M
    February 13, 2008 @ 1:10 am

    This was a nice read b/c although I felt that immediate “love bond” w/ my son, I really didn’t with my daughter (I guess it was b/c I was too busy chasing around aforementioned son). But now I adore her. I can see some of her personality traits coming through, and it’s been so fun watching Julian interact with her.

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    Comment by Trina
    February 13, 2008 @ 9:45 am

    I had a similar experience. Because I did not get to hold her as soon as she was born, she went to the NICU, I am not sure if that is why I did not form that bond as quickly. It was very surreal for me. I knew the baby I was looking at was my daughter but I was not really able to intact with her in the hospital. She never took to breastfeeding due to her problems so we also did not bond in that way either. So I think it is an important subject matter for other mom’s like me where it did take a while. I think my husband had the whole love when she first entered into the world. He also helped me push and guide her out so I think that really bonded him. I hope my next delivery and baby are easier and we bond sooner that I did with Brielle. But I still love the experience I had and am grateful for it.
    She is now my world and I wouldn’t know how I lived without her before.

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    Comment by Heidi
    February 14, 2008 @ 11:27 am

    Wow….this really hit a nerve. It took me some time to feel that strong love bond with Caleb. Caleb was not a planned pregnancy. Finding out I was pregnant left my husband and I completely speechless. He didn’t say anything to me for at least 5 minutes (but it felt like eternity). He refused to believe the pregnancy stick was correct until I got a blood test done at the hospital.

    I immediately felt a little anger because I felt the timing was all wrong. I’m a planner by nature, and I had my husband and my life planned out for another year. We loved the freedom of not having kids and being about to travel and do things spontaneously. The thought of it all coming to an end (or so we thought) did not settle well with us.

    My pregnancy with Caleb was the worst! The doctor had prescribed me every possible medicated aid to help me with the morning sickness. I nearly had to quit my job because I was lucky to put in 2 days of work a week during first 4 months. I also experienced gestational diabetes, pregnancy-induced hyptertension, then preeclampsia to end the whole ordeal with 41 hours of labor and 4 hours of pushing. I did not enjoy my pregnancy or my labor/delivery as a result. I really believed God was punishing me.

    My husband instantly fell in love with our son. The love I felt for Caleb was gradual. Breastfeeding felt like a chore, not a mother/son bonding experience. The first 3 months I felt like the world’s worst mother. How could I not be “in love” with my child? Here I am blessed with my own child while there are couples in the world who can’t have a biological child of their own. It was at the 3 months mark when we found out my husband was leaving in 6 months to deploy to the Middle East. My attitude immediately changed and it hit me how God’s timing is ALWAYS PERFECT! I was humbled big-time and immediately began to feel remorse and guilt for the bitterness I felt from the day I found out I was pregnant. How stupid and idiotic was I to think I was in control of my life!?

    I am in awe, head-over-heels in love with my son Caleb. God has blessed me with a very easy, laid-back, smart, and well-mannered child. Thankfully, with my 2nd child my entire experience was opposite. Ava was planned and I loved everything about my pregnancy and especially my delivery. I LOVED her the moment I found out I was pregnant.

    Sorry this turned out to be novel. This just opened up a lot of emotions and my fingers just couldn’t stop tapping away at the keyboard.

  • Comment by Amanda
    February 14, 2008 @ 11:43 am

    Thank you ladies for sharing your stories!! It makes everyone who reads them know that they are not alone in their feelings.

    @Heidi – Wow! Thank you for sharing your story! It was very encouraging. It is true, God knows best, even when we don’t. I am so happy you had a second chance to experience the excitement of pregnancy! Caleb and Ava is so adorable! I am so happy that I get to watch her Wednesday mornings. I would hold her in my lap the entire time if I could. :)

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    Comment by Mommy Zabs
    February 17, 2008 @ 8:22 pm

    My first labor was really bad. I was in post op for 2 hours. I don’t recall necessarily feeling that I didn’t love my newborn, but I was distracted by SO MANY feelings and in a lot of pain, add that to lack of sleep and hormones and It was hard to sit and actually feel the love i had for my little one. It felt more obligatory than anything. Another thing that I needed to do. As I healed and got more rest I was finally able to feel the Love I had for him. Great post.

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    Comment by Barb
    February 18, 2008 @ 1:07 pm

    This was great advice … thankfully you (Amanda) gave it to me before Morgan was born so I didn’t have to deal with feelings of guilt when the love wasn’t immediately there. Now I can’t imagine not being COMPLETELY in love with her!

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    Comment by pickel
    February 21, 2008 @ 10:58 pm

    Adoptive moms feel this way too. It takes a long time to bond with adoptive children, especially if they are older at the time of adoption.

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    Comment by natalie
    July 30, 2008 @ 3:01 pm

    I had my son premature due to severe preeclampsia..He was born via emergency C-section at one of my regular checkups…….I experienced extreme anxiety after having the baby and not getting to see him for 24 hours after giving birth and also when visiting him in the NICU, I would break down just about every time I visited and my blood pressure would sky rocket…I was discharged from the hospital 4 days after giving birth only to be re-admitted the next day due to blood pressure….I experienced feelings of extreme sadness when I saw my son hooked up to all the wires and having to be fed through a feeding tube…..I was soooo excited 2 1/2 weeks later when my son was able to come home…..I had been pretty bitter at having to leave the hospital without him after giving birth…..Much to my surprise after just a few days (maybe a week or so) of having my son home, the initial excitement wore off and occasional feelings of depression would set in………Taking care of my son had become more of an obligation then a joy……..I know that I love my son and I want the best for him, but it has now been 9 weeks and I only feel a bond with my son on occasion…..It comes and goes…………I don’t feel this way all the time, it just hits in spirts (i.e. maybe once or twice every 2 or 3 weeks)…….I know for sure that I do not want anymore children due to my experience……………Has anyone else experienced something like this? Will the bond eventually be here to stay?

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    Comment by Mark
    August 22, 2008 @ 12:15 pm

    I want to second the notion in your post. My wife and I are teaching a class for people with newborns (we have four kids under the age of five (one set of twins) and one more on the way. I always go out of my way to mention your point: gushy feelings may come much later for most people. They sure did for me. Why? Because your child, though a very special person, is just a person, and it nearly always takes time for people to develop special feelings towards one another. The obvious exception to this rule is romantic attraction, but that’s about it. You have to spend time with your baby, and the gushy feelings will develop in some way that’s unique to your relationship. One other thing to keep in mind is that your baby will not give you much in return, except for some smiles and coos. That’s not alot to keep you going, especially if your baby has any health issues.

    So, the lesson we’ve learned is to keep your expectations low and that you’ve got to hang in there. The feelings will come later. For now, be content that you are being a good parent by loving your child when they don’t really love you back. That is the highest form of love there is.

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    Comment by Pastor Ron
    May 16, 2009 @ 1:30 pm

    Love is something every indivitual needs love…especially babies. There may be reasons that a child was not planned for, careers, selfish plans… or even wanted. But the baby did not ask to be born. Mothers and Fathers better learn to love their babies.. because we already have to many baby and children that are loved and are walking wounded and later can become sociopaths from a lack of love. I say get over it and love these precious gifts from God.

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    Comment by Dave
    May 17, 2009 @ 11:53 am

    Pastor Ron, please take your comments elsewhere, as you’re missing the whole point. You can’t MAKE yourself or ‘LEARN’ to love something or someone. That’s not what love is. Besides the woman (and men) posting here are talking about the very beginning of their child’s life. You don’t say so, but I imagine you aren’t talking from experience, so I would say mind your own business. I feel for whomever you minister to, as I wouldn’t want you as my pastor.

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    Comment by Trina
    May 17, 2009 @ 4:48 pm

    Very well said Dave!! Thank you.

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    Comment by Melissa
    May 21, 2009 @ 2:08 pm

    I too am struggling with my feelings toward my daughter. She is almost 3 weeks old and I do not feel a bond with her yet. I know I love her to some degree b/c I am constantly thinking and worried about her. Maybe that’s it. She does feel more like an obligation or a chore than an enjoyment. She cries a lot & I am blown away by the amount of responsibility it takes to care for her. I feel trapped & scared that it will never get better. I want her to hurry and grow then feel guilty b/c I know when that happens I’ll regret that I didn’t enjoy her at this time. It’s very depressing.

  • Comment by Amanda
    May 22, 2009 @ 11:53 am

    @Melissa – Oh! It does get better. I have had 2 kids and I never liked the newborn stage, so don’t feel guilty about it all. Your little girl will start smiling in the next few weeks and that makes it better. Every baby is different, but she will start sleeping through the night too and that helps.

    It is perfectly normal to feel like your baby is a chore right now. You are tired from no sleep and 40 weeks of pregnancy and then delivery! My son is almost 3 months and I am just now feeling like a normal person again.

    As for the love – it will come. It took some time with my first baby. It came quicker with my second. One day it is just going to hit you and you will realize how much you love her. It takes time. She is brand new person with her own personality. You both are still getting to know each other.

    Don’t worry – the bond will come and things do get easier!!

  • Comment by Sharon M
    May 23, 2009 @ 1:44 am

    @Dave – Although I agree with you that Pastor Ron probably missed the point of this discussion, I would disagree with your comment that you can’t “learn” to love someone. Love is many things, but it is also a decision you make. I have known couples from this part of the world that have taken part in arranged marriages, and there were rarely any “feelings of love” (or sometimes even mutual feelings of attraction) at the beginning; their love was something they decided to show one another, and the feelings have come with time.

    I have had to learn to love my children, and make a daily decision to love them and show love to them, because honestly, SOME DAYS I DON’T FEEL LIKE IT. Some days are easy, other days, not so much. And in the beginning, when the baby is first born, like Amanda said, there are so many overwhelming feelings swarming around inside of you, it’s hard for some of us to feel bonded to the baby immediately. It’s reassuring to know that it comes with time.

  • Gravatar May 26, 2009 @ 10:13 pm

    [...] recently commented on an older post of mine titled, “Its Okay Not to Love Your Newborn.” She wrote: I too am struggling with my feelings toward my daughter. She is almost 3 weeks old and I [...]

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    Comment by MD
    June 16, 2009 @ 12:36 pm

    @Amanda. Thank Amanda for your comments. I so needed to hear them. I have a two week at home and am really struggling with this whole mommy business. I keep wondering if I’ve made a terrible mistake – not that her life is a mistake but…oh, I don’t know how to explain it. It’s tough and I hope it gets better soon. Thank you again for your post and the hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

  • Gravatar July 20, 2009 @ 6:04 pm

    [...] with your new child, no matter how they joined your family, does not always go smooth.  Amanda wrote a post sharing her own difficulty in bonding with her [...]

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    Comment by kristie
    July 23, 2009 @ 3:46 pm

    Thank you all so much for your thoughts. I am a first time mom and my daughter is now 3 weeks old. I don’t know if that “love” is there and I am having a hard time letting go of the plans that I had for my life before we found out that we were going to have a baby. It is good to know that i am not a bad mom for not haing a stron bond with her yet. I hope it will come soon. thanks again.

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    Comment by v
    August 25, 2009 @ 7:38 am

    For posterity’s sake, I wanted to point out some things (in case people find this and read it much later). Nobody has said anything about postpartum depression which can explain some of the issues. Women who give birth have just had a pretty traumatic experience and with the healing, the fatigue, the pain, the drugs, the chaos, the hormones, it’s not unreasonable to think that deep emotional bonds are slow to manifest instantaneously. I like the comments that say “Don’t feel obligated to feel guilty.” because it’s true and being a mom is something you get better at (like any job or new skill you acquire) and nobody should expect you to be perfect.

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    Comment by Royal Princess
    January 25, 2012 @ 10:47 am

    I was glad to come across to this discussion. I am 38 weeks about to have a baby girl but I do not feel any bond at all. I have everything arranged at home but the love is not there. Some people tell me it will come instantly, others gradually, etc. I don’t know if it is also because the baby was conceived from spousal rape and her father was verbally and emotionally abusive to me and my other children. At times, when I think about her father, it makes me sick and I cry because I really do not want to feel that way. I want to love her, is not her fault but is just not there and sometimes I’m scare it does not happen at all. Any advice?

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    Comment by Sara
    February 4, 2012 @ 7:37 pm

    @Royal Princess I’m so sorry, that’s a tragic situation. I hope you’ve been able to get away from the father. I’d definitely recommend finding someone to talk to about your situation- a friend, family member or counselor. If you don’t know of someone, or want to talk to someone neutral, maybe your doctor or hospital might be able to recommend a good counselor.

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    Comment by lexi
    February 12, 2012 @ 5:02 pm

    I found the comments here so reassuring my daughter is 3 weeks old and I have found everything a struggle, I had a bit of a traumatic time directly after her birth, but I’m glad that Im not alone and can stop feeling guilty :)

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    Comment by Ashley
    May 2, 2012 @ 6:27 pm

    I am glad I found these comments while I was doing research on bonding tonight. I did not find out I was pregnant until I was 20 weeks along. It was definitely an unplanned pregnancy with the worst timing you can have. My boyfriend is deployed in Afghanistan, and I had to be pregnant and deliver and adjust without him. Then after barely any time to get used to being pregnant, I had premature labor and had to have an emergency c-section at 34 weeks. They had to put me completely to sleep, so I never saw her be born or got to hold her. When I came out of recovery, my daughter had already been transferred to the NICU at another hospital an hour away. They could not transfer me to that hospital, so I didn’t see her for four days. When I finally got to see her, she had a breathing machine and a feeding tube, and I wasn’t allowed to touch or hold her. I began pumping breastmilk, but I wasn’t able to produce much, and I got repeated infections. I wasn’t permitted to breastfeed. After 20 days in the NICU, my baby finally got to come home. Unfortunately, she was not able to breastfeed, and she cries all the time for hours on end. It’s hard to look at her sometimes because I think of my boyfriend in Afghanistan and miss him so much. My daughter has now been home for a little over two weeks and is a month old, and I feel ashamed that I haven’t been able to form a real bond yet. I don’t know if postpartum depression is a factor or not. I just want to fall in love with my baby, and I’m scared that it hasn’t happened yet, and I’m afraid to admit that to anyone.

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    Comment by Loly
    May 7, 2012 @ 11:55 am

    I’m a first time mother, who went through a pretty rough pregnancy and delivery of my little girl. It’s been 3 weeks since I brought her home and I’ve been trying to fall in love with her, but I can’t… the ‘blues’ keep getting to me and I cry every night thinking “I’m a bad mother for not loving my child!” But this was rather reassuring to me and I don’t have to feel bad that I am not at that point yet… Now, trying to get rid of my depression stage – I know it will take time before I feel “normal” again. And I hope in the next frantic weeks of this newborn stage, I can finally love my daughter.

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    Comment by Leanna
    July 2, 2012 @ 9:41 am

    I had a real hard time when my son was born. I remember not feeling love for him and felt guilty. It took me a month I finally kneeled by my bedside and prayed to God to help me feel love for my son, after that almost instantly I felt love for my son. I also noticed a black mark on his backside and thought for the longest time I accidently did something to him that hurt him. I found out later that the black mark was a birthmark called Mongolian spots and it runs on my husband side of the family. I was so stressed after he was born. I believe I had post partum depression as well. I am pregnant again and due in January, I pray everyday that I don’t feel the same with this one. I want to love my baby as soon as it comes out.

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    Comment by Melanie
    August 20, 2012 @ 6:34 am

    Don’t forget… love is a CHOICE and an action, not a feeling. That feeling may take time, but you’re being a great loving mother by acting to take care of your baby. That’s real love!

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    Comment by Bron
    October 30, 2012 @ 12:34 am

    I have a 2 week old and I would like to thank everyone here for their comments. When dd was born via Caesar I was instantly in love and for the first couple of days this was how it stayed however since then I have changed. I can completely associate with all the comments made especially about not knowing how to describe how I feel. I don’t hate my dd I love her on one level but its hard to feel what I want because I feel so much pressure to “look after her” and wake up to bf all the time etc etc. it’s good to know its normal and that the feelings will change I just hope it happens soon. Thanks again!

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    Comment by Trixie
    November 28, 2012 @ 3:09 pm

    Hi Ashley, I really hope you’re starting to feel better. It must be so difficult to deal with all of this alone, and after such a traumatic birth experience. My son had a fairly dramatic birth, resulting in an emergency c-section. He was wonderful and healthy. I remember waking up in the middle of the night and seeing him lying in the cot beside me, and I smiled at how perfect he was (also relief that it was all over, yay for not being pregnant anymore). But that was it. The next 5 weeks were hell – constant visitors, my husband was laid off from his job, we had to move house twice etc. And to make it worse, he thought he was helping by inviting HIS mother to come and stay without asking me first. Seeing a “stranger” holding my 3 day old baby when all I wanted to do was be alone with him and bond… so difficult.
    My advice, especially to first-time mothers – you’re a grown-up now, you tell people how you’re feeling if you can trust them. Tell them what you want and need. You’re the most important person, after the baby, everyone else be damned. If you think you have depression, talk to a counsellor, they’re objective and sympathetic and know how you feel. And try not to worry about never forming the bond – you will! It will hit you one day and grow over a few weeks and you’ll never look back.

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