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Falling in Love with the Baby

A mother's feeling of deep love and connection with the newborn doesn’t always happen immediately. In 1978, 97 mothers in the UK were asked, "When did you first feel love for your baby?" More than half felt the love during pregnancy or at birth: 41 percent during pregnancy and 24 percent at birth. Another 27 percent felt love during the first week, and 8 percent felt it later than that.

In a 1980 study of first-time mothers, 40 percent said their predominant emotional reaction when first holding their babies was one of indifference. Indifferent mothers were more likely to have had their membranes ruptured artificially, painful labor or taken a dose of Demerol.

These studies are discussed in Bondings: The Beginnings of Parent-Infant Attachment, by Marshall Klaus and John Kennell. The authors don’t say whether the women in these studies had hospital births, but, given the era, it's very likely.

In a hospital birth, plenty of things can disrupt the intense pulses of oxytocin that both stimulate the uterine contraction that birth the baby and create an oceanic feeling of calm and love after the birth. The medical ambiance of the hospital, bustling nurses and doctors, and the pressure to get it over with can cause the laboring woman's body to hold back. Anesthesia, epidurals and the use of pitocin, a synthetic form of oxytocin, to speed labor, can interfere with the natural welling of oxytocin -- and with the initial bonding.

It would be interesting to see a study that compared women who had natural home births with those who had induced births to see when they fell in love with their babies.Falling in Love with the Baby

A mother's feeling of deep love and connection with the newborn doesn’t always happen immediately. In 1978, 97 mothers in the UK were asked, "When did you first feel love for your baby?" More than half felt the love during pregnancy or at birth: 41 percent during pregnancy and 24 percent at birth. Another 27 percent felt love during the first week, and 8 percent felt it later than that.

In a 1980 study of first-time mothers, 40 percent said their predominant emotional reaction when first holding their babies was one of indifference. Indifferent mothers were more likely to have had their membranes ruptured artificially, painful labor or taken a dose of Demerol.

These studies are discussed in Bonding: The Beginnings of Parent-Infant Attachment, by Marshall Klaus and John Kennell. The authors don’t say whether the women in these studies had hospital births, but, given the era, it's very likely.*

In a hospital birth, plenty of things can disrupt the intense pulses of oxytocin that both stimulate the uterine contraction that birth the baby and create an oceanic feeling of calm and love after the birth. The medical ambiance of the hospital, bustling nurses and doctors, and the pressure to get it over with can cause the laboring woman's body to hold back. Anesthesia, epidurals and the use of pitocin, a synthetic form of oxytocin, to speed labor, can interfere with the natural welling of oxytocin -- and with the initial bonding.

It would be interesting to see a study that compared women who had natural home births with those who had induced births to see when they fell in love with their babies.

*My copy of Bonding is from 1983; there's a 2000 edition that may reference more recent studies.

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