Preparing For Parenthood: Bonding With A New Baby

Medically reviewed by Majesty Purvis, LCMHC
Updated November 27, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include suicide which could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is having suicidal thoughts, contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988. Free support is available 24/7. Please also see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

Whether you're planning to have a baby, pregnant after trying to conceive for some time or find yourself with an unplanned pregnancy, you may experience a wide range of emotions. Bringing a child into the world can be a major decision and can reshape your life and future. Preparing for a baby’s arrival can be a stressful time, but doing so may make the situation easier to handle once your child is born.

During this time, it can be normal to experience worries about caring for a growing child, affording a baby, handling diapers and feeding and possible health issues, wondering how you'll function without sleep, and all the other basic expectations of parenthood. Another worry that new parents sometimes experience is whether they will be able to bond with their future baby.

A pregnant woman is sitting up in bed and is using a laptop; she has an interested expression on her face.

Is Worry About Bonding With Your Child Affecting You?

Pregnancy And The Growing Bond With Your Baby

Pregnancy can be a complex experience involving many changes to the pregnant person's body and the need to prepare for the changes that will happen once the baby arrives. There can be many changes to your hormones, mind, and body that may cause overwhelm or stress. 

Those planning to conceive may be thrilled from the very beginning when they see the two little blue lines or the plus sign indicating a positive pregnancy test. Parents-to-be that feel like naturally caretaking types and have experience with small children may immediately feel comfortable and have no trouble growing attached to the little life growing inside the womb.

For the parents that may not have planned to bring a little one into the world, though, the transition to parenthood may feel scary at first. They may consider putting their child up for adoption or may research first-time parenting to understand how to care for their baby.

You may have no experience caring for another little human being at any point in your life, and the weight of the responsibility might seem overwhelming. As the months pass and the life inside of you becomes evident, you may start to grow attached to the baby and feel more comfortable with the idea of being pregnant.

It may get frustrating as your belly begins to make things like bending over or even putting on a pair of socks far more complicated than before. Still, your new growing baby will be with you every day, and you may find yourself talking to them about what's going on throughout your day.

Your baby will likely fall asleep inside your womb, and sometimes even wake you up in the middle of the night with little flutters as they shift to get comfortable. They'll respond to your voice, the music you might listen to, and the patterns of motion and rest you have throughout the day.

There are numerous apps available, some for free and some for a small cost, that may help you track your child's development while you're pregnant and offer you suggestions on how to discuss certain topics with your doctor to be sure all bases have been covered; that way, you can ensure your pregnancy is as healthy as possible.

For the moment of labor and birth, there are contraction timing apps to help you keep track of real or false (Braxton Hicks) contractions toward the end of your pregnancy. These apps may help you determine when it's time to contact your physician and head to the hospital as the frequency and intensity of those contractions begin to indicate actual labor.

Ways Partners Can Bond With A Child In The Womb

A pregnant person's partner may worry about bonding with a new baby since they aren't the ones carrying it. They may feel outside of the process. However, at around 15 weeks gestation, a baby in the womb can hear and learn to recognize voices outside of the womb.

Partners may bond with their unborn and growing baby by talking to them through the pregnant partner’s belly. Partners can read the baby stories while the baby is still in the womb, tell them how much they love them, and might choose to play them some of their favorite music for the baby to recognize once it's born.


Once a baby is born, its eyes take weeks to continue developing into seeing clearly, although they can begin to learn faces when very close up, such as during feedings.

Babies begin hearing in the womb, but as with all the other senses, it can take time for the baby to learn to understand what it hears. However, your baby may have heard you speak while they were in the womb, and they might recognize your voice after they are born.

Here are some ways that you might involve yourself in your partner’s pregnancy if you’re the non-pregnant partner:

  • Educate yourself on the baby's fetal development and the experiences your pregnant partner will go through weekly during the pregnancy.
  • Go to doctor's appointments with your partner.
  • Research and read literature about keeping relationships strong during pregnancy
  • Give your partner the support to stay healthy. For example, you may make healthy meals and ensure your partner gets enough rest.
  • Take on a more significant part of domestic labor.
  • Attend birthing classes with your partner.
  • Learn about infant growth and development to feel prepared when the baby arrives.

Your partner may be grateful for your help and support, and studies have shown that babies and pregnant parents do better in the long run when the non-pregnant partner is actively supportive and helpful during the pregnancy.

Bonding With A New Baby

Once the day comes and your baby arrives, parents without previous childcare experience may feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of caring for a tiny, helpless little infant all on their own.

How will they know what the baby wants when it's crying? How often are they supposed to feed the baby? Do they provide breast milk or formula? Is the baby eating enough? How do you change a diaper properly? What's normal for a baby? What's not? It may feel like a lot to take in and learn that can vary on an individual basis depending upon the child.

However, you’re not alone. Many parents struggle with caring for a newborn baby, especially if it's the first one, and many feel unsure what to do at first. There are many resources available to help you learn how to care for your newborn, including parenting classes, infant first aid courses, and CPR instruction. Some types may be available online, and some may be free or offered at a low cost.

iStock/Nattakorn Maneerat
Is Worry About Bonding With Your Child Affecting You?

Once your little one has arrived, you might choose to use an app to help with tracking the number of feedings and diapers to ensure your baby is meeting the standard requirements for their age. If something is amiss, the app may notify you when to contact your child's pediatrician so that you can discuss any concerns you may have.

Libraries and bookstores may also carry titles about all the ins and outs of pregnancy and about caring for your little one as they develop. Some of these books describe what to expect each week or month and which milestones to be aware of once your baby has arrived.

Even if you feel inexperienced with or concerned about whether you're caring for your baby correctly, your child may not love you any less if you take a while to figure things out and learn how to be a parent and child together. Bonding with a newborn is a process that can take a bit of time, but your baby is primed to bond with the people who care for them.

Some people may find they have difficulty bonding with their new baby, which is something that does happen from time to time. People who are having this issue can do several things to help boost the bonding process, like having skin-to-skin contact with the baby, making sure that the primary caretaker’s own needs are met, and spending time talking to the baby and picking them up to comfort them when they cry.

Postpartum Depression

Having a new baby can feel exhausting. Both you and your partner may be tired, and the partner who gave birth may be sore for a while as their body heals from pregnancy, labor, and childbirth. People who have had C-section deliveries may need more time and support to recover from birth since they have had major surgery.

To feel irritable, worn out, or weepy from all the overwhelming changes to your body and your daily schedule can be a reasonable response when adjusting to parenthood. If you feel this way, it may resolve itself on its own within a few weeks.

However, there may be a point when this experience is more than just feeling sad or irritable. When you start to feel extremely irritated, depressed, or lonely for a longer period of time, you may be experiencing postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression is a serious mental health condition that affects about 1 in 10 new parents. Often, postpartum depression affects the parent who carried the child. However, their partner may experience postpartum depression as well. Postpartum depression can also affect surrogate and adoptive parents.

Postpartum depression lasts more than just a few days or a couple of weeks and has severe and disruptive symptoms. These symptoms may include:

  • Severe mood swings
  • Overwhelming feelings of sadness
  • Unhealthy eating habits, such as overeating or not eating enough
  • Lack of interest in or enjoyment of things you like
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Severe anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Excessive anger and irritability
  • Feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness
  • Crying often
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Difficulty bonding with your new baby or other children

If you or someone you know are experiencing suicidal thoughts, connect with the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing or texting 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for help and resources.

Postpartum depression is a serious mental health concern to address with your doctors as soon as possible so that you may receive the proper treatment to help you get back on your feet mentally and emotionally and have a healthy relationship with your baby. Experiencing depression does not mean something is wrong with you or that you are a bad parent.

For the person carrying the pregnancy, hormonal and physical changes after childbirth are some of the things that can bring on postpartum depression. For partners and adoptive parents, other factors may be at play in their feelings following the birth or adoption of a child.

Lack of sleep, anxiety over taking care of and bonding with a new child, changes to the relationship with their partner, and new financial stresses may all take a toll and lead to depressed feelings. The partner of the pregnant person may also experience hormonal changes following the child's birth that may affect mood and lead to postpartum depression.

Partners and adoptive parents experiencing depressive symptoms following the birth or adoption of a child are encouraged to speak with their healthcare providers to receive appropriate treatment to help them be healthy and influential parents and partners.

Help For New Parents

Being a new parent may feel fun, but it also can be very challenging. If you or your partner are having difficulty coping with this new phase of your life, or even if you are doing fine but want some help with healthy parenting strategies or strategies for keeping your relationship strong, you may wish to seek help from a licensed therapist or family counselor.

Many people prefer to see their therapist in person, but increasingly patients are meeting with their therapists online, sometimes through platforms such as BetterHelp. Having your therapy appointments online means you can meet with your therapist in the comfort of your own home, and not having that extra travel time can be important when caring for a newborn.

Online therapy can sometimes be less expensive than traditional in-person visits. Further, studies have shown that online treatment can be as effective as in-person meetings.


Becoming a parent may feel daunting. If you are worried about what comes with parenthood, you may consider reaching out for support from a professional.

Those who are considering putting a child up for adoption or dealing with an unexpected pregnancy may also find support through counseling. Consider taking the first step towards mental health by reaching out to a therapist.  You are not alone.

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