• Tue, Aug 20 - 11:14 am ET

I Finally Bonded With My Baby And It Only Took A Year

vintage mom with babyNow that my son is 12 months old, I can admit something that I would never have fathomed admitting to anyone. When I first saw him, of course, I loved him instantly with that unconditional love a mother feels. But, to put it bluntly, for the first year of his life I just didn’t feel bonded to him. This was shocking to me because I wanted another baby to the point of obsession.

I have no answers to why I didn’t feel bonded to my son, as I did to my daughter, who I immediately bonded with and who always loved to hug, cuddle, sleep beside me, kiss me, etc. While my children do share some of the same personality traits – they are both sweet, funny, and seemingly always happy – I just wasn’t getting the same vibe from my son as I got from my daughter.

I worried about this. A lot.

One of the reasons I think that I didn’t feel entirely bonded to my son is that he just loved to move around so much. He was holding his head by two weeks, he was holding his bottle by four months, and he was walking by 11 months. He never sits still long enough for me to cuddle him, aside for the first couple weeks of his life when I swaddled him and he couldn’t move. Those few days were pure bliss.

Let me be clear. I know my son loves me, even though he can’t say the words. He never cries when I carry him, he’s more than happy to play toy cars with me for hours, he loves coming out with me. But the damn meatloaf was NOT into cuddling. Picture your partner not cuddling you for a year, and that’s what my son’s first year felt like. I’m telling the absolute truth when I say I would actually COUNT the seconds my son would rest his head on my shoulder. The highest number I reached was number nine before he was off of me, like a dog who just heard the doorbell ring.

I did admit my feelings to two people. One was my fiancé, who when my son would rest on my fiancé’s chest, actually made it to the count of 12 seconds. So, at least it wasn’t just me. But my fiancé didn’t seem at all worried about this. If my son was not related to me, and about 30 years older, and I was dating him, I probably would dump his butt, because there was some connection that was missing. I would think that the relationship was going nowhere. Or because I wanted MORE out of the relationship, which he clearly was not giving me (The hugs! The hugs!)

I suffered from PPD with my daughter so I know what THAT feels like, and this time around, it was definitely not PPD. No, my son is just not a hugger and didn’t like to cuddle and it really hurt my maternal feelings. I also admitted this, finally, after 10 months to my best friend, saying I just didn’t feel as bonded to my son as I did my daughter when she was a baby.

“Oh, don’t worry. My friend has two sons and she felt the same way about her second,” she said.

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  • http://wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

    My son also does not cuddle, and he takes a bottle, which he drinks in a lounging position without cuddling me. He’s happy, independent and his smiles and giggles delight me. He sleeps well and doesn’t cry unless he really needs something. I truly think he is the cadillac of babies. But damn if I don’t sometimes feel not needed by him sometimes. I love him, but I do not know of this “bond” people speak of. What does that really mean? Is it different from love? I don’t know.

  • LadyClodia

    I can totally relate. My second son was not cuddly, didn’t like to be held, and hated sleeping on me, and was also very active from very young. My first son never wanted to be away from me, and many times the only way he would sleep would be laying on top of me. I was expecting that same neediness with my second son, but he didn’t have it. I nursed him for a little over a year, and even that didn’t create much of a bond. He needed food and so tolerated the closeness. (He had never had a bottle, I imagine if he did he would have decided that he didn’t need me.) He’s affectionate and sweet and will give kisses and hugs unprompted, so I know he loves me. We just didn’t have that physical closeness that I thought was part of having a baby.

  • Bethany Ramos

    Is it wrong that I almost looked forward to times when my toddler was sick so he would cuddle me for hours…?

    • LadyClodia

      I know what you mean, but then the last time that mine was sick it was above 90 degrees outside, he had a temp of 102, I was also a bit sick, and that’s when he needed to cuddle.

    • telepanda

      I also know the feeling, except that I recently had a croupy toddler with a high fever on a hot night who DESPERATELY NEEDED MOMMY RIGHT NOW. And while snuggles are awesome, a burning little death grip around your neck with an unending cough aimed directly up your nose? Is less awesome. I couldn’t bring myself to peel him off and chuck him in a corner, but man was it tempting. Also I am >30 weeks pregnant and now I have the cold from hell…

  • rebecca

    My Now 6 Month Old Has Never Been A Fan Of Cuddling,Especially Skin To Skin Contact. HeHas eczema That Breaks From His Head To his Toes So That’s A Factor, But He’s Also Never Really Fallen Asleep On Me Unless He Was Exhausted AndHeDefinitely Is Not Interested In Cuddling. Ever. He’s Super Happy AndJust Wants To Grab And Play And Scoot Around As Much As Possible. I’m Fine With It Though, I Have 2 Other Young Children, So I’m Usually In Need Of Personal Space!

    • chickadee

      Can you maybe fix your font so your post doesn’t use the ‘title’ option? It’s a bit hard to read.

  • historychick79

    My son would cuddle, but was miserable with any kind of wrap or carrier; there was absolutely no baby wearing allowed. I was disappointed and of course felt first-time-mom-failure syndrome. Of course now that he’s 20lbs heavier, he loves hanging on to me in all kinds of directions. And it’s the best thing ever.

  • JJ

    Wow, this article shocked me – because I was just coming to terms with these exact feelings (also with my son, also wanted another baby obsessively..) But he is a mover as well. Lately, he has wanted me to hold him and just when I got used to it, he prefers my husband. Sigh. I keep telling myself that he is his own little person and I need to respect who he is.
    But I will look forward to those sick days, too, as a PP said, so I can cuddle!

    Rebecca, thanks for posting this. I really have been struggling with this. Nice to know I’m not alone.

  • footnotegirl

    My daughter is stingy with some affection. She will hug and kiss animals and inanimate objects left right and center (and other toddlers) but hubby and I are lucky if we get two kisses a day each. I have to admit, when she gets a small cold or the like, I hate that she’s sick, but I love that she suddenly becomes super cuddly and wants nothing more than to wrap her arms over my shoulders and bury her hot little face in my neck. It’s a silver lining.
    It does get better though. Lately, she has been REALLY into family hugs, and if either her father or I are holding her and the other one is within arms reach, she’ll drag them over and wrap an arm over each shoulder and it’s the super sweetest thing.

  • Katia

    I don’t understand. My sons (5,1) do not like to cuddle either – typical active boys, but my daughter does. I like cuddling too but I have my hands too full to do it as much as she’d like- she can’t get enough! However I’ve never felt more bonded to her than them and I don’t understand the difference between bonded and feeling unconditional love?! But I should add that we cosleep and I also breastfeed each kid till at least 16 months. So maybe those things plus all the baby wearing and carrying around is enough cuddle type activity to feel bonded? I can see how it would be an issue if you were at work all day and then did not sleep with the baby either…I’ve never been in that position but I think I would feel sad to not have many hours of the day with my baby.

    I like the idea presented at the end of the article, about how we feel alone with these kinds of emotional inadequacies because no one wants to put her self out there first.
    However I still don’t get how bonded is different than unconditional love, perhaps it’s that when you’re bonded you can really feel your baby loving , favouring, and needing you? To me if you’re not depressed and your baby’s doing well and you love him lots what’s the problem?! I’m missing something right?

    • drinkpepsi

      The author never breastfed either of her children.
      She had a night nanny and a day nanny.

      Still surprised that she did not bond with her baby?

    • Jade Cahoon

      That’s a pretty horrible thing to say, actually.

    • drinkpepsi

      Sorry…which part?

      Because they are all true and were revealed by the author herself.

      Vehemently opposed to breastfeeding her own child? Check.
      Night Nanny? Check.
      Day Nanny? Check.
      Vacation to Mexico when baby was 2 months old? Check.

      But I agree…it does sound pretty awful!

    • LordOfHate

      I can see your point except on the breastfeeding part. That shouldn’t even be one of your points because you can just as easily bond with your baby using formula. Also it doesn’t make her a bad mother just because she went on vacation for a week. Would I do that? No for two reasons -

      1. I was never comfortable leaving my kids when they were babies for any kind of vacation. I think that babies need their parents 24/7 when they are that little. There is plenty of time to enjoy vacations like that when the kids are so reliant on you. That being said if she was psyched to go and get her vacation on more power to her.

      2. I can’t afford to go to Mexico for a week.

    • drinkpepsi

      I completely agree with you. Babies need their parents 24/7 when they are little.

      But clearly Eckler disagrees:

      “At least twice (maybe three) times a year, this mommy takes herself on solo vacations, anywhere from five to 10 days.”

      Read the entire piece here:

      http://www.postcity.com/Eat-Shop-Do/Do/August-2013/Mother-and-fiance-here-Will-travel-solo-A-lot/

      She takes these solo vacations regularly (that’s right…no kids…no baby…no fiance) even though she admits that her fiance hates the fact that she leaves their baby. But she goes anyway because, hey, she’s Eckler and her needs always seem to come first.

    • Guest

      For heaven’s sake, SHUT UP. She didn’t even say anything controversial this time, but you seem to feel the need to crap all over the comment section every time she posts ANYTHING. Sanctimommy bullshit.

    • drinkpepsi

      Correct. That’s because Rebecca Eckler is a mom in name only. She knows less about what it means to care for a kid than most teenage babysitters, yet she feels qualified to write a parenting blog.

  • Mette

    Both my boys (almost 4 yrs and 1 yr) are/where the same. My oldest didn’t even have that “I only want mommy” period when he was a baby, I sometimes wasn’t sure if he even knew I was his mom! He didn’t want to cuddle as a baby, but it’s definitely better now, and I love it, especially when he comes into our bed in the morning and just want to lie really close :) The little one prefers mommy (yay!), but doesn’t want to cuddle either, he’s just too active. I’m sure he’ll “grow into” cuddling at some point :)

  • Sara J. Hutchinson Underwood

    My first child never cuddled with me, either. Of course, he was diagnosed with autism at 3-1/2. My second son cuddles all the time. I was worried with my first son the problem was with me – I wasn’t “loving” or “motherly” enough. Now I know that’s just who he is.

  • Chris Whitley

    So you completely lied when you wrote this??? You are so full of crap!
    http://www.mommyish.com/2012/12/25/newborn-son-love/

  • Chris Whitley
  • Sweetbabylluv

    This really helped me, my daughter is 11 months and still not a cuddler. I don’t feel like I’m comforting her when she cries or gets hurt, but I have hope now that she will eventually let me hold and soothe her and she does reach out for me now which makes me feel good. Thank you for this post, I’m glad I’m not alone!

    • sharon

      Finally there is a daugther who doesn’t like to be cuddled. thanks God for the posts! although knowing this is the fact of some babies, but can’t help not to feel heart breaking :(

    • sharon

      Finally there is a daugther who doesn’t like to be cuddled. thanks God for the posts! although knowing this is the fact of some babies, but can’t help not to feel heart breaking :(

  • Unsure mother

    Hi,
    I just read this post today because I was looking for mothers who feel as I do. My son is 9 1/2 months old and he has never really been a cuddler with me. He now seems to be going through an independent stage. Pretty much every time I feed him food (whether it be baby food or small finger foods) he fights me. He pushes my hands away. He smiles a lot and is a happy baby most of the time, but it doesn’t seem like he prefers me to anyone. Sometimes I feel like he only reaches for me if he wants me to get him out of the crib or give him something like a water bottle he spotted. I am really starting to feel crazy and depressed because I don’t feel like he loves me. My mother, mother-in-law, aunt, etc all try to give me advice on how to “raise my son”. They are always telling me what works for them when they keep him here and there. They act like they know my son better but they don’t seem to understand that the same thing doesn’t work with my child everytime. I’m sooo tired of everyone’s know it all advice. A part of me just wants to horde my child away from everyone because they drive me crazy, but my son’s always moving and never stopping personality is exhausting and I need help sometimes. I just feel all of these negative emotions and I found out that I am pregnant again (9 weeks). I’m scared that I’m going to have to go through all of this again, these feelings included. My husband is a pretty good listener and he is reassuring, but he always thinks I am overacting to everything. Our son doesn’t really seem to prefer him or anyone else either. It’s almost like he is in exploration mode 24-7. After reading your article, I pray that I will eventually feel bonded to my child and overcome these insecurities.

  • sadmommy

    This is exactly how I feel with my 4 month old. I love him soooo much but he only wants me when he’s hungry or cuddles when he’s tired. His sister, 5, was my love bug and it was great. She still is. But it makes me want to cry that he doesn’t just snuggle and hug like she did. :( I’m afraid he,doesn’t,even like me except for food and diaper changes :(