If you have a delivery without complications, you’ll be able to spend the first hour or so after birth holding, stroking, and looking at your baby. Because babies are usually alert and very responsive during this time, researchers have labeled this the sensitive period.
The first exchanges of eye contact, sounds, and touches between the two of you are all part of a process called bonding, which helps lay the foundation for your relationship as parent and child. Although it will take months to learn your child’s basic temperament and personality, many of the core emotions you feel for her may begin to develop during this brief period immediately after birth. As you gaze at her and she looks back, following your movements and perhaps even mirroring some of your expressions, you may feel a surge of protectiveness, awe, and love. This is part of the attachment process.
It’s also quite normal if you do not immediately have tremendously warm feelings for your baby. Labor is a demanding experience, and your first reaction to the birth may well be a sense of relief that at last it’s over. If you’re exhausted and emotionally drained, you may simply want to rest. That’s perfectly normal. Give yourself until the strain of labor fades and then request your baby. Bonding has no time limit.
Also, if your baby must be taken to the nursery right away for medical attention, or if you are sedated during the delivery, don’t despair. You needn’t worry that your relationship will be harmed because you didn’t “bond” during this first hour. You can and will love your baby just as much, even if you weren’t able to watch her birth or hold her immediately afterward. Your baby also will be fine, just as loving of you and connected to you.