Bonding – can baby massage help? A real story

Having had anxiety and depression in the past, on finding out I was pregnant with my first baby, I naturally had some questions around how likely it was that I would get post natal depression.  I hadn’t been someone who had wanted children all my life so wondered if I might struggle with bonding. The midwife explained there wasn’t necessarily a definite link between the two for me but that there was plenty of screening and support once the baby arrived which put my mind at ease a little.

I had a relatively easy pregnancy, apart from regular bouts of bleeding due to a low lying placenta and in the latter stages I developed SPD which was pretty painful. When my due date came and went and two weeks later I was heading to hospital to be induced, I wasn’t even considering how I would bond with the little person we were about to meet. I had a really good birth experience and little Max arrived into the world.

That’s the hard bit done, I thought… but that’s not quite how it was…

We were kept in the hospital for two nights as Max wasn’t feeding, I had been adamant I would breastfeed but it seemed this wasn’t working out. Max was diagnosed with a significant tongue tie.

In that ward overnight, exhausted after labour and just needing sleep, Max did nothing but cry and I literally didn’t know what to do. I suddenly felt completely helpless, completely out of my depth and completely alone in those long first nights.

On returning home I thought everything would just go back to normal! No chance! The lack of sleep in those first weeks is relentless, nobody can prepare you for it. Feed, sleep, change, feed, sleep, change. Sleep when the baby sleeps they say – ha! That never did work for me so I was absolutely shattered.

As soon as Max was born I knew I would do anything for him but I cant honestly say that I felt any attachment for a good few weeks, I found it so hard to feel what I had heard to be a burst of love for someone who just screams at you no matter what you do!

Thankfully I have a wonderfully supportive husband and family and an amazing group of Mums from NCT.

Once my husband Mark had to go back to work and I was left alone with the tiny screaming human, desperate to escape the house, I looked into classes that were suitable for newborns and came across a baby massage class. I rounded up a few of my NCT buddies and we started when Max was around 10 weeks old.

The first session was traumatic – it took me all my energy to get us out of the house in time and Max cried pretty much the whole way through the class. Is it worth it I thought?!

As the sessions went on, the logistics became easier, practicing the strokes that we learnt in class at home meant that we were both more relaxed in each-other’s company and I learnt to read Max’s cues better. I learnt how to tell when he was tired, bored, needed a boundary, lots of other things beyond the obvious physical needs of food/sleep/nappy change. the communication skills we found came from spending time together doing the massage strokes were invaluable for me, I could see that he was a human with needs and not just a robot who I could make better by just seeing to the physical needs.

That was the absolute difference for me, things suddenly clicked. I was able to connect with him and there began our bonding.

Not only that but when Max developed colic and silent reflux I felt able to do something to help him.

Now we are so close, I’m able to communicate so much better with him and he is amazing. Now I know exactly what they’re talking about when they describe the bond between mother and child, for me it certainly didn’t come as naturally as I had expected, but it did come.