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A depressed young mother sits on the floor, facing the opposite direction to her baby who sits alone in the cot.

Consequences of poor bonding?

What happens if there’s problems with bonding and attachment?

Many mothers-to-be imagine there will be an instant sense of ‘cosmic connection’ between them and their baby when they finally meet. The reality is it may take some time for parents to really have a strong sense of that bond. Long labours, a distressing birth and health problems can all take an enormous toll. In your clinical practice, encourage bonding and skin to skin contact as early as possible. However, it’s important to also be mindful of the pressure many mothers place on themselves to have that ‘magic bond’ right away. As with all things, time and patience will help. Try to alleviate parental anxiety wherever possible and gently encourage their confidence in building that important bond.

A vicious circle

The hormone oxytocin, is responsible for a number of complex functions in the human body. In the mother, it helps to promote feelings of connection with the child. Greater levels of interaction with the child promote greater levels of oxytocin.

If bonding between the mother and child does not occur or is poorly established, it is thought to have negative consequences for their relationship. It may also reduce maternal ‘feelings’, leading to higher levels of maternal irritability and possible rejection and avoidance of the baby (Kinsey & Hupcey, 2013). We can see how a negative cyclical effect can occur.

Your task

In the comments section below, post your thoughts and stories about parental delays in bonding with their baby and what may have been the contributing factors to this delay.


Kinsey, C.B. & Hupcey, J.E. (2013). State of the science of maternal–infant bonding: A principle based concept analysis, Midwifery, 29 (12),1314-1320.

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This article is from the free online course:

Assessment of the Newborn

Griffith University