Baby's First Year · Emotional Health · Parenting

Postpartum depression & infant attachment: What you need to know

Baby lying on back receiving abdominal massage

Most parents imagine a strong, healthy bonding and attachment phase with their babies after birth.  They are aware that babies need love and attention, as much as they need food, in order to thrive.

An infant forms a secure attachment with their caregiver when the caregiver consistently responds to the needs of their infant.  I often hear parents who are experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety express that they find interacting with baby very difficult.  Being responsive to baby’s cues and the need for holding, kissing, and comforting can be very challenging when you’re feeling depressed.  The guilt around not being emotionally available for your baby can cause additional feelings of stress and “not being a good parent”.

Take the time you need to rest and do what’s necessary to recover from your depression.

Postpartum Depression (PPD)/Anxiety is a highly treatable illness, and there are many ways to protect your baby from the negative effects.

Here are some tips to help:

  • Seek treatment and support for your depression from family, friends, and your doctor
  • Participate in activities that help lift your mood, such as music therapy or exercise
  • Cuddle with your baby skin-to-skin when they are relaxed to promote a more positive feeling and experience for yourself
  • Try massaging your baby – research shows by simply touching your baby more often will help you engage and respond more positively
  • Make time to rest daily and take care of your needs so you can be more available for your baby
  • Join a free parenting program that focuses on attachment.

It’s important to remember how valuable your partner and extended family are.  They can provide the consistent parenting and emotional engagement with your baby while you get better.  In most cases it takes many caregivers to ensure babies get what they need to thrive, so don’t feel badly about letting other people in your life provide comfort and care for your baby.  Take the time you need to rest and do what’s necessary to recover from your depression.

Although you may be struggling with PPD or anxiety, you can still experience attachment and bonding with your baby, you just need the time to heal.

For more information or support contact a Toronto Public Health Nurse via eChat or call (416) 338-7600 and visit your health care provider.

There is help and you will get better.

Please comment below to share some tips that have helped you, your partner, family member, or friend.

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