Anxiety, outbursts of anger and acting withdrawn are all signs that a new mom may be struggling with postpartum depression (PPD.)
But, in a candid Facebook post, author and Honest Toddler creator Bunmi Laditan is opening up about another sign of PPD — a mom's difficulty bonding with her baby.
"With my first two I felt that magical insta-connection," Laditan wrote in the post about the birth of her third child. "But when I came home with my little cub, while he was cute as a button, I knew something was missing."
Laditan recalls feeling like she was caring for someone else's child. Although her body "felt distinctly postpartum," the Canadian mom says she remembers feeling disconnected from her baby and terrified someone would notice there was a problem.
Laditan writes that once she sought medical attention, was diagnosed, and medicated, she began to feel her mood stabilize. Still, it took three years for her to feel the same connection to her third child that she felt to the first two.
"In that time, I loved my baby boy...but there was a valley between us that I prayed he didn’t feel," wrote Laditan. "Then one day, or perhaps over several days, or maybe through each day of showing up, his real mother finally walked through the door and it was me. 100% me."
Karen Kleiman is an author, licensed clinical social worker, and founder of the Postpartum Stress Center. Kleiman says while not every mom with PPD feels disconnected from their baby, the feeling is more common than most people think.
"Bonding with new babies is a hot button for many women who worry that they may not be doing it right or attaching the way they should," Kleiman told TODAY Parents. "Expectations that bonding with baby takes place smoothly, naturally, and perfectly can set new mothers up for disappointment, self-criticism and feelings of failure. On top of that, feelings of guilt exacerbate the situation."
Kleiman recommends postpartum moms who are having difficulty bonding with their babies focus on being patient and calm, and remember that the feeling is rarely a permanent state. And, it's important to be honest with doctors and healthcare providers about these types of feelings, reaching out for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
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"Moms should be available to meet their baby's physical and emotional needs, even if they do not feel the way they think they should," said Kleiman. "They should be hopeful that bonding actually does take place whether they work at it or not, and know that one day, they will feel the way they wish they could feel right now."
Today, Laditan feels equally connected to all of her children.
"I am his mother and he is my child with no doubts, no angst, nothing between us except the hoodies I’ll wear 3, 4 days in a row," Laditan joked in her post.
But the mom-of-three turned serious with her words of advice to other moms with PPD, struggling to bond with their little ones.
"Please just wait. Keep showing up. Keep rocking them to sleep searching their little faces for what you need. Keep wiping down that high chair and kissing their pillow soft cheeks. Every time you do you, the angels throw a handful of sand into the canyon between you. One day it will be full and you’ll walk across it to find you were always there somehow."