Some parents expect an instantaneous bond with their new baby immediately after infant adoption. Secretly, these same parents may worry and experience some uncertainty…what if they don’t feel a connection with their adopted infant? Lifetime Adoption has seen the special bonds that develop between adoptive parents and their adopted infants. Like many other aspects of parenting, bonding takes work and dedication.
“Bonding is not always instantaneous - It’s a lifelong process,” says Dr. William Sears, pediatrician and author of over forty pediatric books and articles. “You need to invest time, touch, and attention.”
Dr. Sears is a proponent for Attachment Parenting, a method that he and his wife Martha (a registered nurse, lactation consultant, and co-author) have used on their eight children, including their adopted daughter. Attachment Parenting means keeping baby with you as much as possible while promptly and sensitively responding to baby’s needs. Through plenty of touch, eye contact, and close proximity to baby, the bonding process improves and increases between new parents and baby. This method is particularly effective for adoptive parents seeking to bond with their new infant.
Skin to skin contact is a large part of Attachment Parenting your adopted infant. Skin to skin contact can have incredible benefits for babies and new mothers, including breastfeeding, behavior, and physiology. To practice skin to skin with your adopted infant, simply strip baby down to her diaper during feeding. Mom removes or unbuttons her top so that baby’s skin is in contact with hers. Dads can definitely practice skin to skin, as well. Naptime is another opportunity for skin to skin contact, with mom or dad holding baby close while she sleeps. This practice is particularly beneficial for moms who are planning on adoptive breastfeeding.
Eye contact is another way to bond after infant adoption. Newborn babies are nearsighted, and for the first three months of life they can best see objects up to 8” – 15” away. This just happens to be the average distance between a mother’s breast and face, making feeding time an excellent opportunity to practice gazing with your new baby. Infants prefer to look at faces over other objects, and every time you and baby gaze at one another, she is building a memory of your face. If your adopted infant is bottle fed, be sure to hold her at breast level to maximize the bonding benefits of eye contact.
Infant massage is a wonderful way to convey the benefits of touch to your adopted infant. These benefits include growth of the mind and body, and improved digestion, self-esteem, and behavior. Infant massage can become a regular event, practiced after bath time or in the evening when the whole family is home for the day. Massage is a perfect way to for the working caregiver to reconnect with baby after being gone for the day. Both dads and moms can practice gentle, loving touch with their new baby, which will help her to bond with both caregivers. “Babies thrive on different strokes,” says Sears.
Baby wearing is one of the easiest ways to bond with baby in the days after infant adoption. Using a carrier, sling or wrap, baby can snuggle close while freeing up mom or dad’s hands. Carrying baby close allows her to hear your heartbeat and feel your body warmth. According to Dr. Sears, “Infants who are carried more cry less.” Less crying not only benefits mom and dad, but also baby. “Infants who spend less time crying spend devote more time to growing and learning.”
The cornerstone of Attachment Parenting is responsive parenting with lots of TLC. Responding quickly and lovingly to your baby’s needs fosters a sense of trust between baby and parents. Your adopted infant soon learns that you are her source of calm, and comfort, and that you will take care of her needs. As baby’s trust in you grows, so does the bond of love between you both. Lifetime Adoption can tell you that the bond that begins after infant adoption will become a love that you both cherish for years to follow.
If you want to keep up with stories from other adoptive parents as you prepare for infant adoption, be sure to sign up for Lifetime’s free webinars!