The adoptive family gets the call that the baby they are matched with has been born. They could have known a long time that they were matched, or they could have not known at all because the situation was a "cold call" (meaning, the birth family chose adoption and an adoptive family after the baby's birth).
The adoptive family meets the baby. The adoptive family then welcomes the baby into their home, usually after they have custody. (If they do not have custody but take the baby home, this is called a "legal risk placement" meaning the birth family hasn't officially/legally terminated their parental rights).
And then, what?
Newborns do keep new parents on their toes. There's diapers, tears, feedings (and the dreaded night feedings), baths, snuggle times, doc appointments, and of course, these things are now added to the already long list of daily tasks---work, school, chores, errands, meetings, travel, etc.
Let me get this out of the way: Can you bond with a baby whom you didn't carry in you for forty weeks? YES. Can you bond with a baby who doesn't look a thing like you? YES. Can you bond with a baby who has TWO moms and TWO dads? YES. Can you bond with a baby who was thrust into your arms and whom you knew you were taking that baby away from his or her biological family? YES.
How long does that take? How do you do it?
I will first say, I'm not expert. I'm one woman with one experience. But, I hope I can offer some insight.
First, how long does it take? There is no norm, I don't think. There are so many factors---the way the adoption happened, the type of adoption, the child's personality, the parents' personalities, time, background, etc. I think that if it begins to feel like too long, professional help should be sought. Just remember, a pregnant woman has nearly a year to bond with her baby. So perhaps that is the norm?
Second, how do you do it? How do you bond with this baby who wasn't yours a few days/months ago and is now yours forever?
A few suggestions:
- Skin to skin contact. Parents who have babies in fragile medical situations are often encouraged to place their child on their bare chests. I have read various experts say this is incredibly soothing for the baby and helps parents bond with babies who are stuck in hospitals. Skin to skin contact is intimate and loving.
- Sling that baby! I love my sling and use it often. My hands are free to do chores or do an activity with my two year old, yet I'm able to have my baby daughter against me. She can see my eyes, feel my heartbeat, and recognize my scent.
- Eye to eye contact. I have noticed that Baby E LOVES eye to eye contact. She's content being in my arms and looking into my eyes. Something about these moments increases security, love, and bonding.
- Choosing an activity only you (and/or your spouse) do for your baby. For us, it's feedings and diaper changes. Occasionally, a babysitter will have to do these tasks for us, but our daughter is learning that Mom and Dad provide the food and take care of the yuck afterward. :) What's more loving than that? Plus, feeding times can be great eye contact and/or skin-to-skin times. I love my Boppy pillow which provides extra support and brings the baby closer to my face.
- Cuddle and snuggle. This is hard for me to do during the day when I'm taking care of both girls. But after Miss E goes to bed, I usually hold Baby E while she drifts off to sleep and while she sleeps. And it's good for you! I once read that holding a new born boosts the positive and happy energies in the person holding the baby (whatever that's called scientifically, I don't know). And of course, this is time for the baby to grow more familiar with his or her new Mom or Dad.
- Bath time. Again, baby is looking up at Mom or Dad. I talk to my baby through her whole bath (if I'm not trying to tame Miss E from dumping water on the baby's head). :) Once your baby gets past the scream-because-I-hate-bath-time-phase (hopefully that happens quickly), bath time can be awesome for eye to eye contact. Afterward, you can give your baby a good lotion rub down for some skin-to-skin contact.
- Play time. Newborns don't play all that much, but after the first month or so, they are awake longer. I sometimes talk to my baby (often just saying her name in a sing-song voice) and just wait for her eyes to light up or for a smile. This counts as play. :) Again, great for eye to eye contact.
A few things I don't do (and this is just personal preference):
- I don't deem middle-of-the-night-feedings as bonding time. I actually aim for no eye contact as I sleep train my baby. A mid-night feeding is all business. :) I keep the lights low, change the diaper half way through (so there's no sudden change of pace at the end), and don't talk.
- I don't rock my babies to sleep, usually. I worked with Miss E so she'd fall asleep on her own, putting her to bed when she was sleepy but not sleeping. I'm trying the same thing with Baby E. So right before bed, I'm not trying to shove a squeaky toy in the baby's face.
- I don't pass my baby around, especially when she is so new. Do others hold her, yes? But do I, upon entering a gathering or event, allow anyone and everyone to hold the baby? No. For one, it's sick season. For another, I'm trying to get my baby to bond with me, and I want her to see, feel, smell me as much as possible.
I, like many mothers, sometimes struggle with carving out time to create these moments. We have a lot on our plates! But babies are only so young for a short period of time, and bonding is so important.
What ways have you learned to bond with your adopted child?
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