By Lauren Madsen // Adoptive Mom
An Adoptive Mom’s Advice on Bonding
Most parents have nine months to bond and prepare for bringing their child into this world. For those who adopt, you may only have a few hours to prepare yourself for becoming a parent. It can be very difficult to bond with a biological child as well as an adopted child, so don’t feel guilty if bonding with your child takes time. Here are 7 tips on ways to bond with your baby, adopted or biological!
Physical contact is a great way to bond with any baby, adopted or not. When you cuddle, kiss, and touch it causes the body to produce oxytocin, also known as the love hormone. Skin-to- skin contact with your new baby is ideal if possible. It helps regulate the baby’s body temperature, improves heart and lung function, regulates blood sugar, provides natural pain relief and soothes crying. When my husband and I first adopted our son, we were told to do skin-to- skin contact as much as possible. Our son is 6 months old and we both still enjoy having skin-to skin time, even if it’s only for a short amount of time.
Some women who adopt choose to induce lactation and breastfeed. If this is an option for you, that is wonderful, as breastfeeding can be a very bonding experience. You can speak with your doctor if this is something you are interested in. I chose to bottle- feed with formula and I personally found this time very special between my son and I. I loved being able to hold him close, watch him eat and hear those adorable baby coos. Bottle-feeding was a great option for my husband and I because it gave both of us the opportunity to feed our son and bond. Feedings also create a time where your child learns your face and smell. They begin to trust and feel secure as you establish your role as caretaker.
Prior to becoming a parent, I had read books that were all about scheduling and routine because children do well with predictability. I figured this meant that once our son came home, we would abide by a fairly strict routine. He would take naps, eat and bathe at the same time, in the same way, every day. By the second day, I realized that while I can keep a healthy routine, without living life so rigidly that it would negatively impact our relationship. Parenting requires flexibility because life with a baby is unpredictable. There were many unplanned baths due to blowouts that happened in the middle of Walmart, even though I planned my shopping trip around his normal pooping time… Don’t poke fun- I know I’m not the only one who plans life around pooping time. It’s totally a thing!
I can’t say this enough. Play and have fun! Play peek-a- boo, be silly, bounce, dance, sing, and create opportunities to just enjoy being with one another. If you adopt a newborn, play may seem pointless because infants stare blankly back at you, however those early interactions are still extremely important developmentally. Play creates positive emotions and promotes attachment.
5. Positive Energy
This may sound silly, but children, even newborns are very intuitive to emotions. Have you ever noticed that being around someone who is anxious can make you anxious even if you don’t have anything to be stressed over? As an adoptive mom, I feel this same concept is true for a parent-child relationship. If a parent is in a bad mood, this can affect a child’s mood and visa-versa. I can almost always tell when I am anxious by how my son responds to me. If I am anxious, he is normally fussy and difficult to console. When I focus on positive feelings and positive thoughts, I can tell that his mood improves, as well as my own.
6. Sleep In Close Proximity
Sleeping arrangements once baby comes home can be tricky. Our son moved from a Pack-N- Play in our room, to a bassinet next to the bed, to a Snuggle Nest in our bed. Sleeping in close proximity establishes a sense of security for the child. At times my son would begin to cry at night and I just needed to put my hand over the edge of the Snuggle Nest and touch him. This simple act seemed to sooth him and he would fall back to sleep. It is also helpful to be close for nighttime feedings because I was able to respond to his cries more quickly. As he has gotten older, he has moved out of our bed and into his crib across the room. Some may find that sleeping in the same room as their baby is the opposite of bonding. If this is the case for you, don’t worry about it! Figure out what works best for you
and your child.
7. Take Care Of You
Self-care is not selfish. Make time for activities that you enjoy, whether that is a reading, painting, exercising, having a spa day, going out with friends or taking a nap to help catch up on some much needed sleep. I have found that I am a better parent when I take a break to rest and rejuvenate myself. When I take time to take care of my own needs, I feel better and I have the patience and energy to care for my son’s needs. Parenting is hard work around the clock, so DO NOT feel guilty for taking care of yourself.
Bonding comes easily for some parents, and for others it takes time! This adoptive moms advice? Do not get down on yourself if attachment is not something that comes easily. Really, all these steps are great ways to promote a healthy, loving relationship with you and your baby, regardless of biology! I hope they work for you, too.