One of the biggest concerns potential adoptive parents have is “What if the baby and I don’t bond?” We are so intent on the blessing and joy that we are sure will come from placement that it seems almost selfish to think about what might go wrong once the party ends and we are left alone, a new family full of strangers. There is a wealth of information about postpartum bonding, depression, and what is and isn’t “normal,” but less resources are available to adoptive parents. Fortunately, there are some surefire tricks to instituting attachment for newborns and infants that will help proactive parents.
- Maintain eye contact. When feeding, holding, cooing, do your best to look at your baby in the face while she is awake and feeling pleasant. When she starts to look away and fuss remember that she isn’t rejecting you, but probably feeling overstimulated.
- Skin to skin is always beneficial. Even though you didn’t birth your child, skin-to-skin contact will help him bond and feel comforted. Both moms and dads can hold their infants right up on their chest, sharing a blanket to keep the chill away. Bonus: My husband calls this “Baby Ambien” and is guaranteed to knock even the most awake adult out for a catnap.
- Rock around the clock. The motion of rocking simulates the motion of the womb and helps connect baby to her caregivers.
But what if Mom or Dad does all of those things, baby looks adorable and attached and we…still don’t feel it? What then?
- Emotions are physical and mental. Remember that, to your body, good stress is just the same as bad stress. You have been on a crazy roller coaster of emotions and now you are sleep-deprived. Your brain and your body will catch up to your heart, be patient.
- Be realistic. Bonding is not instant and ebbs and flows—even in the most secure situations. Keep working and it will come.
- Don’t forget your tribe. Your partner, spouse, family—keep them close by and be honest about your feelings. It is absolutely okay to not love every smell/noise/sound that comes out of your new addition. Remember who you started this journey with and why you chose them. Don’t be ashamed of your “in the trench” feelings one bit.
- You. Are. Not. Alone. There isn’t a magic switch that makes you love someone, even someone you have wanted to love for as long as you can remember. But it will come. Keep caring and working and talking about it—there is no shame in feeling disconnected. The more we, as a community, talk about our honest feelings and experiences, the more connected we will all be with our children and ourselves.
Did you feel attached and bonded right away? How long did it take? Did it vary from adoption to adoption? Let me know in the comments!