As we prepare for our second adoption, we’re again thinking about the importance of bonding, particularly in those first days, weeks, and months with the new baby.
Adoptive Families magazine has articles devoted to bonding. I think the article, Your Baby, Yourself, is especially helpful in talking about the importance (and challenges) of bonding for adoptive families.
Part of the article states …
… attachment is almost always a journey, not an instant event. It takes time to get to know your child, to develop the rhythm and confidence to parent. In these first days, it is vital that you take care of only the essentials—your partner and your baby. Avoiding other claims on your attention will enhance your ability to bond.
The article (as well as the section at the bottom of the page) includes some good tips (in bold) …
Limit visits. Your baby needs time to bond with you, unencumbered by distraction. Unplug the phone or leave a voice message if excited friends keep calling.
We received a similar tip from the pre-adoption classes we took as part of our home study in early 2007. The child (from another culture) experiences enough trauma without being bombarded with lots and lots of new people.
During our first weeks with Ethan, we did make the rounds to the churches we were serving while we were on parental leave. Ethan seemed to handle that well, but even in Korea, he was described as “a social little guy.” Still, we tried to limit his exposure to others in the earliest days.
Wear the baby in a chest carrier as much as possible.
We bought a baby carrier and took it with us to Korea. During our first hours with Ethan in Korea, we described it as the best baby-related investment we had made up to that point.
I will never forget carrying Ethan to E-mart in Seoul, Korea in the baby carrier on our first full day together. I remember him looking into my eyes, trying to figure out who in the world I was!
Become your baby’s primary provider of care, meeting all her needs yourself, to build trust. For now, encourage friends and relatives to leave the hugs and kisses to you.
Good advice, related to the first tip above. Limiting interaction with others, at least early on. Focus on bonding as a family.
Maintain your baby’s familiar routines as much as you can.
Our caseworker in Korea as well as the foster mother went to great lengths to tell us about Ethan’s routines. A lot of good that did! Ethan’s routines were completely different after we brought him home (for the better). In Korea, he was getting up during the night once or twice (here, after a week and a half adjusting to the new time zone, he began sleeping all night) and going to bed between 10:00 and 11:00 p.m. (here, he usually goes to bed between 8:00 and 8:30 p.m., thankfully!).
Next time, we’ll listen to what they tell us, of course, but we’ll take it with a grain of salt!
Keep any clothes or blankets your baby came with for their soothing smell.
We also heard this in our pre-adoption classes. I think it’s good advice, but in Ethan’s case, I don’t think it applied. Ethan didn’t seem to be too attached to anything, in particular (the foster mother told us he loved his drinking cup, which leaked; he did, but he also didn’t have a problem switching to another cup). In fact, Ethan had no trouble switching formula (one of the three biggest challenges for Korean babies) or going from rice and broth to baby food.
Let a nurse hold your child for an injection, then you comfort her afterwards.
We have not heard this one before. I’m not sure how well that would’ve worked when we took Ethan to the doctor less than a week after bringing him home from Korea (the blood draw was especially difficult!). We may think about this one tomorrow as Ethan goes in for his two-year check-up where we expect him to his two-year vaccinations.
Anyway, we go into the second adoption with some bonding/parenting experience (that’s a big thing), but having a toddler at home will certainly add a new twist to the experience!