How can I bond with a baby that “isn’t mine”?
Normal infants are able to form attachments with any caregiver. Some parents feel an instant bond when they meet and hold their infant. For most, however, bonding is a gradual process, taking weeks and sometimes months. More than 50 percent of our adoptive families, when asked to recall those first days and weeks, report that they felt more numb and scared than connected and competent.
You may meet your infant in a hospital room, a hotel room, an airport, or at home, in a quiet room or amid a bustling group. Your child may snuggle into your arms or pull away and cry. Some infants become withdrawn and unresponsive, while others light up with a smile. The more you’ve prepared by talking with other adoptive parents about the wide range of experiences, the less likely you are to feel taken aback by your baby’s reaction.
All infants, even newborns, need time to adjust and connect with a new environment and family. They may avoid eye contact, become fussy, refuse to take a bottle, sleep excessively or not at all. This has nothing to do with parenting skills or whether or not you gave birth to this child. So try to relax and give your baby time to adjust.
Tips for bonding with your baby:
- Appeal to your baby’s senses. Hold off washing the outfit she came home in, and keep it near her in the crib. Newborns can be comforted by a familiar aroma.
- Avoid excessive eye contact. A newborn will let you know when it’s too much- she’ll look away, close her eyes, or fuss.
- Speak quietly and move gently. Most infants will startle at sudden movement. Leave the room as little as possible. If you can, stay in the hotel room, rest, and hold your baby, rock her or croon to her- these early movements of bonding are priceless. Try to avoid distracting visitors, noise, and commotion.
- Snuggle up. Hold your infant as much as possible, to facilitate bonding. A baby cannot be spoiled by too much holding. Consider using a baby sling or a front carrier.
- Respond to your child’s cries immediately.
- Playfully imitate your child; let her know she’s the center of the universe. Play peekaboo!
- Talk to your child as you perform nurturing actions, like cuddling and feeding.
- Stay with your child and comfort him through crying and screaming.
Should I practice cocooning?
Limit the number of other people that your child comes into contact with in the early days home. “Cocooning” your family is often recommended. This helps your child learn who is a part of their new family and who they are supposed to be bonding to and relying on. Many people recommend not letting anyone other than the parents hold and feed a new baby in the early days home. Definitely limit the number of caregivers of any new child to as few as possible.
Educate your extended family and friends about attachment and the importance of your baby or child not being held, cared for or spending a lot of time with people outside of the immediate family after they first arrive home. Do this before your child comes home. Let your family and friends know why this is in your child’s best interest, and that you are not trying to hurt feelings (just doing what’s best for your child).
Singapore Adoption Agency. We are different.