The early days with an adopted baby are a whirlwind of emotions. On one hand you’re thrilled your baby is finally in your arms. On the other hand you may be anxious about bonding with your little one.
The good news is that bonding with an adopted baby is much the same as bonding with a biological baby. “Bonding can take a little longer depending on the age of the child, but the same rules apply – react sensitively and consistently to the needs of the child. And practice lots of patience,” advises Eloise Loots, an accredited adoption social worker at PROCARE Psycho Social Services, a private practice.
Making a connection
Loots provides these practical suggestions to strengthen attachment:
- Make eye contact often.
- Hold your baby; keep them close to your body as much as possible.
- Sing to your baby. The sound of your voice is reassuring and comforting.
- Delight in your baby – they will sense your joy.
- Have an animated face when you talk – babies respond positively to facial expressions.
- Let the tone in your voice convey love and empathy.
- Create rituals and routines so your baby knows what to expect and feels secure.
- Be emotionally available.
- Be a stress-detective. When you see signs of stress – clenched fists, red face, fidgeting, fussing, etcetera – deal with it immediately. Remove your baby from the situation if possible and remain calm and in control as you nurture your little one.
- Give lots of cuddles and tickles.
- Dance with your child. They will love the rhythm and the music.
- Play peek-a-boo and trusting games.
- Take care of yourself. A happy parent is a happy child.
- Always act as a Secure Base (“watch over me, delight in me, help me and enjoy with me”) and as a Safe Haven (“protect me, comfort me, delight in me and organise my feelings”). If you’re sensitive to these needs your baby will thrive and bonding will occur naturally.
Dealing with friends and family
One of the challenges new adoptive parents might face is managing the visits of their friends and family, says Elzeth Conradie, a social worker at Abba Specialist Adoption & Social Services. “Too many visits can be overwhelming for your baby,” Conradie explains. “They need time to feel secure with you first before they meet other people. Ask family and friends to give you some space. When you’re ready for visitors, allow short visits in small groups of two or three people.”
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