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Intentional Bonding after Adoption or Childbirth

by McKenna on July 20, 2009
category: 0 – 1 year (baby),Adoption

857111_beach_fun_3 This post is for moms of biological and moms of adopted children.  After birthing two children and adopting one child, I have noticed that bonding with your new child, no matter how they joined your family, does not always go smooth.  Amanda wrote a post sharing her own difficulty in bonding with her newborn. 

There are two main attitudes that women should approach motherhood with:

No expectations

  • After dreaming about your child as he or she develops in your womb or after staring at a single picture of your child who is halfway around the world for 9-18 months, the expectations that you have of who this child is and how they are going to behave are really not based on anything more than fantasy. 

Understanding that bonding may not happen naturally or immediately

  • Hollywood has placed an unreasonable expectation on mothers that they are supposed to immediately fall in love with their new child.  Friends, family, and loved ones also add to the theory that “good mothers fall head over heels in love instantly” with their new child.  This is not realistic and does not happen for a lot of mothers.  By going into the orphanage or the delivery room with the understanding that bonding probably won’t happen instantly, I think mothers have set the stage for true bonding to begin.  The disappointment and surprise when the bonding does not happen immediately can prolong and interfere with the progression of true bonding.

Mothers who keep the above two ideas in mind when meeting their child for the first time have a great foundation set to form a deep and intimate bond with their new child.  For moms who do not feel connected to their child, they do not need to sit and wait for that feeling of closeness and deep love for their child to arrive.  Those feelings may not come without intentionally seeking out a close bond with their new baby.  Even mothers who feel that they did instantly bond with their new child need to be proactive in deepening and strengthening the bond they have already begun to form with their new child because stress and sleep deprivation can do wonders on that bond!

There are many practical ways to foster and encourage a close bond with your child with an attitude of intentionality.  I did not do all of these with my children.  I suggest picking and choosing some of these ideas that will work for you, however do not choose your activities based on what feels natural for you because if you are not feeling attached to your child it is likely that none of these activities will feel natural for you.

  • Kangaroo care (this helps newborns and children who are new to their forever family feel close to their moms and can also help moms to feel close to their new child).
  • Breastfeed (even mothers who are adopting small children can choose this option!)
  • Counseling: Sometimes feeling like you’re not able to bond with your child stems from Post-Adoption-Depression-Syndrome or Post-Partum-Depression-Syndrome.  Both are VERY COMMON and you should seek help and support from professionals who have experience and training in PADS or PPDS.
  • Slow down the other areas of your life and focus on your relationship with your child. It’s more important for you to spend time with your new child than with your dishes and vacuum cleaner during these first few months with your new little one.
  • Get some time away. Go to the bookstore or out to coffee with a friend.  Sometimes absence makes the heart grow fonder.
  • Baby wearing.  This especially helped me in bonding with my daughter who we adopted.
  • Have your child sleep in your bedroom or stay with your child until he or she is asleep. 
  • Talk about your feelings of detachment from your child with your spouse or close friend who will understand and encourage you.
  • Be diligent and wait for the fruit of your labor.  Love is a verb which becomes a feeling after it is practiced. 

These activities not only promote mom’s bond and attachment to their new child, but also promote a healthy bond and attachment from new baby or child to mom.  Sometimes the feeling of being bonded to your new child comes after your new child is exhibiting evidence of being very bonded to you. 

Have you had trouble bonding with your new child?  What are some things that helped you in fostering a closeness with your new child?

6 Responses to Intentional Bonding after Adoption or Childbirth

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Amy V
    July 20, 2009 @ 7:15 pm

    These are great suggestions. I have given this much thought while waiting to adopt our first child and know that I will be using several of these including slowing down and baby wearing. I will not have had the opportunity the carry our child for 9 months so I look forward to bonding after they are in our arms.

  • Comment by Christy
    July 21, 2009 @ 5:41 am

    Such a great article!!! Every mom should read it! Well done!

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Natalie
    July 21, 2009 @ 6:37 am

    When Reagan was born my 3 year old became really sick. My husband and him had to actually go stay somewhere else (for 5 days) so Reagan wouldn’t be exposed. It was the most awful time. I was by myself, no help and missed them dearly. At first I really resented it and then started to realize how much I was bonding with her. At night it was just Reagan and I. It ended up being this very unexpected gift. I don’t wish that on anyone or suggest it, but I ended up being thankful for it.

  • Comment by McKenna
    July 21, 2009 @ 6:47 am

    Natalie, I felt the same way about Reese’s cleft lip surgery. She was miserable during her recovery and it was exhausting, but I really think the care taking I had to do during that week helped me to bond with her and her with me. She needed comfort and I was the only one who could provide that for her.

  • Gravatar July 21, 2009 @ 11:42 am

    Great article–we’re in the process of adopting so this was very helpful.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Daisy
    July 21, 2009 @ 4:21 pm

    If your baby is disabled, it brings in another whole angle to bonding. The parents often need to grieve for the child that isn’t while adjusting to and bonding with the child that is.

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