8 Ways to Bond With Your Child
Perhaps one of the biggest worries that hopeful parents have is that they won’t bond with their new baby. As adoptive parents, we don’t get 9+ months to grow our belly, feel kicks, learn their habits or feel their hiccups. Instead, our months are usually filled with unknowns, anxiety, fear, excitement, hesitant preparation, and a lot of waiting.
I’m here to tell you good news. You WILL bond with your new baby. I’m a mama of two. Although my love for them is equally immense and profound, my bond with each of them is very different. It took me longer to bond with one over the other and we bond in different ways. Don’t be afraid if you feel that instant bond and don’t feel discouraged if it takes months. When you throw all the adoption-related “things” that happen after placement (waiting for TPR, ICPC, traveling home, court dates, finalization, maintain communication with birth family, etc), you’re likely already stressed and just plain exhausted.
Here are 8 ways to bond with your new baby.
Cocooning. When we brought each of our daughter’s home, we partook in some serious cocooning. Although this wasn’t a popular choice with some of our family and friends, we had to do what was best for us. We delayed seeing family for several days while we got settled and focused on our new daughter. We didn’t allow people to visit for the first few weeks. We stayed at home and created a soft, safe, and calm environment. We took each of our girls on a little tour of our home, introduced them to their rooms, and spaces we’d spend a lot of time in. We had no other obligations or responsibilities other than caring for ourselves and our child. Your child is suddenly hearing new voices, seeing new things, and experiencing life outside of the womb. Think how overwhelming that must be for them.
Babywearing. We did a lot of babywearing the first several months of our daughter’s lives and I believe that was a major contributor to my bond with them. I would use wraps such as a Moby Wrap or Tula Ring Sling and wear my girls as I was doing things around the house or walk to the mailbox down the street. And I would always wear them if we were out in public. I wanted them to feel my skin, hear my heartbeat, and feel safe and secure. My husband even became quite a good babywearer and felt bonded with them, too.
Caregiving activities. Before I became a mom, I read a lot of Janet Lansbury’s work. She encourages respectful parenting and believes that babies are born as whole, competent beings that are fully capable to understand and participate. So intimate caregiving activities, such as feeding, diaper changes, and baths, are all great opportunities to bond with our children. While performing these activities, we went through them slowly, and explained what was happening. For the first many months of their lives, my husband and I were the only ones to change diapers, do feedings, and bathe our children. This ensured that they understood our role as parents and that we would always be the ones to care for them. Our girls are now 20 months and 14 months and we only allow a grandma and nanny (in addition to my husband and I) to perform these activities. They are moments of intimacy and trust and I believe this approach had a wonderfully positive influence on our bond and trust.
Be present. I could really just say – ditch the electronics! Our phones don’t even go upstairs (which is where our girls’ rooms and playroom is) so that we can fully be present in their presence. We save our work or mindless social media scrolling for times when our children are not around. I believe that by being present, we send the message that we are fully invested in them. They feel heard, cared for, and respected.
Read. We have read hundreds and hundreds of books with our children. It’s one of our favorite activities and one of the best ways to bond. We sit in their rocking chair and happily read for hours each day. My girls now often request to go sit in their chair in the middle of the day just to read and it’s a joyful time for all of us.
Acknowledge their feelings. We never say “it’s okay” to our children. Because in their world, they’re feeling a lot of emotions and seeing things they can’t control and it’s not okay. When you’re upset, would you want someone to say “you’re okay, you’re fine” and keep on walking? No! Why do we feel it’s okay to tell our children their feelings don’t matter or aren’t real? Instead, we say things like “I hear you, you’re really upset” or “I see you didn’t like that” or “I know, that is really tough” and you would be shocked how children react to that when they feel heard and acknowledged. It’s a powerful, powerful way to bond.
Take a hike. I take my girls hiking all the time. Sometimes, I wear them in a wrap or sling and sometimes they want to walk. But fresh air, no distractions, and endless ways to explore is such a fun, amazing way to bond. This is one of my favorite things to do with my girls.
Just dance. I can’t tell you how many times I have danced around the living room or kitchen with at least one of my girls in tow. Even as newborns, I’d wear them in a wrap, play some soft music, and slowly dance around. The movement felt good for me, too. And as the get older, they enjoy this activity even more. I believe it’s beautiful for them to see their mom having fun and enjoying these little moments, too.
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