Continuing research is consistently showing us how important it is to build attachment bonds with our children. Did you know that, even in cases where infants are placed shortly after birth, attachment isn’t an automatic reflex for all adoptees? Here are some ways that you can work to increase the attachment your child feels towards you.
- Cuddle cuddle cuddle. Skin-to-skin contact is essential to infant attachment. Many adoptive parents, simply because they are not breastfeeding their babies, don’t spend much time holding their infant right next to their skin. Strip that baby down and place him right on your bare chest—moms AND dads. Bonus for you: that sweet baby smell will put you right to sleep.
- Don’t ignore cues. I promise that you are not “spoiling” the baby by picking her up when she cries. Let her learn that you are going to respond to her needs and, in doing so, she will attach to you quicker and easier. You can ignore her cries when she is thirteen and wants an iPhone.
- Consider NOT passing him around. I know that, when you get that sweet little bundle in your arms, you want to show him off to the world, but consider holding on to him while you do. The more time YOU spend holding him, especially in the beginning, the more time he will attach to you. This isn’t to say grandma can’t get a snuggle in, but in making sure you are with him 90% of the time, you will help foster a more secure attachment. This is also true with adopting toddlers—many professionals suggest only mom and dad get to hold and comfort the child for the first few months.
- Sling her up! Wrapping your baby up and carrying her in a sling is a great way to keep her close to you physically. The more she learns to respond to you, and the more she feels comforted by your presence the better. This will also help with getting more skin-to-skin contact in at the same time!
- Be consistent. Especially with older adoptees, make sure you are consistent in your routine and your parenting. Kids that don’t have firm attachment bonds don’t expect adults to take care of them. Show your older child that you will ALWAYS do what you say and that you will stay their parent no matter how they act out. Remember, older kids who don’t attach often try to push away the caregivers in their life as a way to control the big, scary world.
- Seek professional help. If you feel like your child hasn’t attached to you or is displaying signs of attachment disorder, get help as soon as you can because things can go from bad to worse pretty quickly. There is no shame in needing a pro to walk you and your child through increasing the bond between the two of you, and therapy will help a ton. Talk to your social worker or therapist early and often, too, to make sure that you are on the right path.
Jennifer Galan mothers four kids (one adopted, three biological) all while living the nomadic life of a military wife. She is a strong advocate for open adoptions, education reform, feminism, kindness, and naps. Mostly naps. Her favorite Doctor is number ten, and she is a proud Ravenclaw.