An Adoptive Parent’s Guide to Bonding With Newborns

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Before every parent holds their baby for the very first time, there are a million questions that run through their minds. Can I really do this? Am I the right person to raise this child? Will this baby even like me? What if I am terrible at this? Adoptive parents have even more questions in addition to the ones that biological parents do. It may feel like your adopted newborn can’t bond with you the same way that another newborn might bond with their biological parent. After all, how can you replace all of the connections Mother Nature creates between a mother and the life growing inside of her?

Remember, birth mothers put a lot of thought into choosing adoptive families for their child. Your birth mother chose you for a reason—because she had faith that you would be able to love, teach, and provide for her child. She believed in you and trusted you. You need to believe and trust in yourself, too!

The idea that an adoptive parent can’t bond with their newborn is simply not true. The love that you feel for your new baby is just as strong as your love would be if they came from you. Newborns come into this world needing to be fed, needing to sleep, and needing a connection. That connection is formed with time and patience, and even for biological parents that bond does not always happen immediately. Here are some strategies to use when bonding with your baby that all parents can benefit from.

Skin-to-Skin Contact

Child care experts, doctors, and doulas agree that one of the best ways to bond with a newborn is through skin-to-skin contact. In practice, it is the act of holding your baby against your skin while they are wearing only a diaper. Many hospitals initiate skin-to-skin contact with the mother moments after birth to help regulate breathing and vital signs.

Newborns go from an environment of warmth, food and protection inside their mother’s body to suddenly being out in the open, where they would naturally feel more vulnerable. Skin-to-skin care (or “kangaroo care”) is helping them feel that same security outside of the womb and will naturally help you form that solid bond that will last a lifetime.

While this is one of the more direct, physical strategies for bonding with your baby, you can further strengthen the bond by creating routines for the day-to-day. This helps them feel secure and create strong, positive memories. Restricting visitors for a time will also help your baby connect with you and your immediate family, although a new baby can always mean lots of excited visitors. It is important to remember that the time your baby spends with you is the most important and formative.

Be There for Them

Contrary to what you might think sometimes, babies don’t just cry to ensure that their parents are sufficiently sleep-deprived. They cry because they’re helpless, and it’s their only way to communicate when they’re uncomfortable. And while it may be possible to spoil an older baby with too much attention, infants simply can’t get enough.

Research has found that how parents react to their babies when they cry has a significant impact on their development. Babies with parents who responded quickly, consistently, and warmly tend to have healthier emotional development and better reactions to stress than those with parents who responded otherwise. When you respond quickly to your child’s cries of distress, they learn that they can trust you, that they are safe with you, that they’re not alone, and that they are loved.

This is very important information for a tiny human who is just barely starting life. If you sometimes find it difficult to hear your baby (most parents experience this at some point or other), it’s worthwhile to set up a baby monitor.