June 19, 2006

Attachment Parenting for...me?

Adoptive parents are deprived of the early "birth-bonding" with our children. While Guatemala excels in offering personalized foster care which naturally promotes good attachment, it does not replace the need for attachment parenting. The new parent is also struggling with the giant change in their lives...how easy it is to hang on every well meaning friend's advice while depriving your child of necessary bonding.

Is there such a thing as "make-up" bonding? Well, my personal opinion is YES! Attachment parenting is s life-long strategy (age appropriate, of course) to promote strong bonds throughout a child's life. Like exercise alternatives, it is something that is chosen for your and your family and can be altered for certain lifestyles.

In the past, it has bothered me to hear a newly adopted parent say..."He bonded to me immediately". Typically, that statement is really "I have been bonding to HIM since the first referral picture and when he looks to me for care, I assume he is attached..." There is a magical moment when mom/dad and child come together...however, bonding is the close MUTUAL relationship established from ongoing care through sickness and health. It is a condition that the child KNOWS he/she can depend on your care. This history is missing for an adopted child and in MANY ways the child needs to be treated as a newborn!! Sadly, adoption is another trauma in a child's life...changing caregivers can have a devastating effect on a child's mental health.

I can go on about the potential issues with attachment disorders, but there are much better articles available! Every adoptive parent should read about attachment issues and the symptoms.

Friends, relatives and especially physicians (unfamiliar with adoption) will tell you to stick to schedules, get the child off the bottle, let them cry it out, keep the child in his/her own room and even that you are holding him/her too much. My personal "been there, done that" is to nod at the physician (no use arguing), discuss attachment strategy with close friends and family BEFORE they offer input and to discuss strategies with others who are in similar circumstances. Keep in mind that NO friend or family member is going to be appreciative of you scoffing their advice. Its a tough balance between letting yourself be constantly scolded and YOU alienating your friends by embarrassing them. If you are firm about your plans even before the child comes home, you will find ways to accomplish your goals *and* keep friendships in tact.

Again, attachment parenting is not a one size fits all routine. As a working mother (at least most of the time), I opted to select things that my friend (also an adoptive parent) chose NOT to do based on our child's personality and our own sanity. Dani will be 4 years old in the fall. She sleeps in a toddler bed in OUR room. When she is sick, she sleeps with me. To this day, she "snuggles" with me before bedtime and I can say that right now she is very well adjusted and attached.

Other things you can do:
Primary caretaker theory - In the beginning, one person should assume the primary caretaker role. Limit passing your baby around (hard for families and homecomings). The primary caretaker needs to do 90% of the primary tasks (like holding!). Let your family support you like preparing bottles! There is no problem with family members holding the baby...but you need to stress the importance of becoming the primary caretaker (even if the spouse is as excited and enthusiastic as you are). This bond will actually support family bonding with other individuals SOONER than if you do not take this approach. Whether or not "things are busy at work", you need to take some time off to promote bonding. Otherwise, a child may not understand who the primary caregiver is supposed to be!
Longer Bottlefeeding - The intimacy formed by providing sustinance to a baby is priceless. I treasured holding my daughter during this time. I don't remember when we stopped completely...but I do remember that we had a morning and nighttime routine well after it was necessary.
No crying it out for a couple of months - Yes, you will feel as if you are verginig on promoting bad habits. But I strongly believe that a habit was easier to break than therapy for a child traumatized by fear of neglect. Afterall, those first few months while your child may "appear" to be attached, they have no choice but to trust that you will act as their caregiver. Clinginess can be a symptom of fear. A clingy baby or child (one who fusses as soon as you leave their site) is looking to see if you will be there for them. This is where baby holding and wearing may give them more confidence to settle.
Baby wearing - Yes, it is true that a child hanging on your back or on your front fusses less than one in a crib. Though it is not always practical, it can be a miracle worker in stores or while trying to fold the laundry! This also had an interesting side-effect. I became ultra sensitive to my daughter's state of health. I could "smell" when she was starting to get sick or was worn out (a subtle change in her baby smell!). Today, she is still subconciously comforted by my closeness even when she is asleep. (When she is sick, she breathes easier next to me and when she has bad dreams she "settles" when I pull her close).Dani-time - We try to set aside a quiet time for just me and Dani each day. Since I am not a stay-at-home mom, we do not have the luxury of quatity time to promote attachment.

It has not been easy being a working mom. Sometimes, careers are not conducive to being a good parent. I certainly earned the T-shirt for attempting the balancing act here!!! Moreover, its tough to keep the job stresses out of your child's care. I envy those who can cut back or even quit their job.

Today, I am happy to have a very independent, good natured and well behaved daughter. While I don't think I am the perfect parent and we do struggle with issues here and there....she is happy and healthy. More importantly, *we* are well attached!


Posted by Kelly at 09:10 PM

March 08, 2003


Something that EVERY potential adopting parent should read about (especially, if you are thinking about adopting a toddler or older child).

Here are some sites that may be of help:
NAMASTE (Treatment Center in New Mexico)
Attachment Disorder Site at attachmentdisorder.net (please note, I am temporarily removing this link. Apparently, one of THEIR links has been hacked by some porno groups and the link is mildly distructive (popups that lock the system up).
Attachment Disorder Support Group


Posted by Kelly at 10:30 AM