For information about bonding with an older child, tap here.
Whether you felt that instant zing of connection the very first day you met your new baby or your bond is still developing, the truth is that the two of you haven’t had the chance to know each other for very long yet. As your family’s journey continues, building and strengthening that bond with your child is going to be one of the most important adventures you take together.
All families need time to bond with each other, whether they’re genetically related or not, so it’s important to be patient with yourself and with your family as you get to know each other. There are a few strategies which many families find helpful in building this bond.
Meeting your baby’s needs
One of the biggest ways any adult builds a trusting relationship with any young child is by responding to their needs and wants. You’ll do this naturally, by feeding your baby when they’re hungry, bathing them, and soothing them when they’re upset. It can sometimes take longer for parents who have adopted older babies and toddlers to start to feel like this kind of hands-on parenting is natural, but every daily, routine caretaking action will help to prove to your little one that they can trust you, and that your family’s bond is going to last.
One strategy which many parents of very young children find helpful as a way of reinforcing this bond through meeting a young child’s needs is restrictive feeding. In restrictive feeding, for a certain amount of time when the new family is bonding, only the new parents feed the baby, so that the baby begins to associate their parents with food, comfort, and having their needs met in the future. Restricted visitation is another strategy, and has the new family take a few weeks to themselves to bond, with only very limited visitors. Finally, for newborns and very young babies, some parents find that inducing lactation so they can breastfeed is a great way to bond with a new little one.
Another significant way that parents and babies and young children bond is through physical contact – it’s one of the main ways young children communicate, after all. This physical bonding is a large part of why skin-to-skin contact with a newborn is becoming a more and more expected part of newborn care. Skin-to-skin contact releases endorphins that promote bonding, meaning there are physiological reasons why contact is a part of bonding. This means that every time you hug, kiss, or cuddle your little one close, you’re helping to build your bond with them.
It’s for this reason that many adoptive parents of young children do some babywearing – that is, carrying their little ones around close to their bodies using slings or carriers. This kind of carrying gives parents that extra touch-time that babies and young children who have been adopted might need to help them build those strong, healthy bonds of trust with their parents.
A final note
The feeling that you’re not bonding with a new child as quickly or as completely as you might have hoped for or expected is completely normal. While many families do feel a bond quickly and intensely after adopting, for many others, that bond takes time and attention to develop. It’s important to remember that familial bonds that take a little longer to develop generally end up just as strong and positive as bonds that seem to appear more quickly.
Some of why a bond may take a while to develop can come down to the fact that adopted children are dealing with a separation, as well as a new family. A large part of the reason a bond may take time to develop just comes down to the fact that your child is a person you haven’t known very long yet. Plenty of parents with biological children also find that it takes them some time to develop the life-long bond they’ll have with their children.