Your Baby, Yourself
Your baby needs your full attention now. Here are some tips for keeping happy, healthy, and focused on the new priority in your life.
At last, after months of waiting, your child is home. Adoptive parents may worry that missing out on pregnancy or their infant’s first days or months will impede attachment. In fact, for both biological and adoptive families, attachment is almost always a journey, not an instant event. It takes time to get to know your child, to develop the rhythm and confidence to parent. In these first days, it is vital that you take care of only the essentials—your partner and your baby. Avoiding other claims on your attention will enhance your ability to bond. Much as you want to show off your new baby, use the first weeks to get acquainted at your own pace.
Remember that, in these first weeks, you and your baby are in transition. You’re not yet familiar with your child’s cues or the meaning of his cries. You may feel clumsy at holding, making bottles, burping, bathing, diaper changes.
There is extraordinary joy when you first learn that, after years of longing, your baby is waiting for you. Don’t be surprised if it is impossible to sustain such joy. Disappointment is very common after attaining major milestones. Like bio parents, some adoptive parents will experience a post-adoption depression as a result.
Strategies for the first few weeks:
Limit visits. Your baby needs time to bond with you, unencumbered by distraction. Unplug the phone or leave a voice message if excited friends keep calling.
Get help. Hire out the housework, lawn mowing, or cooking. Ask friends to fix meals, run errands, shop, and care for your other children. The less you have on your mind, the more attention you can pay to your baby’s well-being.
Get support. Join an adoption support group, if you haven’t already. Share your feelings with others online or in a community setting. Some adoptive parents are embarrassed to complain to friends and family about baby’s crying, colic, or diaper rash. “I felt like people would say that I asked for him....” Adoption counselor professionals can be an enormous aid, too.
If you are feeling unsure about caring for your baby, attend an infant care seminar hosted by a hospital or adoption agency. This is your chance to get “hands-on” experience. Many hospitals and public health agencies can arrange to have a nurse visit your home and give one-on-one instruction.
Make things cozy, not fancy. Infants don’t care about an elegant nursery. All they need is to be safe and loved and warm. Be sure that your baby’s crib or bassinet (as well as her car seat) meets the highest safety standards. To reduce the risk of SIDS (crib death), always put your child to bed on her back.
Take care of yourself. Even a 15-minute walk around the block or 20 minutes of yoga can help you relax and clear your mind. Try to eat well.
Get some sleep! Exhaustion can make those first weeks even harder. Sleep when you can—preferably, whenever baby naps.
You may decide to keep your baby in the family bed for the first weeks. If so, do not use a waterbed or soft bedding that could smother a child. If you can’t get sleep well with your baby in the bed, try a bassinet or crib that attaches to your bed. (An example may be seen at www.armsreach.com.)
Hang on to your sense of humor. Raising children is serious business, but you have to laugh at yourself or you are finished.
Take everybody’s advice, even mine, with a grain of salt. Sister, friend, doctor, mother-in-law—all will tell you what to do. Follow your own instincts about how to raise your child. Even as a new parent, you can trust that gut feeling about your baby.
By Marybeth Lambe, M.D.
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