HOME arrow ATTACHMENT 101 arrow During Placement arrow Tips: When Baby Arrives
Thursday, 25 February 2021
Tips: When Baby Arrives Print
Arrival Checklist:

Emotional Age
Many attachment professionals agree that the emotional age of a child at placement is set back to zero months. It is important to always consider the emotional age of your child and not the chronological age. Emotionally, your baby needs regression in order to go through the attachment process with his forever mommy and daddy. Baby that baby!

Stay Home
Stick close to home and avoid the revolving door of visitors until the baby has had time to adjust and learn who his parents are. Remember, you are strangers to this baby. He has not been waiting a long time for you. When the time comes to introduce the baby to family and friends, it is best to limit holding to Mother and Father.

Meet Baby's Needs Quickly and Consistently
Allow baby to see you and be held by you as much as she needs to feel safe and comfortable. Respond to all cries immediately while being both calm and loving--no matter what time it is or what you are in the middle of doing.

Use Skin on Skin Contact
  • Bathe with baby
  • Carry in arms or in carrier without lots of clothing between Mommy and baby
  • Routine massages (morning and night) using lotion

Use the same lotion as baby. One baby brand we like carries a lavender (calming) and vanilla scent.

Keep bottles as an attachment tool for as long as possible. Bottles should always be given in mother's arms while encouraging eye contact. Some babies have a hard time with eye contact. In this case, place your rocker in front of a large mirror so she can still see Mommy taking care of her.

It is best to sleep while the baby sleeps so that you are alert and available for his waking hours. Co-sleeping is recommended, but expect that it may take some getting used to.

A valuable attachment tool, co-sleeping has helped families continue the bonding process throughout the night.

Use a Baby Carrier
Carry your baby close to you as long and as often as possible.

As your baby adjusts to the many changes, find a schedule in which you can begin to incorporate routines. Consistent routines help a baby predict what will happen next and help him feel safer.

Use every opportunity to make eye contact and enjoy your baby. Interact and play during bottle time, mealtime, floor time, bath time, etc. Make interacting a large part of your day. Some babies have trouble with eye contact or face-to-face interaction. In these cases, sit with her in front of a large mirror so she can still see the delight and joy in your eyes while playing in a less threatening way.

Playing games that focus the baby's attention on Mommy and Daddy like peek-a-boo and "Where's Mommy?" help establish over and over who the important caretakers in her life are now.

Singing and Nursery Rhymes
We sing familiar songs with attachment-friendly lyrics.
Rock a bye baby, in the treetop,
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall,
And Mommy will catch you, cradle and all.

Make up lyrics using familiar songs that have the child's name in it and the fact that you are his forever mommy. Sing during bottle time and on car rides. Examples (to the tune of "Are You Sleeping?"):

I love baby, sweet sweet baby,
Joshua, Joshua
I will be your mommy, forever always mommy,
Joshua, Joshua

Mommy loves you, Mommy loves you,
Yes she does, yes she does,
Mommy loves Johnny. Mommy loves Johnny.
Yes, she does. Yes, she does.

Some nursery rhymes need a little tweaking:

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children she knew just what to do.
She gave them some broth. She gave them some bread.
She gave hugs and kisses and tucked them in bed.

Select from the list in Books for Children, or make your own:

Take pictures of Mommy and baby doing daily activities together: eating, bottle feeding, sleeping, playing, rocking, dancing, hugging, etc… Compile the photos in a mini photo album. Look through the book frequently, making comments such as, "Your good mommy is feeding you a bottle" or "Your good mommy is rocking you. You're safe with Mommy."

Family and Friends
Because of separation from birth mother and at least one foster mother, often the baby may be waiting for the next caregiver to come along. Once the baby has had time to adjust to all of the different changes and learn who Mom and Dad are, it is often helpful to not only use family members and friends to run errands, cook meals, help keep house, etc. but to help them to always redirect the baby back to Mommy and Daddy. This will help establish that these two people are the primary caregivers and the most important people in his life.

A few months after my son came home, it was clear that he was waiting for his next mommy to come and take him away. He even began to do a lot of "mommy shopping" and would make cute noises for other women and reach out to strange and random women no matter where we were. During playdates he made it his mission to sit in another mother's lap and not mine. To the rest of the world he looked very social, happy, and personable. Our friends and family were thrilled, each thinking they had a special relationship with our son, but little did they know he would have just as happily gone to a complete stranger. Allowing this behavior to continue was allowing my son to continue to avoid me, his forever mommy, reinforcing that mommies are replaceable. I needed to prove otherwise. Upon seeing an attachment therapist one of the first things we had to work on was his lack of stranger anxiety and his use of other women to avoid an attachment to me. We taught all of our friends and family members whom we saw often to redirect his attention back to me immediately. Instead of allowing him to reach for Grandma and focus on her, Grandma would instead say "Hello, Johnny. I am your grandma. Where is your mommy? There she is. Mommy takes care of Johnny." And she would physically turn him around to go back to me. Exchanges like this continued for a long time until he knew I was his mommy and I was the one who took care of him. This is something that can be done from day one to help the baby learn and accept who Mommy and Daddy are and that they are forever. The baby cannot have a true relationship with anyone else until he has a healthy attachment with his mother and then father first.

FAQ: Why can't other people hold my baby? So many people have waited for our child as long as we did. How can I hurt their feelings and not let them hold our baby?

While every child is different, here is our experience. Our son came off the plane happy, smiling, and laughing. He was a beautiful and happy sixth-month-old. We planned on not letting anyone hold the baby until we felt he adjusted. Well, he looked very well-adjusted from the get-go. Everything made him happy and he took to everything so easily. Carseat, stroller, crib, new bottles, new formula, sleeping through the night…everything was so easy to introduce to him. What a happy, easy baby! And boy did he love people! It even said so in his pre-flight report. He seemed so happy and so willing to go to his grandparents, aunts, and uncles...a lot of people were waiting anxiously for this baby along with us. He seemed to adjust so well that we threw away the no holding policy and let close family members hold him earlier than we expected. He was not passed around nor held for long periods of time, but he was very loving and seemingly unaffected by the exposure to multiple family members.

As time went on our son distanced himself more and more from me, his mother, but still went happily to everyone else. I was his primary caretaker and doing a lot to promote bonding, but he avoided me more and more in ways that seemed innocent but didn't feel right to me. By the time he was home four months, he was not happy when I fed him, changed him, held him, gave him a bottle or anything that required me caring for him. By this time he completely ignored my existence and became a full-time mommy shopper. He learned lots of interesting tricks to get the attention of other women. This child would have willingly left with a complete stranger from the grocery store and never would have looked back. Meanwhile, everyone else continued to see a baby who was so easy and sweet and good and loving...I did not see that child because when it was just the two of us, he avoided me and pushed me away. It was very painful and I thought at first it had something to do with me not being a good mother...I know that is not the case now.

We had our son evaluated by an attachment therapist at ten months old. We learned that he was sensitive to the attachment process. Basically, he had the opinion of been there, done that...mommies are not trustworthy, mommies leave, I will pick my own mommy...I am safe when I control who takes care of me. From that point on no one held our son until he was out of the avoidant stage. We trained family and friends how to redirect our son back to me so I was no longer the mean lady taking him away from the loves of his life....any other woman. It took about three months of no one holding him and everyone redirecting him to Mommy, including Daddy. This was very hard on some family members who did not understand, but who would blame them? After all, he always looked happy to them. They didn't see what went on when potential mommies were not around.

Because my son was sensitive to the attachment process, allowing anyone, including the grandmothers who waited as anxiously as we did, to hold him for even a few minutes was confusing because he did not know or accept that I am his mommy and I am the one who will take care of him forever. It was a lot of hard work, really hard work that might not have been so hard had I stuck to the original plan. So even if they look happy and well-adjusted, try to remember, you are a stranger to this child. Not all children will react like my son, but since we don't know for sure--and remember it was a few months before our son began to push me away--I highly recommend that you put the baby's emotional health before the feelings of family members who do not live with you. (a. 6mo, FC)

Another adoptive mom shares her story:

I am hoping not to offend anyone -- just wanting to share our experiences with no holding. We have three children adopted from Korea. With our first two, we did very little reading about attachment and thought we would just love our children to pieces and all would be well. Our first two arrived at 4 1/2 months of age. My husband is from a large family; they love to pass the baby and believe the child should be content and snuggle with each one. This is what our two sons experienced soon after their arrival - - one struggled and cried and the other seemed indifferent. I felt sad and sick after each visit.

With our third adoption, our daughter was 6 1/2 months at arrival. Before her arrival, we read about and researched attachment. I asked our social worker about no holding for six weeks. She said she had seen wonderful transitions with those who had done this. With the loss and uncertainty our children have experienced before coming to us, not allowing others to hold our child made sense. Before our daughter's arrival, we informed family and friends that we would be the only ones to hold our daughter for six weeks. Because we had allowed our first two to be held, we explained that our daughter was older and we felt we needed to do this to help with her adjustment and attachment. We knew some might not be accepting, yet it wasn't about what other people needed; this was what our child needed.

Our daughter's adjustment has been remarkable in comparison to our sons'. We can't know if this was due to no holding initially, personality, or the other attachment methods we have implemented. Our daughter was never anxious and upset when others visited during those first weeks. Our sons were. My seventy-year-old father was so struck by the difference in adjustment with our third child, he remarked that maybe we shouldn't be so anxious to let others hold our daughter after six weeks! (a. 4.5mo, 4.5mo, 6.5mo, FC)

FAQ: Why should we pick our daughter up every time she cries? Won't this spoil her?

Until there is a more secure and healthy attachment, which takes many months and in some children even longer, it is important to meet needs quickly and consistently until the baby learns that you are the one who takes care of her and keeps her safe. Learning to trust that you are the forever mommy and daddy takes a lot of time and reassurance. Picking her up every time she expresses a need to be held proves to her that you will always take care of her and you are trustworthy. Even children adopted in the early days or months of life may struggle with trust.

FAQ: Shouldn't my baby be weaned from bottles when he's one year old?

Think of your child in terms of being emotionally as old as the number of months he's been home. If your child has only been home 5 months, ask yourself if you would wean a five-month-old baby from bottles. In your child's case, the bottle is a valuable attachment tool. He should be having his bottles in your arms while you hold the bottle and encourage eye contact. He should not be holding the bottle himself nor having it anywhere other than in your arms. All other drinks can come from a sippy cup but bottle time is still valuable for forming a healthy and secure bond between mother and child. It isn't unusual for children with attachment impairments to continue using bottles (with mom) for several years. Pediatricians are often concerned about teeth. Be sure to brush and/or wipe teeth with a washcloth after each bottle.

FAQ: We tried co-sleeping but my baby doesn't like it and sleeps better in the crib. Isn't it better that he can sleep through the night?

Many babies adopted internationally from foster care backgrounds have slept with their foster moms. When they arrive home, forever families are often perplexed by their sleep choices. They seem to prefer sleeping alone. Why the apparent change in behavior?

Sleep is a close and intimate experience. Children with attachment issues do not handle intimate experiences well and push away even in their sleep.

Our son slept beautifully in his crib for the first four months. We assumed he was a baby who adjusted easily and liked his space. Four months later the anxiety he felt began to come out in his sleep through night terrors, nightmares, frequent waking, etc… It turned out that the four months he slept beautifully was avoidant behavior. Because of the sleep and attachment issues our attachment therapist recommended co-sleeping. It was very hard for a long time. He thrashed, kicked, tossed and turned, and cried out in his sleep all night long. He also tried to sleep as far away from me as possible. He definitely slept better without me but I stuck it out. It took a good six weeks before co-sleeping felt like it was successful. He now sleeps very peacefully and rolls into my body during the night and in the morning for comfort. Co-sleeping has had a profound and extremely positive effect on his attachment to me. I feel as though it has helped us to "gel". I can now tell while he's sleeping if he's experiencing any heightened anxiety and am better able to address behaviors the following day. (a. 6mo, FC)

We tried to co-sleep when our son arrived, knowing that his foster mother had slept with him. He would wake up repeatedly, often startling. We finally decided that we must be waking him up so we moved him to his crib. He continued to have some trouble. On the advice of our adoption social worker, we let him cry-it-out a couple of times. After a few nights, he settled in and slept wonderfully by himself. Ten months later, the night terrors and nightmares began. Twelve months after homecoming we figured out that he had an attachment problem. At age two, on the advice of attachment professionals, we began to co-sleep. It took about six weeks to succeed. Co-sleeping has been a wonderful bonding experience. In some ways it has reminded me of the intimacy achieved with my bio children through breastfeeding. Something about co-sleeping helps to regulate the child and helps the parent to more clearly understand where the child is in the attachment process. Only wish we'd have stuck with it in the beginning. (a. 5.5mo, FC)

FAQ: My baby is very big. Why should I carry him?

For attachment purposes it is very important to carry the baby, especially when he first comes home. By using a carrier (such as an Ergo) that keeps the baby physically close, he is able to experience more face to face time and eye contact, feel the warmth of the mother and learn her scent, and use the mother to help him regulate which will in turn help the child to self-regulate. Because babies are older and do not hold onto the parent, they often feel extremely heavy and difficult to carry. A good carrier that is front facing (facing mother), does not have material between the child and mother, is made for older/heavier babies, and is suited for long wear, makes carrying a lot easier on the mother. The Ergo is one of our favorite carriers.

FAQ: Should I show my child photos of his foster mother? Why?

Yes. Some children will find comfort from seeing photos of his foster family. Others may grieve. But, in both cases, the child will be able to experience his feelings--good or bad--in the safety and security of his adoptive parent's arms.

At the age of 13 months, my son was miserable and had been for several days. Then we looked at pictures of his foster family. The whining stopped. And he just looked intently through the album. He'd turn the pages quickly when there weren't foster family or pictures of us, his adoptive parents. He'd carefully study photos with any of his parents. He looked studious, and sentimental, but not heartbroken. Then, on one page, he leaned in and kissed his foster mom's photo. After the pictures, he was sad and a bit whiney, but could be comforted by me easily. We keep the album where he can look at it anytime, but never when we aren't around since we don't want him to be lonely/sad without our comfort. He goes through it frequently. (a. 6mo,FC)

I got out the album from his foster mom and showed it to my son. HE LOVED IT!! He pointed and smiled and laughed but not in a way to shut me out. We must have looked at it for 15 minutes (which is long for him to sit with a book).

The best part was my baby came back! He was pleasant all day and even started calling me "Mam" which he seemed to stop doing the last 2 weeks. I had to take the other kids out last night and I leaned down and said, "Mommy needs to go bye bye, I love you and Mommy will be back." Instead of pitching a fit he smiled and gave me a kiss! All I know is something changed and the only thing that was different was the album.

When I got home at 8:30 he was in bed but awake. I scooped him up and rocked him and he smiled and snuggled in. What a way to end the night. (a. 6mo, FC)
< Prev   Next >
Top! Top!