When you adopt or foster a newborn, you may not always know what sort of pre-birth trauma he or she has experienced. You will know that he or she has endured at least one trauma: being separated from his or her birth mom. This means you will need to ensure he or she feels safe and secure. Trauma and infant adoption are not strangers to each other. Trauma has been explained this way:
“An overwhelming physical or emotional event for which a child has no words to describe his pain.”
Knowing this, what can a parent do to encourage a feeling of safety for the child which will in turn allow him or her to bond with you?
1. Hold your child as much as possible. At this stage, you cannot spoil him or her. When a baby remains with his or her birth mother the baby automatically knows mom. Her smell and the sound of her voice will be familiar, bringing comfort. Your new baby will have to learn to know his or her mother. To aid in this, only mom should feed and comfort your child. Wearing your baby in a sling close to your heart is one way to keep baby nearby while getting your work done.
2. Keep visitors to a bare minimum until the baby is settled in.
3. Keep the home quiet and lights down.
4. Even if your baby appears healthy, it is good to find a developmental pediatrician who will guide you as you make decisions for your baby.
5. It is so tempting to show your new little one to family and friends. In the first weeks especially, stay home whenever possible. Your baby has been through an incredible amount of trauma and he or she needs stability and security to bond and heal.
6. If possible find out if your new baby was exposed to any illegal substances. An infant will go through withdrawal after birth if mom was using drugs. Withdrawal is painful and your baby will be easily overstimulated. Do not hesitate to ask your baby’s pediatrician if you have any concerns.
7. Find a support group for adoptive mothers. While bringing a new baby home is a wonderful experience, it can also be a stressful time. Having a listening ear can make all the difference!
For more information about trauma and infant adoption, click here.