Adopting a baby is a wonderful and heartwarming experience. It can also be scary, overwhelming and stressful. After months of waiting and completing a mountain of paper work, your baby is finally with you. You are most likely experiencing some conflicting emotions. The responsibility that comes with adoption is no different from that of a biological child, but it may feel a bit strange because the child is not biologically yours. Don't worry. Research shows that adoptive families form bonds as easily as biological families. It may just require a different kind of preparation.
Easing the Transition
Check with the adoption home about your baby's sleep and feeding routines so that you can follow the same at home. Try and use the same formula feed for a while before changing it so that you can ease him into the new plan that you have in mind. If possible, you could send a blanket, clothes and some soft toy from home to the orphanage beforehand so that the baby gets familiar to the smells at home. When you bring the baby home, make sure you keep his clothing on for a while so that he is surrounded by familiar smells. Babies are usually quite adaptable. As you establish your own routine, the baby will get comfortable with the change. Do not be afraid if the baby is cranky at first. Allow time for the transition. Be comforting and emotionally available.
Building a Bond With the Baby
Do remember that your adoptive child may not have had an opportunity to bond deeply with anyone so far. However that does not mean that the baby is not missing his previous environment. Since babies are very sensitive to smells, sounds and sights, it may take a while to adjust to your home and new surroundings. So for the first few days it might be a good idea not to have any visitors. The baby may spend the first few days crying or fussing and this is what any new parent experiences, whether biological or adoptive. Make sure that it is only the parents handling the baby for the first few weeks. Give the baby a couple of weeks to get accustomed to you. Try to keep things low-key for a while. Too much celebration in the beginning may overwhelm the baby.
Forming an Attachment With the Baby
Make sure you are the primary care giver in terms of feeding, bathing and putting the baby to sleep. When you take him out for a walk put him in a baby carrier close to your chest instead of a pram so that he can hear the comforting beat of your heart. Ensure body contact with him while feeding, changing and playing with him. Physical contact is a very important aspect of forging an attachment with babies. Newly adopted babies need to be responded to immediately when they cry in the night for them to gain trust that someone is there to take care of them. Rocking, singing and cuddling him often will give him a sense of security and comfort. Engage with him frequently by playing traditional baby games or with toys.
Introducing Baby to Family and Friends
Start introducing your baby gradually to your family and friends. Instead of having them all come at the same time, you could space out the introductions in small groups so that you don't overwhelm the baby too much. Allow the immediate family some extra time to spend time with the baby so that they can form a close bond.
Adoption can change your family life much as the arrival of a biological baby would. So read various books on adoption, ask the adoption agencies for their inputs and do reach out to other adoptive parents for their experiences. If there are support group meetings for adoptive parents, like SuDatta in Karnataka, make sure you are a part of such groups. You can ask the social workers too for their inputs. Keep your support systems like cooks, maids, baby sitters etc., in place before you bring baby home. Ask family for help in cooking, laundry, shopping and other chores that you can delegate, so that you are free to spend exclusive time with the baby.
Make Time For Yourself
Don't forget to pay attention to your own needs as it is a stressful time for you as well. Make time to eat well, exercise or do yoga and catch up with your partner. If you have older children make sure that you spend time with them as they too will be adjusting to the new addition in the family.
Post Adoption Depression (PAD)
Just like post-partum depression, post-adoption depression is a very real issue. After months of preparation, when your baby is finally home and the initial euphoria wears off, some parents do experience a drop in mood. Be aware of your feelings. Try not to feel guilty or judge yourself and seek help from a counselor or speak to other adoptive parents if you are unable to cope with your emotions.
Being a parent in today's fast moving world can be a challenging experience but the rewards far outweigh the struggles. It is a demanding full-time job but you will be surprised at how your home and heart expands to accommodate your bundle of joy. Very soon you may not even remember the time that your baby wasn't part of your life. Finally, do remember to trust your own gut instincts as far as parenting goes. Just because you are not the biological parent does not mean you do not have parental instincts.