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Saturday, 16 January 2021
Tips: Preparing for Baby’s Arrival Print
Prearrival Checklist:

Educate Yourself
Read as much as you can about attachment, bonding, and the neurological issues that may result from separation from the birth mother.

Send a Package to Baby
Find out from your agency if it is possible to send a package to the baby to help prepare him for his forever family. Send pictures of your family. Send a brand of lotion that you can continue using when he comes home; the smell will be familiar and comforting.

Learn the Language
Learn a few comforting, familiar phrases in the child's language. Learn how to say the baby's name with the correct pronunciation and plan to use it for a while in your home, even if you plan to introduce a new name. For example, if the child's name is Soon Jee in his birth country, you might plan to call him Soon Jee for a while, then add his new name ("Soon Jee James"), before you completely transition to the new name.

Make a Photo Album (or begin a lifebook)
Begin to make an album or lifebook. Have the album ready so that pictures can be added once the baby is home. Show the adoptive parents preparing for the baby's arrival, the child in his birth country with his foster family, and the forever family at home after his arrival. This album will help serve as a tool to allow your child to grieve and gradually make sense of the transitions in his life.

Find soothing music in the child's native language.

Prepare before baby arrives for sleeping arrangements. Co-sleeping has helped many families continue the attachment process throughout the night.

Prepare Family and Friends
When the baby comes home, it is highly recommended that you stick close to home and give the baby time to learn who Mommy and Daddy are before introducing other people. Your baby will need time to adjust to all of the new changes in his life before being overwhelmed by more unfamiliar people and places. Some babies show outward signs of anxiety and distress and others hide their feelings and bottle them up, leaving you to think they are easy-going, which may dramatically change at a later point.

Family and friends often want to help. The best kind of help is for others to run your errands, make dinner, and help with things around the house so that you are free to hold and bond with the baby.

Prepare for the Emotional Age
No matter how old your child is when he comes home, it is wise to see his emotional age as starting over at zero months old when he is transitioned to his forever family so that he can go through the attachment process with you. Prepare for a baby who will be significantly younger emotionally than his chronological age. Realize that although he may look independent, he needs to be babied and allowed to regress.

Strengthen Muscles
Your baby will be older, heavier, and have a need to be carried for long periods of time. Get those muscles ready. One mother reported that her son came home at 6 months old and 28 pounds.

Many mothers successfully nurse their adoptive babies. If you plan to breastfeed, you'll want to plan ahead by inducing lactation. One adoptive mother shares her story:
I am successfully nursing my daughter. It took a long time and it was very difficult, yet this has been THE MOST FULFILLING choice I made in adoption. At first I had brushed it off thinking it was too much work and that I was forcing an issue. The thing that peaked my interest in it again was an encounter with her as I gave her a first bottle in Seoul's airport, when she had been mine for less than an hour. She lay in the nursing position and INSISTED on touching my other breast. Her eyes searched mine in a way I cannot explain. I decided I would look into it again when we got home. Two weeks later we began. It would take six months to get what I originally envisioned in that airport. It was worth every moment.

I moved from bottle to bottle nipple and Lactaid (a type of supplement) placed over my breast. I pumped and used herbs and a medication to stimulate more supply, as I was still lactating from my son who was still nursing occasionally. I started with a supply of less than 2 ounces per day in March and by May I had 16 ounces per day!

I believe it was connected to bonding/attachment because of her very distinct negative reaction when I tried to go back to bottle feeding exclusively. She basically refused the bottle, even to the point of being very hungry and thirsty over a period of five days. It took a while longer after we went back to the shield/supplement situation, but she suddenly--without my initiation--jumped to full natural breastfeeding and now won't even entertain any other idea.

She calls it her "juice" and uses nursing to go to sleep and for bonding purposes. How do I know? Well, if I am busy with something else and not paying attention to her what does she ask to do? Nurse and LOOK INTO HER EYES! No joke, this kid insists that I do what is best for her because I showed her how to connect! Also she will go get the sling and initiate her coping skill, that I "wear" her and nurse her when she feels scared in public situations or she is overtired. She has become just like my biological nursers, right down to rooting for me at night while we co-sleep.

For us, it was a healing and attaching process that forced me to focus on her. Now, reading about attaching, I really believe this made all the difference in the world. There was a hollowness about her and how she reacted to me during the first three months she was home. Yes, she smiled at me and laughed, but she also grieved so heavily it was heart wrenching. She seemed to be "playing nice" so I would engage with her, almost as some sort of coping skill because she felt threatened. She also would NOT allow me to put her down for the first three months she was home; even after that it was still VERY INTENSE! Now, she is just like any other kiddo, bio or not, that has attached to me.

My mother, who went with me to bring her home from Korea, and lives across the street, agrees. She is extremely close to us both. We recently had a conversation about it, and she is so glad we chose to do this. My husband is amazed at how adoptive breastfeeding or ABF has changed my daughter's personality to a vivacious and loving child. BTW, the first day she nursed "naturally" with no supplement, bottle nipples or shields was the first day she kissed me unasked. NO JOKE!

Website support for adoptive breastfeeding:

Who Goes to the Airport?
The day your baby comes home is a joyous occasion and many people have been waiting anxiously right along with you. But it is important to remember that while you have been waiting anxiously for your baby, your baby has not been waiting anxiously for you. Think of all the losses he is experiencing and how scary and confusing this must be for him. It is recommended that you not further overwhelm your baby with lots of faces at the airport. Limit holding to only Mother and Father for as long as possible.

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 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)

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)
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