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Why is Bonding and Attachment so Important...

Bonding and Attachment is formed at the time a fetus begins to grow.  After eight weeks in utero, a baby will begin to respond to touch, sound, and light.  After 28 weeks, the baby will start hearing the sounds around them.  By the third trimester a baby is able to respond to sound and rhythm.  The strongest prenatal communication between a baby and mother is hormonal.  Research shows that the baby can even play an influential role in the controlling when labor starts by releasing hormones that stimulate the uterus to contract.  In just minutes after a baby is born, they are able recognize the mother’s voice, resonate to her heartbeat and find food.

The question is: Can a baby tell the difference between his birthmother and the adoptive parents? 
After birth, an infant must reach a new physiological balance as a result of being outside rather than inside the body he shared for nine months.  While birth in itself can be exhausting, learning to adapt to the world without the comfort of what is familiar can take even longer.  Regardless of how welcomed and loved a baby might be by their new parents, extra stress on the part of the baby must be anticipated.  Although a baby might not be capable of processing the changes around them, they are still able to sense a change in sounds, smells, stress and rhythms.  His world has been upset, and therefore he has experienced a loss and will likely react.  Responses to such a drastic change in environment can include crying, difficulty sucking, bowel or bladder disturbances, or withdrawal.  Typically such changes are temporary and reverse as he begins to adjust to his new environment. 

It is not uncommon for a newborn and their parents to not fall in love instantly.  Although you may be thinking that would never be me, the reality is that sometimes a great deal of bonding is needed before an attachment can be formed.  If it takes more time for you to truly feel this baby is yours, or possibly more time is needed on the baby’s part to feel that attachment, that’s okay.  Build on what signs of progress you do see.  The best signal for knowing if you’re on the right track will come from your baby.  You and your spouse may form an attachment at a different rate, or possibly the baby may be moving at a different pace.  The most important thing to keep in mind is that no matter how long it takes you are willing to continue working at forming that attachment.  Remember you have a lifetime to grow and fall in love with one another!

Adapted from information by Gail Steinberg “Bonding and Attachment : How Does Adoption Affect a Newborn?” written for OURS MAGAZINE;  www.adoption.com

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