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What It's Really Like to Adopt a Baby

Feeding Frenzy

"She absolutely loves to eat; it's like she can't get enough. I wonder if the amount she is eating is normal? She won't take formula any more, only regular table food. When she really likes something, she gets a big smile on her face. I am sure her diet was pretty limited, so she is really enjoying all the different tastes. She loves sweet stuff, like yogurt and applesauce. I can't wait to give her ice cream!"

Expert Advice: Changes in environment, time zone, nutritional intake and level of stimulation can absolutely impact eating habits. Sometimes babies deal with the change by not eating very much, but often babies who had limited access to food overeat or have hording tendencies. Babies in orphanages are not usually fed on demand (as recommended in the U.S.); they're fed on a caregiver's schedule and without regard to whether they are hungry or full.

Once she's home, feeding your baby should not just be about nutrition—it's also a great way to bond with her, demonstrate your love for her and win her trust. "Infant and toddler feeding problems generally improve on their own as they learn that food is available consistently," says Prock. "If after two months, she is still overeating (or under-eating), ask the advice of your pediatrician."

That Special Bond

"I can see she needs me, but I'm not sure if or when she will understand that I am her mommy. She seems so at peace when I am meeting her needs—when I feed her, change her diaper and respond to her cries. I hope my friends understand why no one else should do these things for her but me. It is important that she learns that I am not just another caretaker.

"I, on the other hand, am overwhelmed with maternal feelings. It feels like the past 21 months were my labor, and she is finally here. I know she is my daughter. I cannot imagine loving her any more than I do right now. It's like I gave birth to her."

Expert Advice: Adoptive parents often suffer from the misconception that bonding with a biological child is effortless. Not true! Most parents would probably agree that attachment isn't forged in an instant, but over time. The initial connection between a parent and child is bonding, and it sets the groundwork for a solid attachment. A long-term relationship takes thousands of interactions. It's the routine daily activities like feeding, bathing, dressing and comforting that eventually translate into true love. As you do these tasks, your baby develops trust and comes to associate you with meeting her needs.

It's important that early post-adoptive caretaking responsibilities are limited to nuclear family members to help the child differentiate between family and non-family during the first few months. "Even if your child is not a newborn or even an infant, the first few weeks should be akin to a newborn's homecoming," Prock says. Families should have few guests so that baby can get to know the parents and vice-versa. It's likely she had numerous caregivers before, especially if she was in an orphanage; now it's time for her to have full-time parents who are ready and willing to nurture and care for her for the rest of her life.

Finding Dr. Right

"Kailee had a visit with the pediatrician last week. All of her tests came back great! She is very healthy. On Monday, she had the first of some necessary vaccinations. Poor kid had four shots! She screamed like crazy. I have gone back and forth over whether I will actually go to the appointment I made for the adoption medicine specialist at the hospital. So far I seem to be getting everything I need from our regular pediatrician."

Expert Advice: If you adopted your baby abroad, try to have her initial evaluation done by a pediatrician who has experience with internationally adopted kids, like an adoption medicine specialist, who knows how to interpret foreign medical records, which health tests to run and how to address possible developmental delays and immunization needs. To find a specialist in your area, visit: aap.org/sections/adoption.

Many families who adopt in the U.S. don't have access to adoption medicine specialists, who are usually clustered in metropolitan areas. So it's important to find a good pediatrician for longitudinal care. Ask for recommendations from friends and interview a few physicians before the baby arrives, so you can find one with whom you feel comfortable.

 

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