Babywearing and adoption: building attachment in the early days

This blog is written by Guest Writer Suzy Stanton. Suzy Stanton is a Mum herself via adoption and the creator and editor of We Made a Wish digital adoption and parenting magazine.

Children who require adoption often experience a range of emotions when they are introduced to their new adopted parents for the first time. The process happens gradually, starting off in their foster families homes home and then moving to the adopter’s home.

It’s a difficult time for everyone. The foster carers are moving the child they’ve cared for and loved as their own for many months, to their new home. Adopters are trying to learn everything about their adopted child under the spotlight.

The adults have time to prepare and understand why the process is happening. They work together as much as they can to make sure the child feels safe. 

But I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like for a child being moved from the foster parents or carers they’ve known, often for many months, to live with complete strangers. Some children move to their foster placement from birth and live there until they move to their forever family. So, they’re moving from the only carers they’ve ever known. That’s a huge ask.

It can take a long time for a child to learn that they can trust their new parents, and that they’re safe with them. And perhaps more importantly, that they will keep coming back when they are out of sight or leave the room.

Babywearing to promote attachment

The early days of placement are really important in terms of laying the foundations to create a strong bond and attachment. One of the most effective ways of doing this is by being close to your child and carrying them, sometimes called attachment parenting. For most of us, it isn’t practical to carry our children all day which is where baby and toddler carriers, slings and seats come in.

mum holding baby in a baby wrap

Using slings is a great way for many parents to develop a bond with their child and support their emotional development. But for children who were removed from their biological parents at an early age, they’re a brilliant way to help build trust between adoptive families and the adopted child.

Whilst it isn’t possible to carry your child all day, carrying for periods of time helps a child to feel safe and connected to their new care giver.

parents with baby in baby sling

Dr Rosie Knowles, a GP and mum of two, explains why using a sling for children who’ve experienced early life trauma and have been removed from their birth family, is so important in building strong and lasting attachments:

“Adoptive and foster parents will know that their children need all the love they can give; and a sling or hip carrier can play a useful part in building these bridges amidst the turmoil. 

“Babies who have been neglected for the first few months of life can be very wary of people and situations. By carrying them they learn more about the world from a position of safety and close physical contact. They take cues from watching our faces and learn to trust people and situations more quickly.

“Using carriers when introducing babies to their adoptive parents shows the babies that this is someone to be trusted.”

The benefits of babywearing for adopted children

For young babies, babywearing helps adoptive parents to build the bond with their child and become more in-tune with their needs. It enables frequent eye contact, touch and helps a new parent to pick up the signals from their child about what they need, rather than reacting to a loud cry and can help develop strong attachment bonds. 

For toddlers, they are a particularly effective way to help them learn to trust their new adoptive family. All children benefit from being physically close to their parent, but for a toddler who has experienced early life trauma, this is even more important. 

Carrying toddlers and older children helps with bonding and meeting their strong need for a sense of security and attachment, language skills, and also helps to regulate temperature, heart and respiratory rates as well as emotional and physical growth.

new adopted mum holding toddler on a hip carrier

Baby wearing options have increased massively in recent years. They’re suitable for all age ranges from small children up to bigger kids. There’s everything from ring slings to baby wrap carriers, front or backpack carriers, stretchy wraps, woven wraps, soft structured carriers and hip carriers or seats. 

Slings and carriers come in different sizes and shapes, and fit all body types. They’re ergonomically designed to give lumbar support and can be worn in different positions with adjustable straps and waist belt, meaning there’s something for everyone.

My experience of babywearing and adoption

I’m a mum via adoption and my daughters came home at 9 and 6 months old. Our youngest enjoyed being in the carrier but our eldest hated being carried this way, I think because she found it too restrictive. She loved being carried and often didn’t want to be put down, but didn’t settle in a carrier or sling. 

mum with baby in moby carrier

For us, the Hipseat was the perfect solution. It meant I could carry her for longer periods of time without feeling like my back was going to collapse, and she got to have the connection and closeness she really needed. In the early months of placement, it really helped us to build our bond and get to know each other.

So, whichever way your adopted child prefers to be carried, there’s a baby and toddler wearing option that will help you form strong attachment bonds and trust.

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