There are many theories on how attachment works in infants.
Back in the 1940’s, a theory was developed that said that children became attached to those people who satisfied their needs, like hunger, and therefore, a child becomes attached to the first person who feeds them. In the early 1960’s a new theory developed, that babies will be bonded to those people it can trust, faithfully to fill their needs. This shows that it is not just about basic needs, such as food and comfort. In the 1960s comes another theory around attachment, but stemmed out of no attachment to parents. John Bowlby believed that children who are separated from their parents for an extended period for a variety of reasons, cry more often and experience severe emotion states, finally becoming indifferent to others which is known as “dis-attachment”.
We know that parents and their children share theses bonds and attachments. This attachment is a connection that stands the test of time. It is what drives parents instincts to want to care for and nurture their children, and it is essential to children’s development. The more we learn, the more we know that these bonds develop early – even before a baby is born. They grow as soon as the desire and intent to have a child of one’s own or knowing that one day there will be a child to love and nurture.
Once a woman conceives a baby, they are connected physically and as growth occurs the child gets to feel and hear the mother, as the mother feels the baby inside her womb.
So, what happens when a woman conceived through surrogacy and is carrying a baby for an Intended Parent?
The same theories hold true – the baby’s needs remain the same – trust. The child will bond with the Intended Parents so long as that faith can continue. Infants are born with the trust. They can feel the love that is waiting for them as they get ready to come into a family.
So, let us look at four easy ways an Intended Parent can continue that trust and bond with their baby.
Skin-to-skin contact is so easy yet, so import for bonding. Newborn babies have fewer ways to communicate but touch, and smell is a powerful way for them to communicate with us. Skin is the largest organ & is full of sensory receptors. Through physical contact, the baby and parents will learn one another’s cues and expressions. Feeding a baby skin-to-skin gives similar messaging as a baby would get in a traditional birth scenario.
Play with your baby. Children gather significant information through play. Talk to your child as you do simple tasks like changing their diapers, getting them dressed, grabbing you some coffee. If you are running out of things to say, read the coffee creamer container to them. Keep babies eye contact with you and use bright expressions and funny faces. Smile, smile, smile. Sing to your baby, laugh and giggle. Show baby how happy you are that he/she is with you and loved. Steady communication with your baby is good for their development and bonding.
Infant Massage is a great way to continue skin-to-skin contact. The parent-infant interactions are how a child learns about oneself, and about trust and respect and relationships with others. This all goes back to the theories discussed above. Anything we can do to build on the trust and respect is going to deepen that bond even more.
Be patient. Transitioning to parenting takes time. Taking your time and preparing yourself for the change will help you build a bond with your new baby and family. Understand that there is an adjustment period and that bonding will happen. Reach out to your support team to gather the support you need during the transition time.
Written by Kim Smith of Queen City Doulas & Co. Kim is a doula and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.