Why Adoptive Moms Should Babywear

All babies go through a similar process at birth.

A baby is expelled from the womb, where constant warmth, safety, and sounds surround him, into a world that is chilly, bright and loud. He is usually placed directly on top of Momma, where her heartbeat — which he knows so well — is easy to hear, and her warmth and smell reminds him he is safe.

In the case of adoption, this is often the last time he feels his biological mother’s warmth and hears her heartbeat.

All adopted kids go through a grief process.

Be they newborn or four or fourteen, the grief is real. There is a tearing away of what is known, traumatic or not, and yes even a newborn baby goes through this process. The difference with a newborn or young baby is that if their needs are met, they will work through that process much more quickly than an older child. Babywearing helps ease that transition.

You don’t have to be a babywearing momma to want to adopt, and you also don’t have desire adoption in order to be a baby wearer. Baby-wearer. Babywearer.

Funny how when you try it several times it starts to sound like a non-word. But I digress.

Adoption and babywearing are not mutually exclusive.

I didn't get to carry him for those first nine months. That instant physical and physiological connection for biological moms wasn't there for me. The pregnancy, the immediate skin to skin contact, even breastfeeding are all things we as adoptive moms often sacrifice. (I say often, because I did later breastfeed an adopted baby.) But I created that connection with a simple ring sling.

When I first got the name “Momma”, attachment parenting was something I’d never heard of. I didn’t know anything about attachment; all I knew was that I wanted my baby close to me.

A number of years later we began doing foster care, and I knew that I wanted those babies I would care for to feel as loved, close, and safe as possible. The internet was rife with information on infant attachment, and so were the trainings from the foster care agency. Attachment, it turns out, is a really big deal. It is the key to an infant’s future life. It is the key to their ability to trust, love and feel safe.

Considering the grief process an adopted baby goes through, attachment becomes the thing of first importance.

Both of our adopted boys came to us under special circumstances, with questionable prenatal histories.

newborn

Our first was what I like to call a “hold-me baby”. He needed close contact all the time. The ring sling I picked up for $3 at a yard sale became his constant clothing. And mine. He was always in it.

My husband would be holding him or playing with him and he would start to get squirmy and he’d say, “Hon, he needs to get back in his Joey pouch.” Once there, he would settle right in, instantly content, his ear against my chest.

From birth to almost 2, that sling was his space. He went from a tummy to tummy snuggle, to riding sideways, to front facing and then hip straddling. It was his instant connection with me, his mom — my warmth, my heartbeat, my voice.

sling

I remember being at church and having one of the nursery ladies tell me, “You know, he’s never going to learn to walk if you always carry him around!” But she didn’t get it.

I didn’t get to carry him for those first nine months.

That instant physical and physiological connection for  biological moms wasn’t there for me. The pregnancy, the immediate skin to skin contact, even breastfeeding are all things we as adoptive moms often sacrifice. (I say often, because I did later breastfeed an adopted baby.)

I created that connection with a simple ring sling.

Reasons Why Adoptive Moms Should Babywear:

  • Physical connection to a baby you didn’t give birth to.
  • Learn his cues faster because he is closer to you.
  • Be able to respond to his needs immediately.
  • Your heartbeat, movements, and warmth are soothing to him
  • Your breathing regulates his breathing, which is very important if your baby has special medical needs.
  • Forms attachments two ways: baby to you, and you to baby.
  • Helps to encourage uninformed people to see you as his mother. (This shouldn’t be necessary, but sadly there are some people who don’t view adoption the same way that we do.)
  • You can hold your baby and fold laundry. Life doesn’t stop just because you adopted a child.
  • Free snuggles all the time!

Despite the nursery lady’s concerns, my son still crawled and walked and did everything babies are “supposed to” do. Just when he started to outgrow his sling, the fabric split lengthwise. Knowing how much he loved it, I hung it over the corner of his crib. Often I would go in to find he had pulled it into the crib and was sleeping in it, like a sleeping bag.

snuggling with the sling in the crib

The sling that forged our attachment became his lovey.

He is 15 and I still have it, safely put away.

Have you adopted? Do you babywear?

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5 Comments

  1. Hi Dawn,

    My name is Bethany Davis, and I was an adopted child, well I still am, but I’m 30 now:-D I just finished reading your story. Everything you say of an adopted child is right on. They are ripped away from everything they have ever known; then placed with a whole different family and a whole different mother. I wish with all my heart that I had been adopted even earlier than I was. I was adopted at 10 months, which was still young, but I wish I had been adopted right at birth. My Mom didn’t have a sling with me. She juggled me on her hip for the first year that I was apart of the family. I went through a detachment disorder where out in public, I would ditch the family and gravitate to somebody else. At home I was fine, I loved everybody, but out in public, BOOM! I was a goner giving my affections to who knows who. Mom has told me though that my detachment disorder was minor compared to other cases though.

    I love the fact that after your son outgrew his sling, that he would sleep with it in the crib. That’s too neat that you still have it packed away. I got a smile on my face when your husband would call it his “Joey” pouch. I know different people you knew were concerned about your son’s opportunities for crawling and walking, but I am here to tell you that I am now a well adjusted human being, and I’m sure your son is too. I was a late walker because I had several setbacks as a very young baby, but I did learn to crawl and walk as I know your son has too:-)

    Yes, it is way easier for a baby to work through the process of attachment than it is for an older child who is adopted. I have known a couple cases of an older child being adopted and it was way harder. It was hard for me, but not nearly as hard as it was for the daughter of some dear friends of ours.

    Thank you again for sharing your story, Dawn.
    In Christ,
    Bethany

    1. Hi Bethany: Thank you so much for sharing that with me. Just as we don’t know how our own kids are going to turn out once they’re grown, there is similar (and often more) concern thinking of how our foster kids are going to turn out once they leave us. There is huge void of information there- much as it should be, in all honesty- but still. Attachment disorders have lifelong effects on the children, often well into adulthood. It is wonderful that your mother did what she could. Her hip and her arms around you were what she had to work with, and you benefited from it. A sling would have made her life and mothering easier, for sure, but she did what she could. Praise God for mommas who love on their little ones and keep them close!! I know a (now adult) girl who was juggled through the foster system from birth to 14 years of age, and it took years of therapy and a VERY loving family to help her through it all. Many are not so fortunate. She is now social worker who fully supports mother or foster/adoptive mothers doing exactly this kind of parenting because she knows first hand how important it is!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your story! I love how babywearing allowed you to carry him outside the womb to help form that attachment.

    And the fact that he loved to snuggle with the sling you carried him in? So precious.