Tuesday Topic: Helping Baby Attach for the Third Time

Today’s question is from Sheryl, who just had a new baby join her family last week.  She told me she was feeling very nervous about the transition.

We are about to have a baby join our family who will be on a special care order until we adopt her. It is going to be permanent. She is 8 months old and we have seen her every week since she was born. We have 5 birth children from 14 years old down to 4.

We have known since she was 6 weeks old that she may come to live with us. When she is here, which is for about half a day at a time, I feed her, change her, put her to bed, carry her in a sling  and try and connect with her.

My sister cared for the baby in my parents’ home for the first 6 weeks, then she moved out and my parents became the baby’s foster parents. She is attached to them.

So where do I go from here? What else can I do to help her attach to us? Are there any books that I can read?

Let’s offer Sheryl our support and suggestions for attachment with her baby. I know many of you will have great ideas; please leave your thoughts as a comment.

If you have a Tuesday Topic question you would like me to present to my wise readers, please email it to me at lisa@onethankfulmom.com.  Believe it or not, I am actually catching up on my backlog of questions and will need some new ones soon.

Book Group friends, we are reading Chapter 2 of The Whole-Brain Child.  Watch for new discussion questions this Thursday.  If you would like to join us, you will find a link for the group on my One Thankful Mom page (just scroll down the page a little), or you can email me at lisa@onethankfulmom.com.

For our friends on the East Coast, our prayers are with you today and we hope you are well.  Hug your babies.

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Encourage one another,


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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.


  1. hmsnyder
    October 30, 2012

    Well, the fact that the baby is attached to someone is a HUGE plus. That means she will be able to be "loved again". I think it will just take time. Carry her in a sling or arms as much as you dare (b/c babies need time down too) So if you are going to the store or a you are walking around the mall….instead of a stroller or an infant carrier have her in a sling/carrier or in your arms. There are a lot of great (although pricy) carriers out there such as a the Mai Tai or Moby Wrap which allow her to face towards you. Keep her with you and out of the nurserys and day cares if at all possible for quit a few months. Have a special song that you or your husband sing to her when you put her to sleep. Rock her to sleep 2 or 3 times a week. She'll probably attach just fine…it will just take time.

  2. Nicole
    October 30, 2012

    Hello! I am a foster-adopt mother. My daughter came to us at 17months, with no previous attachment to anyone. It takes time and love and patience. Children are resilient but need the love and security only you can give them. They need you to be resilient, too. God gave you a special assignment, believe in yourself, you can do this, even on the hard days. If you ever need to talk, I am more than willing to share my story and our journey. God bless you!

  3. The Busters
    October 30, 2012

    We adopted our son at 6 months of age. I wore him in an ergo carrier A LOT, especially when we were out of the house. For the first several months, my husband and I were the only ones to meet his basic needs like feeding, diapering, bathing, putting to sleep, comforting, etc. We were even pretty strict about letting others hold him until he had been with us for a few months. I tried to create lots of good opportunities for eye contact while feeding him his bottle and rocking him to sleep and playing on the floor. I also think any kind of skin to skin contact can be really helpful. Best wishes on your journey!! Congratulations on your newest addition!

  4. Kayla
    October 30, 2012

    Definitely get a carrier and use it. As much skin to skin contact as you can be it bathing together, feeding her and stroking her face, etc.. Be okay with feeding and picking her up when she says that's what she wants. (For a while, if you are paying attention to her cues, you'll know when she's feeling secure enough for you to start saying "no.") Don't play pass the baby; limit who gets to hold her. (I would say just you and your husband but you have to do what works for your family.) And definitely come up with some special routines that are just yours together. (Songs, smells like perfume, rhymes, books, music to listen to, etc.)

  5. Mary
    October 30, 2012

    If she likes it, long baths followed by lotion is a great way to bond. I found too that having my other kids help with the lotion helped them bond with our foster babies too. Or have your other children help you fetch things for her and involve them in the care taking process. This frees you up to have her with you all the time without fostering their frustration–as a famy, you love the baby (even though the biggest bond will be fostered between you and her–they don't need to know that :).
    I loved that Nicole pointed out how she needs you to be resilient. When I have moments (or days) of frustration or fatigue, it helps me to remember what Lisa talks about–we need to help our children regulate. We do that by rocking singinng, smiling at our children. We do that by holding them with firm, but gentle touches when they are out of control and easing them into a peaceful state again. Maybe she loves being outside or a silly board book or. A certain song. Whatever she loves most is what you can use to help her shift from fear and frustration to peace and calm. You may even get to choose by always using that trick to help her calm. Our son loves outside. So we go outside to help him regulate. And he likes silly. The grt thing is that being outside helps me to regulate too :). Singing, rocking, reading–these all help me to calm down when I feel overwhelmed, so doing it together helps us move from frantic and frustrated to calm and bonded.
    One more idea is whenever you change her diaper, instead of rushing through, pause and look at her and smile and tell her how special she is and how much you love her–just talk the whole thing up. Doing this helped me a lot because with other children, I can fall into a bad habit of just rushing around with the babies. This is a multiple-times a day event that I can associate with talking face to face and bonding. So I remember to do it.
    I think a lot of the bonding problem is mine because I get too rushed with life. If you set up reminders and routines for yourself throughout the day that you share something with her, then she will catch the vibe :). Pick things you really enjoy and figure out how to share them with her.

  6. debbie
    October 30, 2012

    Because she is going on her third caregiver i would be very careful and slow. Gradually increase the amount of time she spends at your home each week so she feels safe. When you are at your parent's house you should try to do everything for her, including comforting her when she's upset. At home, same thing. Older siblings should not do anything for her until she has been with you 3 months or so full time. They can play with her, but you should change her, feed her, put her to bed, etc. make sure she looks you in the eyes by playing fun games with her. She doesn't seem to have any neglect so she will probably do fine. And it's true that it's easier to transfer attachment than it is too build attachment the first time.

  7. kasdaniels
    October 30, 2012

    As HMSnyder said earlier, having a previous healthy attachment is a VERY big plus. I'll never forget my daughter's foster mother telling me they bonded during her care. I didn't think much of it at the time but now I know it was such a blessing. That means she will be able for forge healthy relationships in the future (meaning you!). It will take some time but you are doing everything right. She will need to mourn her loss for a bit but she will begin to trust you. My daughter is a serious mama's girl because I did everything you listed above. It's so worth every second you pour into building a healthy attachment with your little one 🙂 God's best to you and your family!

  8. charity
    November 4, 2012

    I just wanted to add the suggestion of using a family bed…i know it has fallen out of practice in many cultures, but i grew up in a family room where everyone slept the same room, though in different beds usually. Most of my older children share rooms with siblings, but my littles sleep with me for the first few years and then have a toddler size bed in the same room. for the years when they wake in the night, it makes it much smoother for them to know i am right there and for me to hear them when they need us. i think for a child struggling to find out who to trust and validate their voice when they cry out in need, having them in your room would be a good place to start.

  9. Sheryl
    November 8, 2012

    Just wanted to check in with you all and say an enormous thank you for taking the time to comment. The best thing has been feeling that even though you are probably across the pond from me I can hear your collective wisdom.
    It is going well. She is progressing every day. We are keeping the care giving to me,primarily, and my husband. We have developed a little routine of giving her milk in her room without anyone else around. I have found it helpful for me to stop myself in the middle of crazy family life to concentrate on her and me sitting with her meal times is a precious animated time for us to focus on each other.
    I have struggled with the squishing and squashing of my brain to care for another child. But I remembering to be easy on myself, just as I have been after having my bio kids, and sleep and rest a lot!
    We have been using a ring sling, which she is getting used to, but she is such a wriggle bum I am going to buy something like an ergo.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for your input

    1. Lisa Qualls
      November 8, 2012

      Sheryl, thank you so much for following up with your comment. It is great to hear that things are going well. Blessings on your family.


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