When your client first announces she is expecting, you search for that maternal glow on her face or a baby bump. But in some cases, the thrill of the expected arrival of a baby might be attributed to adoption. In these instances, massage can be an ideal way to help mom and baby become acquainted, beginning a lasting bonding process.

According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, 136,000 children were adopted in 2007 and 135,813 in 2008, the latest years for which data is available.

Even though the parents who adopt these children are excited and thrilled to add to their families, they also might be concerned about learning and understanding how to communicate effectively with their baby after the adoption.

Communicating Love and Security 

Tina Allen, founder and director of the Liddle Kidz Foundation, points out that observation and research shows adoptive families can form bonds just as successfully as biological families.

“Massage can be used for the parents to best understand the child’s cues and meet their needs of love and security, which, in turn, instills parental confidence and family closeness,” she says.

Allen adds that during massage, parents maintain eye contact and provide loving touch, which promotes a sense of well being and acceptance for the baby. Parents also learn to become attuned to their baby’s individual method of communication, which facilitates appropriate response.

“And of course, having skin-to-skin contact through the use of loving touch can help the family’s bond strengthen and grow,” she emphasizes.

When to Begin 

Massage can begin at any time, but the period from birth to three years is the most favorable time for children to form a bond with parents.

“We usually do not start providing massage until three weeks of age. No matter the child’s age, parents who are proactive in developing a bond with their child create an ongoing positive relationship,” Allen says. “My best recommendation is first to simply take your time and try not to force massage too quickly. Give plenty of time to get to know each other and understand cues and communication to best use the intervention of infant massage.”

Adoptive parents concerned about the bonding process are cautioned not to force the issue with their baby. Allen advises these parents to take their time, embracing a positive and patient understanding that bonding will occur over time.

“Introducing dependable care and regular routines will help your child to feel more comfortable, recognize what to expect and what is expected of him as well,” she notes. “Some babies and children have tactile defensiveness or sensitivity to being touched. Taking your time is best.”

Massage does not replace medical advice or care, so it’s important to obtain pediatrician approval before doing massage. Parents should be aware of any precautions or contraindications to massage.

Having a new baby, whether biologically or by adoption, is an exciting, and sometimes frightening, time in a new mother’s life. Massage can form the foundation of a physical and emotional connection that benefits mom, baby and the extended family, as well.

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