Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Bottle Feeding in Adoption

I realize this may seem like a strange post, but one of the major places we've seen progress is here.  It is a major attachment tool and a measure of how far we've come.  I want to share a little about it because I would never have understood this if I wasn't an AP (adoptive parent) myself.  This is specifically D Suhbin's story (who I am going to shorten to DS for the remainder of the blog) and every child's experience and adjustment is different, but it will give you an idea no matter what.

DS was in a foster home in Busan from when he was 10 days old until 4 months old.  Then he went to the SWS Baby Reception Home.  At the Reception Home the babies have their bottles propped on blankets. No one holds or cuddles them.  They learn to fall asleep on their own with bottle propped, and I believe that this is when DS learned to hold his own bottle (he was there for about 5ish weeks from 4-5 months old).  When he got to the foster family's house in Seoul he was able to hold his bottle and cuddle his Mong-Mong (his stuffed puppy) and he would go right to sleep on his own.  A foster family who is meeting the needs of a child for a short time would probably appreciate that they could get a few things done while he went to sleep. DS likes to be held a lot, he is wary of strangers, and FM said that he really struggled when he first came to them.  So I believe that the chance to put him down with a bottle was a much needed break for FM.  I am so thankful for all that they did to love on our amazing guy!  This is not judging what they did, it made sense for their family and they did SO much for DS!

But that being said, our son has not been held or cuddled like a baby (in the position you would give them a bottle in) since he was 4 months old.  So at 16 months old this couple comes and takes him and wants to hold him like a baby and give him a bottle!  That was not his idea of a good time!  The first 2 weeks we didn't try.  We let him fall asleep the way he was comfortable.  At 2 weeks I started doing more with trying to make eye contact and touch his feet, and sing to him during the bottle.  At 3 weeks our SW came and encouraged us to really move forward with bottle feeding more.  My amazing friend Becky had the idea of giving him a bottle in the morning when we weren't trying to put him down for a nap and our SW thought the morning was a good idea since there was an increase in hitting and tantrums in the morning, getting some nutrition in him immediately might help.  So we started.

He did NOT like it one bit.  Being in my arms was completely uncomfortable for him.  But he really likes the bottle so once he realized that was the only way he'd get it was to have me hold him, he did let me, but he avoided eye contact with me pretty much the whole time and asked to go up to his room several times.  I tried again and naptime and I only got tears.  So I put him down and just made myself as present as possible while he was in his crib.  I put my hands through the slats to touch him, sang to him, and tried to make as much eye contact as possible.  Then one day when I was about to go upstairs with DS and the bottle he pointed to the chair we had been doing the morning bottle in so we went and rocked together while he drank the first half of it.  From then on I was able to give him about half of his night time and nap bottles with at least a little eye contact.  During the bottle we do things like "find Umma's koh (nose) or nun (eyes) or eep (mouth), I sing songs, I try to engage him in as much eye contact as possible.  He gets fussy if I do too much at once so I engage him then give him a break, then engage him again.

About two weeks ago I realized that he was doing better and better with the bottle feeding (more eye contact, less fussing, staying in my arms longer before asking to go to his room, sometimes even relaxing enough to fall asleep in my arms!).  So I decided to start the next part - touching his bottle.  This boy has a DEATH GRIP on his bottle!  When I even laid a finger on it he would pry it off and push my hand away.  So I had to start small.  I'd been trying, but until now I hadn't been consistent with it or pushing beyond his comfort zone at all.  It took me a few days (and a pep talk from Becky) but I started consistently putting my finger on the end of the bottle.  He'd tolerate it for a while then push it away.  After he pushed it away I counted to 10 then told him that I was just going to put one finger on the end of the bottle.  He'd tolerate it a while then push it away again - we did this throughout the bottle.  After a few days of this I'd start out with a single finger but eventually ease my fingers around the edge of the bottle.  When he pushed it away I'd start with a single finger then slowly move to the edge of the bottle.  Each day I'd push a bit more/further.  Eventually I was to the point of somewhat holding the bottle with him.

2 days ago I talked to him.  I told him I would always be there and that I would always take care of him.  While I realize this is a difficult concept, I figure it's never too early to start telling him.  I told him that I loved him and that he could relax whenever he wanted and I would hold the bottle for him.  AMAZINGLY my son looked right at me and let go!  For about 1 second.  Then the death grip resumed and he pushed my hand away.  But he TRIED!  He is trying!!!  He wants to trust me!  He trusts me more than he did and is relaxing his standards.  In the past 2 days I've realized that when he pushes my hand away I can tell him "We're going to hold it together" and put my hand back.  He fusses for a second but then just grabs Mong-Mong's tail and allows my hand to stay (I think he's trying to act like he's ignoring me, but it's still a step).  Baby steps leading up to when my child will trust me so much, and relax so much, that he will allow me to feed him.  I can't wait for that day, but I am so happy and encouraged by the progress we've made!  It truly is amazing - and LOTS of answered prayers!!!!  Thank you God!  And thank you to all of you who have been a support through this!  There is such a learning curve as an AP - even when it's not your first child!  You're constantly questioning if something is adoption related or not BECAUSE - how you respond to it matters!  If he is grieving you have compassion, if he's throwing a fit or hitting b/c he's 1, you discipline or ignore it.  You have to be well attuned to your child so you can respond appropriately and you're constantly second guessing yourself.  

ETA: While this will seem unusual to most people in the US - we plan to bottle feed until at least 2.  It is a fantastic tool for attachment and bonding b/c it forces close, intimate time, and there tends to be a lot of eye contact.  This has been highly recommended by our Social Workers and by pretty much any book I've read, so that's our plan.  I know most people might read this post and think - why are you even trying with an 18 month old, so I thought I would explain that. ;)

So that's what's been happening in our household!  Thanks for reading.  If you got this far you are dedicated b/c this is LONG. :)  Thanks!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

7 weeks: Progress

I want to paint a quick picture of the progess we've made.  I hope to write more soon!  Some of the big victories after adoption would seem small to others, but they are truly to be celebrated!

We celebrate:

A mother able to hold her and cuddle her son while he drinks his bottle
     before he didn't want to be touched or even looked at while he drank his bottle.

A father who can gently toss his son in the air to huge smiles and laughter
     before it was met with terror and tears.

An older brother who can hold his younger brother on his lap
     before he had to always stay an arm's length away.

A sister being led (dragged) by the hand to play
      before his only physical contact with her was to hit her.

We still have a long ways to go, but these are milestones to celebrate!  I really want to sit and write more about our adjustment so far (the good, the bad, AND the ugly!)  but there is a giggly boy who wants Umma so it'll have to be later. :)

7 weeks home picture: