Long before we hit the "your baby can now hear" stage in pregnancy, my husband Dan began having nightly chats with my belly, listing the reasons he was excited to meet our daughter or telling her about her cool mom. It was their way of bonding given that Dan couldn't do it the same way that I could — you know, the whole me-carrying-a-baby-in-my-womb part. It made me wonder about parents who go about having children in less traditional ways, like through surrogacy. Were there tips for how to bond with your baby if they're born via surrogacy? Surely, I thought, you can establish a special connection in ways that extend beyond the act of physically carrying a child.
According to Stephanie Agakian, a licensed massage therapist and owner of Bodhi Body Studios, touch is a huge part of establishing the parent-child bond. "One of the best ways a parent can bond with a baby is through massage," Agakian, who specializes in infant massage, tells Romper in an email interview. "Touch — and therefore massage — releases higher levels of relaxing, anti-stress, and bonding hormones, including oxytocin, prolactin, serotonin, and dopamine in both parents and babies alike. It gives families one-on-one time with their new babies, and promotes bonding and attachment."
Other ways to bond with your surrogate baby include measures that can be taken during pregnancy, like talking to your baby while they are in utero. “We know that from an environmental perspective, the child has a keen sense of smell and hearing, and they have already attached to the carrying parent through hearing, smell and touch,” Kris Probasco, a licensed clinical social worker specializing in surrogacy and infertility, told Surrogate.com. In order to bond with your baby via their budding senses, Probasco recommends talking to your baby in person when you visit your surrogate. You can also record yourself speaking and send it to your surrogate to play for your growing little one.
Dr. Jennifer Hirshfeld-Cytron, a board-certified physician with Fertility Centers of Illinois, says parents can also make doctor's visits a priority, as well as readying the baby's room, in order to feel closer to their child. "Prior to delivery, the intended parent can take part in the obstetric ultrasound visits, which lends itself to bonding," Hirshfeld-Cytron, who is also the director of fertility preservation at the center, tells Romper in an email interview. "Nesting and creating the room and space for your baby also helps, while baby showers allow future mothers to feel connected."
Hirshfeld-Cytron says many parents aren't aware that breastfeeding is also still possible, which can be "a great way for a woman to bond with the baby."
The process of breastfeeding involves inducing lactation, which requires taking certain hormones, herbs, and/or medications that make your body think it's pregnant, according to Refinery29. It's more complicated than the breast milk that a mother with a baby in utero will naturally produce, but doctors say, once milk supply is stable, the maintenance is no different than it would be if you had carried the baby yourself. "If not feasible for other reasons, taking part in feeding, bathing, playing and tummy time will also help create that bond," Hirshfeld-Cytron says.
Leigh Anne O’Connor, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and parenting coach, tells Romper that holding your baby skin-to-skin following their birth is also a crucial part of the bonding process. In fact, the method is effective no matter how your child arrives on this planet, boasting benefits that range from helping your baby to sleep to promoting healthy weight, according to Fit Pregnancy.
Need a little reassurance that you'll bond with your new babe? Take it from Kim Kardashian West who welcomed baby Chicago via surrogate earlier this week. "Our gestational carrier gave us the greatest gift one could give," Kim K wrote on her app of her third child with rapper Kanye West. "The connection with our baby came instantly and it's as if she was with us the whole time. We are so excited to finally welcome home our baby girl." Enough said, right?
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