Dr. Barbara Sorrels: Healing from Prenatal Trauma

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This month at CPO, we had a very special speaker: Dr. Barbara Sorrels, expert in child development and attachment as well as founder of The Institute for Childhood Education.
Dr. Sorrels came to our Adoptive Family Support Group (in conjunction with our Waiting Families Workshop) to discuss the ways to help our adopted kiddos heal from prenatal trauma and the importance of creating a strong attachment with our children.
Dr. Sorrels is a wealth of information, and there is just no way to possibly convey all of her amazing insights in this one article. Instead, I will do my best to highlight below some of the key points she made during her one-hour talk with us.

  • Attachment is the foundation of our life. It is the strong emotional bond between a child and an adult who is consistently present in the life of the child. We are designed to connect… with ourselves, with others, and ultimately, with God.
  • The following topics are keys for creating attachments with your children: sensory rich process (lots of touching and talking), communication of value and preciousness, predictable environments, responsive caregivers, emotional attunement, playful interactions, eye contact, sense of “felt safety”.
  • Dr. Sorrels cautions against many of the mainstream parenting books currently on the market. The authors rarely have a background in child development or scientific brain research. The parenting styles suggested in these books are often less about the needs of the baby and more about the convenience of the parents. For example, sleeping and feeding schedules created by the parents are not appropriate. Follow the baby’s cues for feeding and sleeping, so that he will know that you are there to meet his needs, and he can trust you to do so consistently. It’s only for a few months… soon they will develop a predictable schedule. Until then, let the baby set the rhythms.
  • Carry your infants as much as possible. Yes, car seats are important, but unless in the car, Dr. Sorrels advises to have your baby in your arms rather than in the infant carrier.  Your heartbeat, your touch, your breathing, your voice are all key in how her brain will develop for her lifetime. The more of YOU that she gets, the better. Slings and other baby-wearing devices are fantastic ways to bond with your baby while multi-tasking.
  • Your baby is constantly learning from your tone of voice and facial expressions. They develop their communication based on the communication they see from you.
  • Touch is critical. Dr. Sorrels cited a study that showed that NICU babies who are allowed frequent physical contact will grow an average of 42% more than those who do not have frequent access to touch. Even if you don’t have a NICU baby… touch them often! You can learn how to properly administer infant massage, or you can just gently lotion them once or twice a day. Tickles, cuddles, and kisses are great ways to connect with your baby, too!

This is just a scratch on the surface of what Dr. Sorrels had to share with us. There is so much more you can learn from her, and you can go to her website at www.drbarbarasorrels.com to find out about the many parenting courses she teaches at local churches.
The bottom line, though, is this: Be intentional about bonding with your baby or child, biological or adopted, from DAY ONE. It will affect them their entire lives, and that is scientifically proven fact.