Neurological damage...basically a fancy way to say "brain damage." I'm not talking damage that occurs as a result of a car accident or a fall. I'm talking about the way institutional care (orphanage care) impacts brain development. It's one of those things where I am often quick to forget that two of my kids have spent large percentages of their lives in orphanage care. Where because we don't deal with major behavioral challenges, it is easy to forget how that time in orphanage care has impacted their brains.
Then, this past weekend, I attended a breast feeding class in preparation for Kai and something said in that class resonated with me specifically regarding institutional care and early neurological development. The instructor spent time talking about looking for feeding cues with your newborn, taking the time to pay attention to small signals that your child was hungry, things like making grunting noises, rooting around in blankets, or putting fingers into the mouth. Her message was "do not wait until your baby is crying or screaming to feed your child. A disorganized child will not and cannot feed."
This caused me to stop in my tracks and consider how orphanage care simply cannot ever meet this high threshold for response time. No matter how loving the nannies, no matter how ample the food supply, no matter how well planned the meal times, orphanage care cannot result in keeping babies from getting to a state of neurological disorganization. And it's a vicious cycle, one where babies are hungry and start to show signs of hunger but where nannies are often unable to meet that need before the child starts to fuss, where that same pattern repeats itself perhaps multiple times in a day for a child. And that lack of quick response has to start rewiring the brain ever so subtly.
It is just too easy as an adoptive mom to think that my kids were blessed by caring, loving nannies and so their little brains were spared from neurological trauma. My kids did not lack for food. My kids did not lay in cribs and scream for hours on end because no one fed them or played with them. My kids came out of orphanage care knowing so many positive things. But their little brains, whether it looks like it or not, still are healing from their time in orphanage care, even if the repairs are small.
More on attachment and neurological development:
Attachment Parenting in a "Normal" Childhood