As your infant grows, she will explore what it means to be connected to you while being a separate (very small) person. Helping her begin to discover how to stay connected to you while exploring her independence means reassuring her that you are nearby when she needs you but not clingy. During the first eight months, she will be eager to stay close to you. When she is separated from you she will become upset and distressed. Don’t worry that she is lacking independence; she is displaying the healthy attachment that will give her confidence all through life. As she learns to crawl and takes her first steps, she will venture away from you and return for reassurance and comfort.
You don’t have to be perfect at bonding. There’s no such parent. You and your baby are discovering each other. You have time. Some parents and infants are more easily matched temperamentally than others. If your baby was premature, if the birth was difficult, if you are experiencing postpartum blues or depression, if your infant is colicky, or if your child was adopted, then bonding may take a little longer. As long as you do your best to respond to your baby and learn what she wants to tell you, you only need to “get it right” about one-third of the time. You and your baby are likely to be in and out of sync with each other, but what matters most is that even when you fall out of sync that you find each other again.
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If you’re really having a hard time or feeling indifferent towards your baby, get help. Your infant can’t tell you in words, but she absorbs your stress like a sponge. Getting the support you need from others and learning ways to calm yourself down will ensure that you feel better and will help your baby feel soothed. Get help with housework, meals and babysitting. Take a yoga class. Join a new parent support group. Share your feelings with a friend or loved one, or talk to a therapist who is experienced in postpartum support.
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Go to www.earlymomentsmatter.org to learn about attachment and to get an award-winning toolkit that introduces ways in which parents and caregivers can help their children build secure attachments.