Parenting Matters: What's All This Talk about Early Attachment?

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Parenting Matters: What's All This Talk about Early Attachment?
Here are the top 3 frequently asked questions about how to build meaningful attachment relationships

The caregiver-infant patterns of communication hold great potential in establishing a secure attachment. Consistent maternal attunement facilitates the infant’s ability to freely explore the world around her, engage in spontaneous play, and rely on the caregiver to provide loving responses. Repeated instances of feeling cared for results in a child’s establishment of behavioral expectations—she learns to expect that people can provide safety and continuity.

Security is further felt when the caregiver illustrates thoughtful actions and mindful behaviors. These include: narrating for your child the events of the day as you move from one activity to the next, prolonged gazing and smiling, cuddling and comforting, skin to skin gentle touch, as well as calmly and consistently tolerating the variety of affective states your baby exhibits as she begins to take in the world around her.

Babies often feel distressed and unequipped to modulate their changing feelings. Infants depend on the attachment figure to help them manage and tolerate their affective experiences. This requires the caregiver to “bear within herself, to process, and to re-present to the baby in a tolerable form what was previously the baby’s intolerable emotional experience” (Wallin, 2007). During the initials months of life, the baby learns that her caregiver is able to gracefully navigate challenging moments with love and understanding. Caregiver consistency, responsiveness, and sensitivity yields infant flexibility, resilience, and a sense of attachment security.

Babies need their caregivers to be present not perfect. Newborns thrive when surrounded by dedicated caregivers who are consciously attuned to their burgeoning developmental milestones and their nascent vulnerabilities. Attachment and bonding are crucial, elemental aspects of this newfound relationship that set the framework for how babies come to understand trust, intimacy, and the world around them. Again, perfection is not the aim and striving for it is an unwarranted distraction from deepening this wondrous relationship. Instead, turning one’s energies toward being authentic and available to whatever arises during the transition into parenthood is likely the most beneficial dynamic for mommy and baby.

Attachment is a process not a finite event.

Q: How do the earliest moments between infant and caregiver impact future relationships?

This article was originally published at PBS This Emotional Life . Reprinted with permission.
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