Connecting with your kids can be easier than you think!
When babies bond with their parents, they create an “attachment style” based on the bonding experience. Most people have more than one attachment style, due to more than one significant adult in the life of a baby. This attachment style influences all the relationships of life including friendships, work relationships, mate selection, and family dynamics after marriage.
The healthiest attachment style is called “secure attachment,” and is created when the baby’s parents are able to provide safe nurturing, appropriate boundaries, and relational modeling. Everyone can learn to have secure attachment when new relationships provide the setting to reestablish the bonding experience.
For some parents bonding is easy to do. They love touching and cuddling and making eye contact and smiling and cooing with the baby. For others it may be difficult due to life stressors, other children, their own bonding experiences, illness, death, couple relationship issues, or an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy, etc. Regardless of circumstances, bonding occurs. Whether the bonding creates a securely attached child depends on the emotional availability of both parents.
Ways Babies Bond
1. Skin to skin contact initiates early language/communication.
2. Eye-to-eye contact provides close range communication. The baby will look away when it becomes too intense, and then return.
3. Following moving objects with the eyes.
4. Imitation of facial expressions and gestures and the familiar smell of a parent.
5. Listening to human voices, their own vocalizations.
How to make an attachment:
1. Cradle the baby and gently stroke him/her—soon the baby will recognize mom touch from dad touch.
2. Hold against the parent’s skin when feeding or cradling.
3. Gentle infant massage—take time to learn how to do infant massage.
4. Breast or bottle feeding.
5. Respond to the baby’s needs.
Tips for Dads:
1. Participate in labor and delivery.
2. Help with feeding and diaper changing.
3. Read to, sing with, give a bath to, mirror movements of the baby.
4. Mimic the baby’s cooing or other vocalizations.
5. Allow baby to feel the texture of dad’s face.
Tips For Moms And Dads:
1. Support each other in efforts to bond and build confidence in parenting abilities.
2. Be aware of the overwhelming sense of responsibility for a new human being that can cause adults to freeze or be distant with fear.
3. Consult with hospital and parenting resources like nurses, neighbors, friends, and extended family, child specialists, counselors.
4. Help each other with chores, meals, laundry, and emotional support.
5. Let others help with walking the dog, watching the siblings, and other tasks.
Factors That Affect Bonding:
1. Disappointment in the baby’s look or behavior.
2. Hormonal changes, depression, exhaustion, pain, or difficult delivery.
3. The baby’s need for intensive care or health issues.
4. Parental maltreatment, neglect, or violence.
5. Being unaffectionate, rigid, or insensitive to or rejecting of baby’s signals.
The securely attached child is resilient, has appropriate grief as well as positive emotion. As an adult s/he appears coherent, has good recall and narration of history, and moves through distress well. To learn more about different attachment styles, how they are created, and how to respond to them; a good resource is Attachment Parenting International (www.attachmentparenting.org).
Information in this article was accumulated through The Nemours Foundation and Attachment Parenting International and Treating Attachment Disorders by Karl Heinz Brisch.
Pamela Simmons is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Dallas, Texas. www.pamelasimmonscounseling.com
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.