Babies are social creatures. They are born wanting to communicate and interact. We know that babies are always communicating with their mothers (or primary care-giver), and this is an interaction that needs to be reciprocal. Babies need to attach to their primary caregiver. Attachment is a basic, in-born system that drives a baby to create a few, selective attachments in their life.
A secure attachment relationship is one that has an enduring emotional bond with those adult caregivers who are responsible for comforting, supporting, nurturing, and protecting the baby. A secure attachment also creates an emotional security a baby might feel when they are near their mother or away from their mother. It also provides a safe and secure home base.
A few things you can do to help build a secure attachment for your baby include:
- Express your delight: Babies are “hard-wired” to experience joy with their caregivers in the early months of life. Researchers are finding that mutual joy is the basis for increased brain growth.
- Hold your baby: Babies soak up affection and love through their skin. Gentle touch shares the tenderness that every infant requires. Playful touch encourages joy. Holding your baby not only provides pleasure and reassurance, it is essential in helping to soothe and organize difficult feelings.
- Gaze into your baby’s eyes from the first day of life, and pay close attention to when they want to look back. At about six weeks, your baby will regularly focus in on your eyes and read what they are “saying.” Lots of pleasurable eye contact will translate into a feeling of reassurance and connection for your baby.
- Whenever Possible, Follow Your Child’s Lead: Security of attachment requires a caregiver who is sensitive and responsive to her/his child’s needs. Your willingness to answer subtle requests for attention, comfort, holding, exploration, and discovery (with you nearby) will provide an increased sense of security for your child.
- You can’t spoil a baby: Contrary to those who may be saying that you will harm your child if you are “too responsive” to her/his needs, it isn’t possible to spoil a baby in the first 9-10 months of life.
- Be with your child when they are upset: Young children often have upset feelings (anger, hurt, sadness, fear) that are too difficult to manage on their own. When your child has an intense feeling, stay with her/him until the feeling has been worked through.
- Talk about feelings: From your child’s earliest days, talking out loud about feelings (your child’s and your own) will begin to help your child to eventually label feelings and realize that they can be shared. As your child gets older, s/he will realize that intense feelings can be named (mad, sad, glad, and afraid) and discussed with another, thus ending a need to act them out.
- Mistakes Happen (You Only Need To Be “Good Enough”): Perfection is impossible in parenting. In fact, it isn’t even recommended. A child who knows that everyone in the family makes mistakes, and that they will eventually be worked out, will feel more secure than a child who thinks everything has to be right the first time.
- Be Bigger, Stronger, Wiser, and Kind: At the heart of secure attachment is a child’s recognition that s/he has a parent who can be counted on to lovingly provide tenderness, comfort, firm guidance and protection during the inevitable difficulties of life. If the truth be told, all of us have this need some of the time, no matter what our age. (Circle of Security: https://www.circleofsecurityinternational.com/userfiles/Downloadable%20Handouts/COS_attachmentforbaby.pdf)
Children who have a secure attachment will benefit from the following ways:
- They will feel more happiness and less anger at their parents
- They can solve problems on their own and ask for help when they are in trouble
- They have lasting friendships and get along better with their friends
- They have better sibling relationships
- They feel better about themselves and what they can contribute
- They are more protected against feeling hopeless or helpless about life
- They trust the people they love and know how to be kind
- They believe that good things will happen
And who doesn’t want that for their children?