Bonding with your baby can help you form a secure attachment that will last a life time. Attachment is a deep bond that is formed between the baby and his caregiver in the early years. This attachment can greatly affect your child’s physical, emotional, social and cognitive development. Babies who form a secure bond with their parent have a better chance of being trusting and supportive adults themselves later in life.

An attachment bond is formed based on your (or other primary caregiver’s) patterns of interaction with your infant. Your baby learns that she can depend on you when she experiences a pattern of consistently responsive and attentive behavior from you that fulfills her need for food, security, warmth or comfort. Your baby is then able to form a secure bond with you (or other primary caregivers that show the same behavior) and uses you as a secure base from which to confidently explore the world. A common example is taking your child to a new setting: initially your child may seem shy to explore. However, given time and positive support by the parent he eventually begins to wander and explore his surroundings, all the while returning to his parent and venturing out again. Repeating this cycle and increasing his zone of exploration every time as he remains confident that his parent will still be there and respond if any trouble occurs.

Some parents are worried about spoiling their child if they are responsive to their every demand. However, there’s a big difference between being responsive to your child’s needs and your child’s material wants. Giving your child love, warmth and responding to her cries helps establish  a secure relationship by letting her know you will be there when she needs support. This is completely different from answering your child’s needs by giving toys, presents or other material objects. Children with secure attachment tend to be more independent, not less.

Secure children have been found to have better peer relations, handle conflict better, develop faster than insecure children, show less behavior problems and have more positive romantic relationships as adults. A child’s attachment bond is related to different factors but most importantly is how sensitive his parents (and other main caregivers) are to his needs. It’s important to know that children form different attachment bonds with different people depending on the adult’s behavior.

What You Can Do

  • Try to learn your baby’s cues and expressions. Be responsive to your infants cries for warmth, food, comfort or reassurance.
  • Pay attention and encourage positive signals from your baby as well. Like smiling, laughing and other happy baby noises. Notice the touches, sounds and expressions that your baby enjoys.
  • Support your toddler positively. Give him the space needed to explore new activities and places while being there to support if things get too tough.
  • Don’t be over intrusive with your child’s initiatives. Avoid taking over your child’s activity and being over involved. This will just push your child away.
  • Try to find a balance between giving your child independence and support. Your child needs to know you will be there when she needs help.
  • Communicate with your child and explain things. Why you will leave him at daycare? Where will you go? When will you return?. Make sure to stick to what you say!
  • Be positive when correcting your child’s misbehavior or when offering your child help. This helps give your child a sense of confidence and positive self esteem.

Taking Care of You

  • Make sure to get enough rest to have the energy to be responsive to your child. Ask friends or family to help you out from time to time.
  • If you’re dealing with feelings of postpartum depression, make sure to get professional help or talk to your partner about your feelings. Depression can lead to frustration and other behaviors that can affect your bond with your baby. By taking care of yourself you’re putting your family’s health first as well.
  • You don’t have to give up your job and stay home for your baby to have a secure attachment to you. What’s important is the quality and responsiveness you shown when you are with your baby. Make sure other caregivers in your baby’s life are on the same page with your parenting ideas to give your child a consistent experience.
  • Remember to have fun! Laugh, talk and play with your baby every chance you get!
  • Work on your marital relationship. Studies have found that parents who have a supportive spouse are more able to be responsive to their child’s needs and provide higher quality of care resulting in more security.

Daddies

  • Everything in this post is directed to fathers just as it is to mothers. Research has shown that fathers play a crucial role in their children’s development and that the father-child bond is an important factor in your child’s life.
  • Working fathers may feel they aren’t spending enough time with their children. Try to engage your baby in any opportunity that presents itself. Bottle-feeding, changing diapers,  and putting your baby to bed can all be great times to bond.
  • Read, talk and sing to your baby and let her hear your voice. Take time to play and participate in your older child’s interests as well.
  • Remember to be positive when correcting or redirecting your child. Research has shown that positive parenting is very effective in correcting unwanted behavior while maintaining your child’s positive self esteem and secure bond.

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Great Resources

  • Tips for Bonding with your Baby, by the U.S Department for Health and Human Services.
  • More information on attachment and what more you can do to promote the bond here.
  • More great practical tips on what you can do today to bond with your baby here.

Photo from salwa4ct

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