How to Build a Secure Attachment Bond with Your Baby
The How to Build a Secure Attachment Bond with Your Baby help sheet, produced by Helpguide.org and written by Lawrence Robinson, Joanna Saisan, MSW, Melinda Smith, MA, and Jeanne Segal, PhD, demonstrates how parents can participate in the development of the nonverbal emotional relationship between an infant and its primary caregiver to help build the best foundation for the child’s emotional development.
The guide asks:
- What is the attachment bond?
- Why is a secure attachment bond important?
- Why is a secure attachment bond good for you, too?
The guide stresses that the formation of a secure attachment bond between infant and primary caregiver helps to develop the life-skills of eagerness to learn, healthy self-awareness, trust, and consideration for others. “This wordless interactive emotional exchange draws the two of you together, ensuring that your infant will feel safe and be calm enough to experience optimal development of their nervous system. The attachment bond is a key factor in the way your infant’s brain organizes itself and influences your child’s social, emotional, intellectual and physical development.”
The guide offers 5 tips to help form a secure attachment bond:
- Learn to understand your baby’s unique cues
- Watch your baby’s facial expressions and body movements for clues about sensory needs
- Become familiar with the kinds of sounds your baby makes and what these sounds mean.
- Note the kind of touch your baby enjoys and the amount of pressure that he or she experiences as pleasurable.
- Pay attention to the kinds of movements, sounds and environments your baby enjoys.
- “Watch out for peer pressure from well-meaning family and friends. What worked for their baby may not work for yours.”
- Eating and sleeping provide important opportunities
- “Many of your baby’s early signs and signals are about the need for food and proper rest. Increasing the frequency of feedings or adding in some extra time for rest where appropriate can make a big difference in your baby’s ability to engage and interact when awake.”
- Talk, laugh and play with your baby
- “The importance of having fun, playing with, holding and sharing happiness with your baby cannot be overstated….Your body language, tone of voice and loving touch are all important ways of communicating with your baby.”
- Let go of trying to be the “perfect” parent
- “Just do your best, and don’t worry if you don’t always know what your baby wants. What makes attachment secure…is the quality and responsiveness of the interaction with your baby… Secure attachment requires you to understand your baby’s cues a third of the time, not every time.”
- The guide gives tips for dads who are taking on the role of primary caregiver with an infant:
- Looking into your baby’s eyes, smiling and talking, whilst bottle feeding and doing diaper changes.
- Talking, reading or singing to your baby. It is the tone of voice that conveys security, rather than the content of the words.
- Playing peek-a-boo and mirroring your baby’s movements.
- Mimicking your baby’s cooing and other vocalizations.
- Holding and touching your baby as much as possible (e.g. by using a baby carrier, pouch or sling).
- Letting baby feel the different textures of your face.
The guide lists challenges that can affect secure attachment. Compromised nervous system, difficult gestation or delivery, neo-natal health problems, extended periods in intensive care, separation from primary caretaker at birth, or babies who have experienced a series of caretakers, may need extra time, attention, and support from trained medical personnel to assist in overcoming these initial difficulties. “Parents who themselves did not experience a secure attachment bond when they were infants, may have trouble emotionally connecting with their babies.” Other issues, such as depression or anxiety, drug or alcohol problems, high stress levels, living in an unsafe environment, or negative childhood memories from their own experience, may mean that parents may need support in establishing a secure bond with their infant.