After 9 months of pregnancy, your baby finally arrives…Congratulations! If you happen to have older children, the knowledge of what to do with a newborn may come more naturally.
For first-time moms, it’s not always so simple. If only newborns came with instruction manuals!
As you are getting acquainted with your infant, one thing to be mindful of is attachment and the attachment relationship. The attachment relationship between a child and its mother or caregiver is of great importance, as the quality of this attachment is said to have a great influence on a child’s later social and emotional development.
Attachment is a process that begins in early infancy and develops over time between a child and his parent/caregiver. Attachment is formed as a parent responds to a child’s basic needs as well as the child’s needs for comfort and security. The quality of the attachment relationship is dependent on how a parent responds to the infant. For example, if a child becomes distressed and the parent consistently responds to the child in a loving, nurturing way and is able to meet the child’s needs, the child has a high probability of forming what is known as a “secure attachment.” A securely attached infant can confidently explore his or her environment with the caregiver present. The child now knows that if he or she were to become distressed, the caregiver would respond in a loving and nurturing way.
As a new parent, there are several things you can do to assure that you and your child develop this positive attachment relationship.
As a first step, it is crucial that you take care of yourself!
- Get adequate sleep – a well rested mom is a happier mom
- Ask for help when you need it and work to build a support system for you and your family
- When stressed or overwhelmed, practice self-calming techniques such as deep breathing, walking into another room or calling a friend; exercise is helpful as well
Here are some tips to help you build and maintain a secure attachment with your child:
- Learn your baby’s cues – all babies are different and learning what sounds, facial expressions or movements your baby makes when he or she is hungry, tired, hot/cold or in need of a diaper change allows you to respond appropriately and consistently
- Talk, play, hold and read to your baby – this provides your baby with the feeling that he or she is valuable and worthwhile and teaches your baby about communication
- Respect a child’s need for predictability– having a routine for things such as sleep/naps, mealtime etc. assists both mother and child in knowing that needs will be met, thus forming a sense of security and trust in the relationship
As discussed earlier, we know that one of the keys to an optimal attachment bond is self-care on the part of the parent/caregiver. A parent who is calm as well as self-aware is better equipped to cope with stress and care for an infant. This then creates an ideal beginning for healthy social and emotional development in the child.
For further information on attachment and attachment theory, please refer to the following sources:
Newton, R. (2008). The Attachment Connection: Parenting a Secure and Confident Child Using the Science of Attachment Theory. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.
Bowlby, J. (1988). A Secure Base: Parent-Child Attachment and Healthy Human Development. USA: Basic Books.
Helpguide.org – (see section under “Child and Family” on Infant Mental Health)
About the Author:
Debbie Zeichner, LCSW, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Positive Discipline Parenting Educator as well as a Certified Redirecting Children’s Behavior (RCB) Parent Educator who has specialized in working with adults, children and families for over 16 years.
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