I was visiting the library a while back, weaving in and out of the stacks, searching for a good read, when I happened on the movie section.
A young couple with a newish baby was checking out the movies, obviously trying to decide what to borrow.
I’m a sucker for babies so I paused as I walked by. It crossed my mind that this family could be the poster family for attachment parenting.
The way they interacted with each other and the baby was just what the researchers ordered.
They took turns holding the baby and they connected with her in such a natural and attentive manner.
The mom swayed gently side to side holding the baby closely as her partner searched through the stack. I’m sure it was an intuitive movement and that she was probably unaware she was even doing it.
When the baby whimpered, the mom looked down, smiled, and talked to her softly, her finger held in the little hand.
At one point, the young dad murmured to the baby and lightly stroked her cheek. The baby, though very young, was relaxed and focused on her parents.
The picture this young couple presented stayed with me. They were doing exactly what their baby needed – they were developing a meaningful and secure emotional connection with her that would provide her with the foundation to be a happy and socially well-adjusted child and adult.
Attachment is the wordless emotional relationship between a baby and her mom or dad that draws the two together and ensures the baby feels safe and calm.
This, in turn, allows the baby’s nervous system to develop to the optimal degree.
The attachment bond is an important factor in the way a baby’s brain organizes itself, affecting the social, emotional, intellectual and physical development.
A secure bond – one in which the baby feels safe – encourages life-long exploring, learning, self-awareness, trust, and empathy.
So how does this secure attachment or bonding occur?
Think back to the mom in the library.
She responded to her baby’s cues, using gentle touch and a quiet voice. Her reaction was immediate but unhurried. She was calm and received support from her partner.
The baby rewarded her by relaxing, stopping crying, and gazing at her mother’s face. Since each baby is unique, they won’t all be soothed in the same way. Some babies prefer quiet, while others might be soothed by activity and noise (such as a vacuum cleaner running.)
The attachment process is a two-way street. The baby picks up on the parent’s emotional cues through the tone of voice, gestures, emotions, and responds in age appropriate ways such as crying, cooing, copying facial expressions, and smiling.
The parent takes care of the baby’s need for food, warmth, love, and responds to cues such as the different types of cries and sounds. And, contrary to an old-school parenting notion, babies cannot be “spoiled.”
Responding to their needs helps them to learn trust, and they become more independent as children.
It is important to remember that parents won’t be able to identify their baby’s emotional needs one hundred per cent of the time – and that’s okay.
Perfection is not required.
Parents and babies learn from each other and gradually make the connection.
And in order to take care of their baby, parents need to take care of themselves.
Our community has some wonderful programs that provide tips to parents of infants and young children. Check out the Ridge Meadows Early Childhood Development committee’s website for more information. www.ridgemeadowsecd.ca.
- Kathy Booth is a local writer addressing the importance of early childhood development, and the work being done in Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, and with Katzie First Nation.