Fostering A Healthy Infant Attachment Bond

As I count down the days for my baby girl to arrive, I am preparing in many ways. I have a co-sleeper crib next to my bed, a rocker in my room, new clothes washed in baby detergent and folded neatly with her new baby blankets. My hospital bags are packed and my family is on stand-by for the final call. And me, well I’m preparing my heart and my mind for all that goes into having a new baby… the amazing and the challenging. With all this preparation, some may call nesting, I’m reminded of all that I know about the early months of a new baby’s life. There are medical issues to be on alert for, feeding and sleep schedules, developmental milestones to record, and the list goes on. But what about all that information is most important for my new baby?

What does she need most from me more than anything else during her first several months?

Lucky for me, it so very simple… love, love, love!! Babies need plenty of nurturing to build a secure attachment (bond) to me, her dad, and eventually in her future relationships in life. Early attachment is so important that I am constantly reading new research to back up the importance of building these healthy attachments as infants and the struggles of children and adults who did not form these attachments as infants.

According to Helpguide.org,

secure bond provides your baby with an optimal foundation for life: eagerness to learn, healthy self-awareness, trust, and consideration for others. An insecure attachment bond, one that fails to meet your infant’s need for safety and understanding, can lead to confusion about his or her own identity and difficulties in learning and relating to others in later life.

When babies develop a secure attachment bond, they are better able to:

  • Develop fulfilling intimate relationships
  • Maintain emotional balance
  • Feel confident and good about themselves
  • Enjoy being with others
  • Rebound from disappointment and loss
  • Share their feelings and seek support

I’ve added several links at the end of this post where you can read more about infant attachment theories and research.

So how do you ensure you are giving your baby what they need to develop a healthy attachment bond?

  1. Get to know your baby. Pay attention to their facial expressions, likes and dislikes, how they respond to you and other stimuli, and what they are trying to communicate to you. Many moms learn pretty quickly the different cries of their baby and what they mean.
  2. Respond to your baby.  This is a key component to building healthy attachments. We want our baby to develop a sense of security that their needs will be met and you will be there when they need you.
  3. Maintain consistency with your baby. Your baby will learn to trust their world and believe they can count on others through your consistency. This means being reliable when they need you to meet their basic needs, as well as needs for emotional connection.
  4. Play with your baby. Talk to your baby. Listen to your baby. Laugh with your baby! By your positive interaction, they are learning more about you, as well as developing a positive perspective of this big, new world they have entered.
  5. Hold your baby. Give your baby plenty of snuggle time. Caress their baby fingers and toes and rock them close to your heart. This closeness helps to create an ever lasting bond with your baby and encourages healthy emotional and physical growth.

I have condensed a huge topic into a very small post, but I have included what I feel are some of the most important points of early infant attachment. I encourage you to continue read more on the topic of early attachments with these resources I have listed below. As a reader, if you have any other suggestions or comments on this subject, please share!!

Zero To Three National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families

VIDEO: Creating a Secure Attachment

About Attachment Theory

Secure or Insecure Attachment in Infancy Largely Shapes Who We Are Today

Attachment Parenting International

Early Day Care and Infant-Mother Attachment Security

Attachment Security in Infancy and Early Adulthood: A 20 Year Longitudinal Study

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Being Prepared for Postpartum Emotions (of Mom AND Dad)

The birth of a baby is no small event and can trigger significant and sometimes long-lasting mood changes, in both the mother and father. I think everyone has heard of postpartum depression at one time or another. Millions of new mommies experience deep feelings of sadness or persistent anxiety after the birth of their baby, which medical explanations attribute to the rapid decline in hormone levels after the baby is born. Fathers can also experience significant mood changes, including depression and anxiety. After all, his life has undergone drastic changes as well.

With a little one soon to arrive and a toddler at my feet, I easily recall those weeks and months after my first child was born. I remember the powerful wave of emotions that flooded my body and mind.  In fact, even with all I knew about the postpartum mood changes, I was shocked at how powerful they could be that first week. The birth of a child, and especially the first, is supposed to be joyous. So how is it that I could feel even the slightest bit of sadness?

There are many factors that can lead to the postpartum blues:

* Hormones: This goes for mom and dad! Yes, even dad experiences changes in testosterone levels after a baby is born. Here is a link that may interest you.

* Fatigue: In case you didn’t know yet, new babies are exhausting! They feed every 2-3 hours and may even wake up between that time for a multitude of other needs.

* New Responsibility: Holding your new baby brings up floods of joy, as well as an “Oh my goodness, this is a big responsibility” kind of feeling.

* Financial Strains: Babies are expensive… and so are kids and teens and college students. The financial burdens of a new child are significant and long-term. This places a lot of stress on new parents.

* Social Changes: The days of care-free living are over and new parents often have to find new social circles to join. In addition, at least one of the parents may be making changes in their job status or putting off career aspirations.

* New Identity: Having a baby also means being called “mom” or “dad” and owning this new identity, and all that comes with it, can take some time to adjust.

* Relationship Changes: A couple will need to make some adjustments to their relationship. With so much time and energy going to a baby, it will be important that they find creative ways to maintain a healthy relationship and find time to spend together.

With all these factor in place, it’s natural for new parents to experience changes in their emotions, from the good to the bad. No person is the same, so they can even come at varying times and in varying forms and severity.

So how do you deal with these emotional changes and when do you seek help?

* First of all, learn the symptoms of depression before baby arrives- sadness, tear fullness, hopelessness, lack of joy, fatigue, lack of motivation, changes in eating habits, and sometimes emotional numbness. Knowing these symptoms can help you to identify depression in yourself and in others if they should come. The Mayo Clinic website has more detailed information on these symptoms.

* Attempt to identify some of the greatest area of need for you at the moment. Sleep? Food? Time out of the house?

* Seek support from loved ones, such as your significant other, relatives, and friends. Be sure to let them know you really need help and if you know how they can help, communicate that clearly. Don’t expect people to guess what you need.

* Talk to your doctor a) if the depression and anxiety has been going on for more than 6 weeks, b) if you feel the emotions are too much to handle, c) your symptoms continue to get more severe, or d) anytime you are unsure what to do or what you are experiencing.

Please keep in mind, changes in emotions are normal for everyone. Having a baby is a wonderful, joyous occasion, but also a huge change! There is no shame in what you are experiencing and I can guarantee you that another mother or father out that has experienced something similar. Seek the advice of your doctor anytime you have concern.

Related links:

Mayo Clinic

Baby Center

Postpartum Men

Men’s Health article

Article: Men’s Testosterone Levels After Baby is Born

Childhood 101: 7 Reasons Not to Leave the Hospital with Baby Blues

Books:

The Postpartum Survival Guide

Postpartum Depression for Dummies

Postpartum Depression and Child Development

The Postpartum Husband: Practical Solutions for Living with Postpartum Depression

Goodtherapy.org: Number 1 Complication at Birth

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