20 November 2018
Being a new parent is a life-changing experience that can be very challenging, overwhelming, scary and exciting all at the same time. Parents can experience a lot of confusion and anxiety around how to best parent, particularly as there is a lot of conflicting information out there coming from multiple sources, for example friends, family, society, parenting books, social media- the list goes on!
This can be overwhelming for parents, as they often want the best for their child, but are unsure what is “right” and what is “wrong”. Although there are a lot of things on the table that are up for debate when it comes to parenting, creating a secure attachment between you and your child is something that will always be right.
What is Secure Attachment?
Secure attachment is a healthy relationship bond with your baby or child that provides them with a sense of safety and security, in order to encourage them toward safe exploration in the world, help them to regulate their emotions by soothing distress, and effectively supporting joy and play.
Research shows that children who are securely attached tend to feel more happiness, have better problem-solving skills, longer lasting relationships, better self-esteem and display more pro-social behaviours.
How can I build secure attachment for my child?
Start building secure attachment with your baby from day one through these simple tips:
Tip #1: Give your baby MORE love and affection
There is a common misconception that being “too loving” or “too responsive” to your baby’s needs will spoil them. For example, if your baby cries and you comfort or soothe them, a well-meaning family member may say “don’t spoil the baby!”.
It is actually NOT POSSIBLE to spoil a baby in the first 9 to 10 months of their life. In fact, research suggests that children are more securely attached, less demanding and more self-reliant if their parents were MORE responsive to their needs early in life.
Tip #2: Look into your baby’s eyes
Eye contact is one of the most important ways that we can connect and communicate with our babies, especially in the early days. Babies use eye contact with their primary carers to learn about the environment and seek a sense of comfort if they feel distressed.
Sustained eye contact is very pleasurable for babies as it translates into reassurance and love. This is even more effective when our faces are close to our baby as their eye sight is still developing.
Tip #3: Talk out loud to your baby
I have had parents look at me like I have three heads when I tell them to talk out loud to their newborn baby, often responding with “but she/he can’t understand me”. Yes- this is true- babies cannot speak or understand language as we use it, but they are very receptive to our emotional responses, our body language, eye contact, voice tone and touch.
Regularly connecting with your baby through talking or singing with eye contact is a helpful way to build attachment.
Tip #4: Touch your baby’s skin
Babies are very sensitive to touch, particularly from their primary caregivers. Gentle touch is also a very helpful way to encourage secure attachment. For example, I will often encourage new parents to bath their baby each night, spending lots of time touching their baby’s skin gently, or giving their baby a light massage whilst speaking to them. Touch stimulates bonding, and is very comforting and enjoyable for babies. Just like you would spend time bonding with older children, babies are no different- put specific time aside to bond with your baby. As they grow older, you can start to engage in different bonding activities that they choose to do.
If you think that you, or someone you know, is having difficulty building secure attachment with their child, or struggling with parenthood and may benefit from support, please contact The Talbot Centre for more information on how we can help.