The bond between parent and child

Attachment is the deep and reciprocal bond that is created between child and parent/caregiver.

There appears to be a lot of chat about attachment these days.

What does this word mean anyways? Attachment is the deep and reciprocal bond that is created between child and parent/caregiver. It is most commonly the mother whom a child develops its primary attachment with but can be another loving, sensitive caregiver as well.

The baby and mother experience an intimate connection that may begin as early as pre-conception.

While a baby is growing inside the womb, it is experiencing all that the mother is experiencing. When mom is feeling happy the baby receives these good feelings.  When a mom experiences stress, the baby will receive increased levels of cortisol.  A fetus also eats what nutrition is provided by mom and receives any toxins that are ingested.  The baby feels mom’s movements and can hear the voice of mom and the people around her.  Recent studies of epigenetic’s (study of gene expression changes) are showing that sometimes what the mother and child are experiencing can change the way the brain develops and which genes are turned on in the developing fetus.

When a baby is born, their natural instinct is to come up on to mom’s tummy and lay skin to skin. (When a baby receives skin to skin contact it helps regulate the heart beat temperature and breathing of the baby). From this place, the baby will start to push and crawl its way up to mom’s breast where a hormone called prolactin is released that smells like amniotic fluid.  The baby will find the breast, latch on and begin to nurse. This beginning process is called the self-attachment sequence and is similar in other animals. At birth, a baby can vaguely see about 12 inches away, which is approximately the distance from breast to moms face.  This allows the baby to meet mom on the outside and really start to connect with her visually.

Sometimes when there is a premature or difficult birth, medication or interventions are used, or if the baby is separated from both mom and dad, it may stall this natural process and may cause difficulties with breastfeeding and attachment.

The good news is that the baby can learn the self-attachment sequence later on with a little bit of love and support.  This process can also be done with toddlers and children using different techniques.

Babies are born dependent upon their parents for survival.  When infants have a primary adult who cares for them in a sensitive way, can perceive, make sense of and respond to their needs, they can develop a sense of safety and a secure base from which they can explore the world from.

Having a secure base and attachment is associated with a positive developmental outcome for children in social, emotional and cognitive areas.

Attachment research demonstrates the importance of the parent-child relationship in shaping children’s interactions with other children, their ability to balance their emotions, resilience to stress, capacity to have a coherent story that makes sense of their lives and ability to create meaningful, interpersonal, securely attached relationships in the future.

-submitted by Tinaya Jorgensen