Babyhood: What is Attachment? – by Georgina Anderson.

Becoming a new mum brings in the birth of a new relationship… 

A relationship of caregiving your precious baby. This very process of caregiving becomes a strong foundation in the attachment experience with your baby.

So what is Attachment – and why is it important in the early years of babyhood?

Attachment has been described by well known practitioners such as Dr. John Bowlby and psychologist Mary Ainsworth as the emotional tie between mother and child; The affectional tie and bond a person forms to another specific one and the lasting psychological connectedness between them.

 

The type of attachment the baby forms with his or her mother can be seen in the baby’s desire to be close to the mother and in the distress shown upon separation from her.

So why again is attachment so significant???  Attachment is primarily important because it provides protection of your baby which increases your baby’s chances of survival.   The baby experiences mum as a base from which to explore their environment and develop…giving your baby a free, secure, happy and safe babyhood.  Did you know that there is a lot of research to indicate that all child development including brain development occurs from the platform of attachment?

 

So how does attachment form in the first 2 years of your baby’s life?? the development of a baby’s attachment occurs over four stages during the first eighteen months of life (see Shaffer & Emerson).  These stages can overlap into each other.

 In the beginning – stage one, your baby naturally cries and fusses to attract the attention of the mother and rewards her with cooing, snuggling and smiling when she responds positively.  Before too long – stage two. Your baby begins to develop a sense of trust in mum’s sensitive and timely responsiveness to baby’s needs and begins to prefer the attention and care of mum.  At around seven to eleven months – stage three. Your baby develops a strong preference for mum and can resist going to anyone else, even dad or other close family members.  This stage can reach an all-time peak around eighteen months of age.  However, after about nine months – stage four, your baby develops a strong attachment to significant others like dad, siblings and grandparents.  This becomes more and more evident over time.

 

More evidently, the style of attachment your baby develops also has lasting impact on all their development, self-esteem, school experience and peer relationships.  Your baby’s attachment style also impacts their ability to adjust to growing and to changing situations, their capacity to experience emotional and psychological health and wellbeing, their choices of romantic partners later in life, the parenting they provide to their children in the next generation and in fact longevity. In other words, attachment has a profound influence over the course of your baby’s development throughout his or her lifespan.

 

Research has indicated that mums who feel emotionally secure have more capacity to be consistently available to meet the emotional needs of their baby. Secure mums are more likely to have more presence and resilience in dealing with increasing demands of their baby.  If you have been feeling more anxious since having your baby or feeling very distant and disconnected, rather than the close bond you may have expected, my next article on ‘attachment from mother to baby’ and ‘how to help your baby feel secure’ would assist you in understanding and providing for your baby’s attachment needs.