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Bonding and attachment

  1. What is bonding?
  2. What is attachment?
  3. Good things about attachment and bonding for the baby

Attachment and bonding are different – Creating a secure attachment with your infant may take a little effort, but the rewards are huge for both of you.

Bonding is the process by which the parents and the young infant make a special long term attachment and connection with each other.

Bonding is the start of building a deep lasting relationship that will be unique (the only one of its kind) between a baby and his or her caregivers. It is an intense emotional connection which some parents feel immediately. Other parents take time to feel it as they get to know their baby, over time.

This natural (instinctual) bonding relationship draws the baby and caregiver together. The bond motivates the caregiver to pay close attention to baby’s needs – to wake up in the middle of the night to feed, to notice when a nappy needs changing and to understand what the baby’s different cries mean.

This bonding is the basis for the baby to develop his or her sense of self (how he or she sees and experiences him or herself).

If a baby receives consistent and sensitive care during the first few months of life, a healthy and secure attachment will usually begin. Being sensitive, (interpreting the baby’s signals and responding accurately and appropriately) emotionally warm and available are crucial elements of these healthy interactions.

Attachment is the deep and lasting connection or “tie of affection” established between a child and caregiver most intensely in the first thousand days of the infant’s life. It begins at birth, develops rapidly over the next few years, and continues to grow throughout life at a different and slower pace.

The baby’s developing brain is stimulated when there is a loving interaction between the child and his or her caregivers. The stronger the “affection tie” or attachment, the better chance the child has of future emotional wellbeing. Babies begin to build attachments to familiar caregivers who respond to their day-to-day physical and emotional needs. The separation from a loved attachment figure brings enormous distress.

Reciprocity – a process of “serve” and “return”. A parent and infant are mutually involved in initiating, sustaining and ending interactions. Babies are born to relate to others. They reach out for interactions by gazing at their parent’s face, touching and cooing and by making body movements and facial expressions. When babies don’t receive responses, or are overwhelmed by intrusive responses, they will eventually give up trying to engage.

The stronger the “affection tie” or attachment, the better chance the child has of future emotional wellbeing. Babies begin to build attachments to familiar caregivers who respond to their day-to-day physical and emotional needs. The separation from a loved attachment figure brings enormous distress.

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

  • develop trusting relationships with others
  • be more balanced emotionally – have a wider range of emotions
  • feel confident and good about themselves
  • enjoy being with others
  • recover more quickly from disappointment and loss
  • share their feelings and seek support
  • explore and learn with greater confidence

Bonding and attachment play an important role in your baby’s development (social, emotional, intellectual and physical):

  • social – able to be with and co-operate with others more easily
  • emotional – able to notice other’s emotions, and able to show your own emotions and bounce back more easily from negative emotions
  • intellectual – able to learn more easily
    • language
    • memory
    • problem-solving
    • attention/concentration
  • physical – stronger and healthier
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