Establishing a foundation of trust with your infant is key to helping your child feel secure. A solid foundation of trust and attachment affects how she will interact, communicate and form relationships with others throughout life. This process of bonding and establishing trust takes place within your interactions. The way you respond to your baby’s cries and other cues are what help your baby to feel understood and safe in the world.
Your tone of voice, gestures, facial expressions and even your emotions can communicate to your baby that she is heard, understood and that her needs will be met. Your baby communicates to you by crying, cooing, mimicking facial expressions and eventually smiling, laughing, pointing and even playing with the volume of her own voice.
As your child communicates with you through these non-verbal cues, you watch and listen to your baby’s cries and sounds, responding to her cues while you tend to her basic needs for food, a clean diaper, comfort and affection. Secure attachment grows out of the success of this non-verbal communication process between you and your baby.
All of this is important because a secure attachment teaches your baby she can trust you, that her needs will be met and that you care about her feelings. Eventually this will enable her to trust others as well. As you and your baby form this bond of trust, she develops a healthy sense of self and what it is to be in a healthy, empathic relationship.
Early childhood development experts report that when there is a secure attachment, the part of your baby’s brain that addresses social and emotional development, communication and relationships with others develops optimally. The ability to feel empathy, to feel confident in oneself, experience resilience when life is disappointing, to be able to share feelings, seek emotional support and the ability to be responsive to others are first learned in infancy.
Here are a few tips to developing a secure attachment and establishing that bond of trust:
- Take care of yourself! Ensure you are managing your own stress and learning to be calm within yourself before you hold your baby.
- Respond to your infant’s cues promptly. There is no value in allowing an infant under the age of 9 months to “cry it out.” If they are crying it’s because they have a need that should be met. When met promptly, babies this young learn they can trust. When their needs are ignored, they are not able to develop a sense of security needed for healthy social/emotional development. Children with secure attachment prove to be MORE independent as they grow.
- Face time! Make eye contact, exchange smiles and play simple games face-to-face. But look for cues and allow your baby a rest when she needs it. If she turns her face away during the face time, allow her a little space. Wait for her to cue you when she is ready to connect again.
- Hold your baby. Babies need physical connection. It’s a myth that an infant can be spoiled. The more you hold your baby and meet her needs, the more secure and independent she will grow to be.
To read more about fostering a secure attachment with your infant, visit the website for Attachment Parenting International.
What tricks and tips have you found enable that bond of trust to develop?