Sunday, May 22, 2011


The most effective way for a baby to develop a healthy attachment to one primary person occurs during the seemingly simple process of feeding the baby. In order for appropriate healthy attachment and bonding to occur, babies need 4 things: 1. warm milk, 2. rocking motions during the feeding, 3. skin to skin touch (rub their little arms and legs during feedings, and most critical, 4. making eye to eye contact with the baby during feedings. In addition, most of the feedings really need to be done by one main person. This is the person their primary attachment is going to be connected to. Attachment and bonding is important because it is the foundation that must be laid in order for a child to develop a conscience, have empathy for others, and want to please their primary caregiver, usually the mother.

Feedings need to be done with the parent paying attention to the baby, talking to them, singing, and interacting. When the parent is distracted by talking to other companions, or doing other activities, such as texting - they are not engaged in the 4 things listed above. Neither should a bottle be propped up so the parent can go do other activities. Parents that consistently rely on others to do the feedings, or do things like prop up a bottle are laying the groundwork for a compromised attachment.

Years ago I was asked to go talk to a very nice lady that was constantly having to take care of a grandbaby that was dropped off for days at a time. She was a very loving grandmother, but quite elderly with major health concerns. There were concerns she was too unhealthy to care for the baby so much. My major concern was that the baby was going to bond to someone that wasn't going to be around for the long haul. We had our little talk and she said she could see where I was coming from. Within a year or two, she had died unexpectedly. I always wondered how things turned out for that family and that child after losing her grandmother, who had been her primary caregiver.

I am not saying no one should ever help a mother feed her baby or change the diaper. We all need a little help, especially young mothers. Attachment and bonding occurs over a period of time with hundreds, if not thousands, of little moments when diapers are changed when they should be, feedings occur when the baby is hungry, need after need is met. Through these needs being met, the child eventually internalizes, "I am worthy, I am important, I am loveable, I want to do right for these people who have loved and done for me." Therefore the conscience is formed, as the child learns to care for others, as they were once cared for.