It’s a common question new mothers ask: How much time should a parent spend with a newborn to ensure a secure attachment? Some say that a parent should be with a newborn at all times. Others say that a mother should get back to her normal routine as soon as possible after she gives birth, and that it is okay to leave a baby with an outside caretaker. Still others are reluctant to commit fully to either end of the spectrum and fall somewhere in between. So who’s right?
While it’s true that babies who develop secure attachments within the first year of their lives grow into caring, confident and socially apt children and, later, adults, research suggests that contact does not have to be nonstop for this connection to form. Attachment parenting, which is the school of thought that advocates constant contact by sleeping together, breastfeeding and wearing the baby in a sling, is a popular parenting style, but it is not evidentially proven to be effective. Too much togetherness can, in fact, be a bad thing. Mothers should not be afraid to take their “me-time” or feel they have to sacrifice their own needs—in fact, addressing their own needs is integral to fostering healthy relationships.
The first two years of a baby’s life are crucial in determining how that baby will develop. Babies nurtured by caring, responsive caretakers (ideally parents) grow into stable individuals who can manage their emotions in an appropriate way. Studies suggest that for the first six months of a baby’s life, having a single primary caretaker is much more effective in developing a secure attachment than having a handful of caretakers.
Ways to ensure that a newborn will develop a secure attachment include reacting warmly to the baby’s cues, such as a cry or outstretched arms. When the primary caretaker responds in such a gentle, loving way, the baby starts to feel secure. But, experts warn, it’s important to allow the baby to learn how to self-soothe—that is, a parent shouldn’t respond to every little cry the baby utters. Instead, if, upon checking, it is determined that all of the baby’s needs have been met, it is okay to let the baby cry a little.
Parents should remember to smile, touch and show affection to their baby during the first years. It is also important to put in place a regular, consistent schedule (e.g. eating, sleeping, stimulation) for the child and have a mutual, two-way relationship with the child. Such behavior will reinforce the baby’s security and establish a stable “base” to which the baby can always return after exploring the greater unknown.
But those who fear their children have developed insecure attachment—which is characterized by anxious and skittish behavior—need not fret. If the child is four to five years old, there is still time to remedy the situation by becoming that stable, caring and supportive parent that the child requires. Again, it is important to set up consistent schedules and routines to reinforce the child’s sense of security.
The important thing that parents should remember when caring for newborns is that babies crave warm touches and need to be taught that they can rely on their caretakers from their infancy. This care need not be constant, but should be as sensitive and responsive as possible. This allows the children to develop secure attachments and grow into more confident, secure individuals.
Photo From Morguefile; By GaborfromHungary