*Note — This is a post I wrote for my old blog, but I think it is worth sharing again.
Yep, it’s that important.
There are few, if any, aspects of infant/toddler development more important than the child’s attachment relationship to his parent or other primary caregiver. Secure attachment provides a healthy and secure base for the child to learn how to appropriately respect, relate to, and interact with others.
“But,” you wonder, “what exactly is attachment?”
Attachment theory is credited to child psychiatrist, John Bowlby, and psychologist, Mary Ainsworth. To learn more about Bowlby and Ainsworth, click here. Here’s a very brief breakdown of what they discovered:
Attachment is the emotional bond that forms between an infant and her primary caregiver (typically the mother). An attachment figure provides the baby with feelings of security, comfort, consistency, and happiness. As the infant grows into a toddler, she uses her attachment figure as a secure base from which to explore the world she’s discovering. When the baby is separated from her attachment figure, she typically experiences distress and fear.
Secure attachment is what you want for your child. There are three other types of attachment: avoidant, ambivalent, and disorganized. These are insecure and unhealthy attachment patterns and often result in emotional issues in later childhood and adulthood. They are not conducive to optimal development. If you want to learn what these patterns look like, this website gives a brief breakdown of them.
In short, a secure attachment relationship during early childhood is crucial in order for your infant to develop healthy relationships over the course of the rest of his life.
No pressure, right? 🙂
Relax. You are likely already engaging with your infant in ways that help create a secure attachment — picking him up when he cries; feeding him when he’s hungry; changing his diapers; talking, reading, and singing to him; holding him (babies thrive when they have physical contact); and picking up on his cues. These things (the things you’re already doing...go you!!) are the best ways to create a secure attachment with your infant. As long as you are responding to your infant consistently, appropriately, and lovingly, you’ve got this attachment thing down. Click here to read, “Bonding with Your Baby,”(a great article!) for more information about ways to create a secure attachment with your infant.
Some people tend to believe that in order to foster independence in an infant or toddler, they must limit how quickly they respond to the infant’s needs and avoid consistently responding to all of their needs. They think they will “spoil” the baby. Actually, the opposite is true. Research proves that babies whose needs are met in consistent and loving ways develop a more positive self-image and become more independent and more secure adults than babies whose needs are met inconsistently or unreliably (who tend to act out in ways we might define as “spoiled”).