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Bonding and attachment

Parents are often very aware that bonding and attachment are important for them and their baby and the bonding process can begin prior to their baby being born. Mothers can feel a sense of protection for themselves and their unborn baby which is the beginnings of the bonding process becoming more established. When their baby is born, some parents are immediately overwhelmed with love and affection for the new person in their lives, however this does not happen for everyone. This could be the result of a difficult birth, the parent may not have been able to spend time with their baby following the birth, hormonal changes or fear of being unable to provide for or respond to their baby's needs.

Some parents expect to feel a sudden rush of love and when this does not happen they are overwhelmed with feelings of guilt, upset, helplessness and worry. It is extremely important for parents to be aware that bonding and attachment does not happen in the same way for every parent. It can take time for parents to get to know the new little person in their life and the most important steps to take are to be receptive to getting to know their baby and doing this in their own time.

The attachment bond is a lasting lifelong relationship that enables parents to maintain motivation for meeting their baby's needs. Even though it may not be established from birth, it is important parents recognise this so they can gain support and start building on the loving bond and attachment between them. Many professionals such as health visitors give valuable support and advice to new parents to help them identify if they have found the bonding process difficult and ways to encourage this to develop.

Ensuring parents are supported to bond with their baby

The reason emphasis is placed on ensuring parents are supported to bond with their baby is due to in depth research suggesting the valuable benefits for babies and their future development. A healthy attachment bond helps babies feels secure, safe, stable, loved and content. In turn this can have a lasting impact upon other areas of their development:

Physical: A secure attachment ensures parents maintain motivation to meet the basic care needs of babies in terms of ensuring they are fed, bathed, changed, sheltered and warm.

Cognitive: Secure bonds and attachments promote cognitive development due to their needs being met by attentive parents who provide a stimulating environment around them.

Social: Bonding and attachment helps babies and children learn about lasting loving relationships, empathy, consideration, respect and being able to communicate and socialise effectively with others.

Emotional: When babies and children are shown emotional warmth and experience nurturing loving touch they benefit from increased self esteem, self confidence and are able to express themselves effectively.

Parents can be supported through baby massage to accept that bonding and attachment can take time, giving them confidence and reassurance to move from feeling like “I can’t” to “I can” to “I am”. Through engaging with baby massage either in classes or private sessions, parents can learn about reading their babies cues, helping them to better understand each other by spending quality time together.

Parents can learn to listen to the sounds their babies make, watch their facial expressions, pay attention to their movements, likes and dislikes. Baby massage can help parents move from feeling fretful to having fun and enjoying the time they spend with their baby. Laughing, playing, talking and singing with their baby will encourage the release of the hormone oxytocin which in turn will help the parents feel more positive and start feeling a greater sense of attachment to their baby.

Parents can be supported through baby massage

It has been a common observation that once parents start to relax and enjoy the time with their baby, the baby often senses this and becomes more relaxed meaning the experience is mutually beneficial and longstanding. This is not to say that there will be no periods of stress, however parents can learn a valuable technique to promote lasting benefits for them and their baby.

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