To be healthy and happy, babies and young children need to be bonded (or attached) to caring adults.
Bonding is a special connection that forms between you and your child. It can begin in the first days of your baby’s life, or it can take time to develop.
Bonding happens through your cues, such as:
- Tone of voice.
- Gestures and movements.
- Your emotions and emotional responses to your baby.
Your baby responds and also sends you signs by:
When you respond to these signs, along with needs for food, warmth, and affection, a secure bond begins to form.
Babies bond through:
- Touch and skin-to-skin contact.
- Eye contact at close range.
- Imitation of facial expressions.
- Listening to human voices and talking.
- Feeding time.
- Your everyday caregiving.
Here’s how to help your child develop attachment:
- Talk, laugh, and play with your infant. This is just as important to a baby’s development as food and sleep. Simple games such as peek-a-boo or talking in silly voices can make her laugh.
- Be affectionate. Demonstrate love so that your child learns to show love, too.
- Be consistent. Do your best to give your child regular attention, even when you feel distracted by your own responsibilities.
- Learn your baby’s unique cues. Each baby is different and each sound, movement, and expression he makes means something different. As her parent, you get to find out what he is telling you and how to respond.
- Be responsive. Children need emotional and physical care. When you meet his needs, such as for food, sleep, and closeness, he’s more likely to interact and bond with you.
- Let go of trying to be the “perfect” parent. We all make mistakes, so just do your best. Secure attachment comes from your love for your child, not from your ability to be perfect!
- Get support. When there is high stress – such as relationship trouble, moving to a new home, financial difficulties, or other stressors – families can have trouble with attachment. If you’re facing these stressors, reach out to a trusted family member, service provider, or other community resource.
Developing a secure bond (or attachment) can help your child:
- Have healthy brain development.
- Develop confidence and self-esteem.
- Enjoy friendships.
- Recover from upset and disappointment.
- Express feelings and ask for help.
- Find emotional balance.
- Form satisfying relationships later in life.