5 steps to a healthy connection with your baby

9 09 2011

Editors’ note: This content is provided by Early Moments Matter, a campaign dedicated to making sure every child has the best possible chance at emotional well-being. Find out how to receive the Early Moments Matter tool kit and provide one to a family in need.

Step 1

Understand your child’s cues and style of communication

Each baby has her own way of expressing herself, but many cues are universal. Rooting and sucking actions usually signal that it’s time for nursing, feeding, or comfort­ing with something to suck on. An arched back signals overstimulation or discomfort. A frown may mean the light is too bright or that your child is worried.
Crying is one of those cues that can mean many things – and when the baby is screaming at the top of her lungs, it can be very frustrating. If you can stay calm, it’s helpful to go through your checklist of what the child might be trying to tell you – “I’m tired,” “Change my diaper,” “Feed me,” “I don’t feel well, Mommy.”

Step 2

Create a foundation of security and trust with your baby

As you learn to read and respond to cues, and your baby begins to trust that her most basic needs will be met and that the sur­roundings are safe – essential for healthy attachment – you can help your child discover how to adapt to changes in the environment through self-regulation and self-soothing. These behaviors start developing in the womb and are especially evident in the first month after birth. Both are important skills in creating a foundation for security and trust.

Step 3

Provide consistent and responsive parenting

Each interaction with your baby is an opportunity for attachment. Al­though no parent makes a connec­tion every time, the goal is to create a consistent pattern.

Parents who accept and validate their child’s emotional communica­tions send a powerful message: “Your feelings matter, you will be taken care of, and you have a trustworthy and secure base from which to explore.” One way to validate a child’s emotions is by verbally acknowledging the discom­fort, stimulation, or whatever the child is feeling. Again, it doesn’t matter that your child can’t understand your words – she senses your intention.

Step 4

Connect with your child through touch, physical comfort, laughter, and play

Some parents fear they might be spoiling their babies by constantly holding and carrying them. But because an infant’s brain and body systems are so immature at birth, a newborn has no capacity for in­dependence and needs your loving touch and support. Studies over the last several decades show substan­tial lifelong advantages in physical, mental, social, and emotional health for children who receive consistent, warm, positive attention and care that’s appropriate for their develop­mental stage.
Step 5

Care for yourself and for your own emotional well-being

With all the focus on reading your baby and responding to her, it’s easy to lose sight of your own needs. But they are just as important! As a new mother, you may feel like your body’s been through an earthquake, and it’s essential that you take care of it – eating well, getting outside, and walking and resting as much as you can.

For both parents, stress, exhaustion, irritability, and the desire to withdraw from your partner – even the world – are typical. Postpartum depression, anxiety, and other mood changes are also very common. All these changes can have a significant impact on your baby’s ability to develop healthy attachment.




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