Attachment Disorder

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One of our experts explains the importance of bonding with your newborn to prevent the possibility of having an attachment disorder later in life. 

By Donna Townsend

I recently spoke to a new parent in Bangkok, she was holding her baby boy close but there was a deep sadness in her eyes. She knew that I was an Early Years professional and asked for some advice. She told me that she had waited a long time for her son and that she loved him with all of her heart however she was finding it very difficult to understand him. She was clearly upset and was desperate to discover how to bond with her baby.

I started reflecting on why and how this had happened. How had a mother, who had waited so long for this miracle to happen not been able to bond with her baby?

I also began to consider what the long term affects would be if this new mum did not establish a secure attachment with her son.

The reasons for unsuccessful attachments are numerous; they can include an infant being neglected, an infant who has been hospitalized for an extended period of time or through a lack of consistency in care.

It is the lack of consistency in care that I find most interesting in this situation. The parent I spoke to is affluent and provides the best care for her son however this has meant using a team of nannies. I speculate as to whether or not this could be a reason why this parent and possibly many others in her situation face a disconnect between themselves and their baby.

Using more than one nanny is common in Bangkok, for parents it can alleviate a lot of the pressures having a newborn brings, however given this I wonder how knowledgeable new parents are about the importance of early attachments.

The critical moments during those first few months need to be based on consistent, loving, secure and high quality interactions between a primary caregiver and the baby. Should this not happen the baby will feel confused and will in turn become disconnected. Infants who have not developed a secure attachment can exhibit a number of signs, they include a lack of eye contact, uncontrollable crying and not showing pleasure when hearing the primary caregivers voice. Longer-term effects can include anger management issues and low self-esteem.

My advice to this parent was to ensure that she provides a consistent routine for her baby. I suggested that she had more eye contact and that she talked to him more using a calm soothing voice. Some parents feel embarrassed by talking to their baby however chatting about what you are doing with your baby will support the attachment process as well as supporting their language development.

For any parents feeling like they are not connecting with their baby, I would suggest seeking out other new parents through parenting classes or through support groups. For a baby’s future well being, it is important to acknowledge these issues rather than shy away from them. This is not always easy however a happy baby will result in a happy parent!

photo by S.Raj CC BY NC ND 2.0

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