The term ‘attachment’ is used to describe ‘the special relationship a child develops with their main caregiver(s)’.1
According to ‘attachment theory’, there are different types of attachment, such as ‘secure’ and ‘insecure’. If you, as the baby’s main caregiver, are responsive and sensitive to their needs, your baby will develop a ‘secure attachment’ to you.
The psychologist Alison Gopnik says:
‘It’s particularly important for babies to learn about the people who nurture, protect, and take care of them – who love them – and to figure out how love works.’2
Three key factors that help babies to develop secure attachments are:
- Accessibility: ‘the parent is present and available, physically and emotionally, to the infant and child.’
- Responsiveness: ‘the caretaker sensitively, accurately and directly addresses the child’s needs.’
- Attunement: ‘the process whereby the caregiver recognises the emotional expressions of their infant and reflects them back to the infant.’3
But you don’t have to be perfect or understand every signal from your baby. A ‘good enough’ parent is the level to aim at. A perfect parent will do everything for a baby without them experiencing any challenge and therefore no scope to grow and no need to learn. A parent that does not do enough will see that their child gives up at trying as life will feel overwhelming which will transform as they grown to frustration, withdrawal, anger or even aggression.
The psychotherapist Sue Gerhardt says:
‘Fortunately, most parents instinctively provide enough attention and sensitivity to their babies to ensure their emotional security.’
When do attachments develop?
A baby can seem like they are not attached to anyone at first and will be happily passed from one person to the next until they become hungry. This is perfectly normal and babies slowly become more selective about the people they trust. By 9 months, children that would settle with anyone may suddenly struggle as they begin to understand that they cannot control if you come back. This may look like regression but its perfectly healthy. Unfortunately it coincides with the end of maternity leave. For then, children slowly extend their social circle as they slowly learn to trust themselves to judge situations and keep themselves safe. This allows them more independance in relationships but they will still want to check in and emotionally ‘refuel’ before exploring again.
Signalling and talking to mum and she experiences lying by herself in the garden
- First few months: Your baby seems to turns towards and signal to people but does not tell people apart. Some theorists suggest children can recognise the Mother and Father however from birth,
- Around 5 to 7 months: Your baby prefers to turn towards and signal to one or more particular people. For example, your baby is more likely to smile at or be comforted by you.
- Around 7 to 9 months: Your baby prefers to stay close to a particular person by moving and signalling to them. For example, they might crawl after you or cry if you leave. Your baby also becomes wary of strangers.
- From about 3 years old: Your child now begins to understand your needs, for example, they might be prepared to wait alone if asked until you return.
If a child has a secure relationship with you already, they will have developed the skills to develop secondary attachments. It is this great start with you that will allow us to develop supportive and effevtive relationships with your baby.
Our Key person approach supports the child to develop a special bond (and secure attachment) with their practitioner. Bowlby suggests this will increase their resilience and promote mental health.
You are encouraged to stay with your baby when they first start at the setting. This allows the bond between your baby and their key person to develop in an environment where your baby feels secure. We are not trying to replace you as a parent but we do need your baby to trust us and believe that we can keep them safe.
Gradually increasing the time spent apart will help your baby to realise that they can be comforted and kept safe by their key person and until you return. This is vital for their well-being and yours as you learn how to be seperate from your baby. Knowing they are happy and comforted will help you settle back into your work routine.