Healthy infant attachment is developed over many, many moments, not just one.
The topic of infant attachment comes up a lot in sleep training, feeding and parenting style in general. Attachment is important, of course. The bonds we form in infancy and childhood impact the “relationship blueprint” we carry for the rest of our lives (although even a damaged relationship blueprint can be repaired with intervention).
But sometimes it can be really stressful for moms. All the information leads many moms to experience guilt if they are not able to live up to ideals they think they must meet.
Luckily, forming secure attachments with our children is far less complicated than a quick and confusing Google search would lead you to believe.
Infant attachment is more simple than you think
Forming a healthy bond with our babies simply involves doing what most parents tend to do naturally!
The single most important factor in healthy infant attachment is that the baby’s needs are met, most of the time, on a fairly consistent basis. This teaches baby that the world is safe and predictable.
Breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and baby-wearing can be lovely ways to bond with a baby, but they are not necessary for forming a healthy mother-infant attachment, nor do they guarantee a secure attachment will develop.
What is necessary is good enough parenting.
What is “good enough” parenting?
It looks like this:
- Meeting the baby’s needs the majority of the time, consistently.
- Being with the baby and caring for them on a regular basis.
- Conveying an attitude of acceptance toward baby and their emotions, bodily functions, and little developing personality (most of the time).
- Cuddling, playing, holding, and interacting with baby regularly.
Notice the keywords above of “most of the time,” “regularly,” and “consistently.” It is not possible to do any of these things all of the time, but doing them regularly and most of the time is good enough to form secure attachments.
Another factor that really helps?
Having a secure attachment style yourself. Adults with secure attachment styles are comfortable with both closeness and boundaries in relationships.
If you have a secure attachment style, you model to your baby the attitude that the world is a safe place, that relationships are worth investing in, and that important others can be trusted.
If you suspect you may not have a secure attachment style, you can speak to a mental health provider. There is still time to learn to connect with others in a trusting way, and model this to your child!
Healthy infant attachment is developed over many, many moments, not just one. If you have a parenting fail, please don’t worry it has destroyed your baby’s attachment to you—it is highly unlikely.
The bottom line: Hold your baby, feed them, keep them safe, love them and remember: you are good enough already.