Bonding vs the Attachment Bond: Understanding the different ways of connecting with your child

Bonding vs the Attachment Bond
The main predictor of how well a child will do in school is the strength of the relationship they have as infants with their primary caretaker. This relationship also impacts a child's future mental, physical, social, and emotional health. It is not founded on quality of care or parental love, but rather on the strength of the nonverbal emotional connection between infant and parent known as the attachment bond.
IN THIS ARTICLE: Importance of the attachment bond Attachment bond differs from love Obstacles to secure attachment bond Nonverbal communication tips More ways to secure attachment

Why is the attachment bond so important?
The groundbreaking 2000 study, From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development identified how crucial the attachment bond is to a child’s development. It affects aspects of how a child will develop mentally, physically, intellectually, emotionally, and socially. While attachment occurs naturally as you, the parent or caretaker, care for your baby’s needs, the quality of the attachment bond varies. A secure attachment bond ensures that your infant will feel safe and be calm enough to experience optimal development of their nervous system. Your infant's brain organizes itself and provides your baby with the best foundation for life: eagerness to learn, healthy self-awareness, trust, and empathy. An insecure attachment bond fails to meet your infant’s need for safety, understanding, and calm, preventing the infant’s developing brain from organizing itself in the best ways. This can inhibit emotional, mental, and even physical development and lead to difficulties in learning and forming relationships in later life.

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and insecure at a crucial time when their brain is developing. Refers to your child’s emotional connection with you (his or her primary caregiver) that begins at birth. .helpguide. secure environment in order to organize itself and develop in the best possible way. . giving your child the best start in life. You can tend to your baby’s every physical need. an infant needs something more than love and caregiving in order for their brain and nervous system to develop in the best way possible. it is based on the strength of the nonverbal emotional exchange that occurs between an infant and the adult who spends the most time taking care of him or her. Refers to your feelings for and sense of connection to your child that begins before birth and usually develops very quickly in Secure Attachment Bond . For this to happen. provide the highest quality nourishment. educational input. the baby needs to be able to engage in a nonverbal emotional exchange with their primary caretaker in a way that communicates their needs and makes them feel comfortable. and ensure they get all the sleep and mental stimulation they need. you can follow all the traditional parenting guidelines. the 2000 study found that the critical aspect of the child-primary caretaker relationship is NOT based on quality of care. and yet still not achieve a secure attachment bond. does not require being a perfect parent. understood. or even sleep with your infant without creating the kind of attachment that fosters the best development for your child. around-the-clock care for your baby. and online sources have encouraged parents to bond with their babies by investing more time and energy in taking care of their infant. cuddle them. and put to sleep.Bonding vs the Attachment Bond: Understanding the different ways of connecting with your child http://www. massage them. Since the 1960s.htm Ensuring that the attachment bond between you and your baby is a secure one. . The Difference Between Bonding and a Secure Attachment Bond Bonding . or even the bond of love that develops between parent and infant. articles. You can hold them. they need to be fed. confused. many books. How is it possible to do such a good job of meeting a baby’s physical needs and yet have a child that does not have a secure attachment and may suffer developmentally? The bond of love differs from the attachment bond All infants need to be cared for. . To physically survive. and safe. In fact. An infant who feels disconnected emotionally from their primary caregiver is apt to feel unsafe. However. provide doting. Your baby needs more than love As a parent or primary caretaker for your infant. As the infant brain at birth is largely undeveloped. keep them safe and dry. it requires a calm. develops rapidly in the next two years and 2 of 9 25/01/2013 10:37 AM . Rather. The infant's need for survival and the parent’s need to care for their offspring create a bond of love between parent and child.

You focus solely on the moment-to-moment experience. You pick up on your baby’s nonverbal cue that he or she is exhausted and needs to rest.htm The Difference Between Bonding and a Secure Attachment Bond the first weeks after the baby is born. reading about. so you postpone taking a cute photo and stop trying to engage the baby in play. for example. For example. and bathing. even though they are very different ways of connecting with your baby. for example. You maintain your regular adult pace while attending to your infant. One is a connection based on the care a parent provides for an infant. the primary caretaker. while the other is based on the quality of nonverbal emotional communication that occurs between parent and child. and talking about what your baby needs. Happens with only one person at a time—namely. Requires you to focus on what is happening in the moment between you and your baby. you hurry to change the baby’s diapers so it will be done in time for you to make an important phone call. 3 of 9 25/01/2013 10:37 AM . for example. You plan and attend to your baby’s regular needs such as changing diapers. trying to do everything you can to have the smartest. For example.Bonding vs the Attachment Bond: Understanding the different ways of connecting with your child http://www. Your infant’s cues tell you that he or she feels unhappy. While feeding or bathing your baby. “I'm in no hurry. You follow your infant’s slower pace and take the time to decipher and respond to your baby’s nonverbal cues that communicate. you want to get a cute photo of your baby laughing so you initiate play time. continues developing throughout life.helpguide. just enjoying connecting with your baby. You concentrate on planning. Both types of parent-child interaction can occur simultaneously. Is a process that can include many people—all those who spend time caring for your infant.” Your infant initiates and ends the interaction between Why there is so much confusion about bonding and the secure attachment bond? The words bond or bonding are commonly used to describe both caretaking and the emotional exchange that forms the attachment process. I just want to explore you and me. You as the parent initiate interaction with your baby. You focus on future goals by. for example. Is task-oriented. and you respond. You concentrate on the emotional interchange that occurs between you and your baby. happiest baby. you can also build the emotional connection by recognizing and responding to your baby’s nonverbal cues. feeding. the person who spends the most time taking care of the baby.

yet be ill-equipped to meet the needs of an infant’s immature nervous system. The new field of infant mental health. If you are overly stressed. Obstacles to creating a secure attachment bond Some parents can deeply love their babies. ultimately. pre-occupied. secure attachment. a baby will eventually relax enough for the secure attachment process to occur.htm Before experts understood the radical changes going on in the infant brain during the first months and years of life. grieving. both the caretaking process and the attachment process looked very similar. Adopted babies or those who spend time in hospital neonatal units away from a parent may have early life experiences that leave them feeling stressed. If. as the infant brain is so undeveloped and influenced by experience. and unsafe. a child can overcome any difficulties at birth. or otherwise unable to be calm and present for the baby. A baby will constantly look to the parent as a source of safety and connection and. and/or intellectual development may suffer. but if the primary caretaker remains calm. provides a clearer understanding of factors that may compromise the secure attachment bond. and persistent.Bonding vs the Attachment Bond: Understanding the different ways of connecting with your child http://www. they rely on a parent or guardian to do so for them. depressed. you may not 4 of 9 25/01/2013 10:37 AM . the infant’s physical. angry. Infants who never seem to stop crying—whose eyes are always tightly closed. Fortunately. When a baby experiences difficulty in the womb or in the birth process—during a cesarean birth. focused. traumatized. How a caretaker’s health can affect the secure attachment bond The feelings you experience as a primary caretaker can shape the developmental process rapidly occurring in your infant’s brain. though. confused. for example—his or her nervous system may be compromised. and bodies rigid—may have difficulty experiencing the soothing cues of even a highly attuned caretaker. anxious. understanding. however. It may take a few months. If either the primary caretaker or the infant has a health problem. Now. nonverbal communication between the two may be affected.helpguide. they are able to recognize and painstakingly record an infant’s nonverbal responses to highlight the process of attachment. How an infant’s health can affect the secure attachment bond Experience shapes the brain and this is especially true for newborns whose nervous systems are largely undeveloped. Since infants cannot calm and soothe themselves. or unavailable for whatever reason. the parent is frequently depressed. fists clenched. with its emphasis on brain research and the developmental role of parents. which in turn can affect the secure attachment bond.

texting a friend during play time. Responding to an urgent email during feeding. you can also learn to manage overwhelming stress and deal with emotions that may interfere with your ability to create a secure attachment bond. computers. Even when a child is old enough to talk. repair is always possible and may even strengthen the secure attachment bond. and comfort for an infant.You look at baby adoringly and he or she picks up on the positive emotion conveyed by this nonverbal signal and feels safe.Bonding vs the Attachment Bond: Understanding the different ways of connecting with your child http://www. and attempt to repair it by continuing to figure out what your baby needs. as an infant. If. Nonverbal Cues and How They Can be Used to Create a Secure Attachment Bond Eye contact . when you’ve missed or misinterpreted your infant’s cues. caring. But adults can change for the better.htm have the awareness or sensitivity to provide the positive emotional mirroring an infant needs for secure attachment. If you notice there’s a disconnect between you. the secure attachment process will stay on track. you didn't experience a secure attachment bond with your own primary caregiver. Distractions of daily life Cell phones.helpguide. you may be unaware of what secure attachment looks or feels like. a particular touch. Nonverbal communication tips for secure attachment Nonverbal cues are sensory signals communicated by a certain tone of voice. Without eye contact and your full attention you’ll miss your infant’s nonverbal cues. Sometimes even a healthy. or the sight of a particular face. and responsible caretaker may have trouble understanding and initiating a secure attachment bond with their infant. increase resiliency. relaxed. Just as you can strengthen yourself with exercise and a healthy diet. too. Repair of the secure attachment bond is always possible You don't have to be a perfect parent to build a secure attachment bond with your infant—no one is able to be fully present and attentive to an infant 24 hours a day. and build a stronger relationship. The effort involved in repair can even deepen trust. a special scent. TV. and happy. nonverbal communication remains key to building and maintaining a secure attachment. Your eyes lock and you have a mutual “falling-in-love” experience that brings joy to both of you and creates a lasting foundation for future 5 of 9 25/01/2013 10:37 AM .org/mental/bonding_attachment_bond. safety. or just zoning out in front of the TV with baby are all ways parents miss out on opportunities to make eye contact with their infant and engage in the secure attachment process. Because the brain is capable of changing. and countless other distractions of daily life can prevent you from paying full attention to your baby. An infant’s primary caretaker brings all of these unique qualities together creating a sense of recognition.

By being attentive. Facial expression . softer touch. angry. You need to be aware of your infant’s preferences for pacing and intensity. Additionally. fearful. Helpguide has created three unique resources to help the process. stressed. timing. Helpguide resources for creating a secure attachment bond As there are many reasons why a loving. which are often slower and less forceful than your own. But if your face looks distressed. you can recognize your infant's preference and make him or her feel secure and understood.htm Nonverbal Cues and How They Can be Used to Create a Secure Attachment Bond positive experiences. and soothe. movements.If the face baby looks into is calm and attentive. worried. Understanding what the attachment bond looks like VIDEO Creating Secure Infant Attachment Informed by leaders in the new field of infant mental health. If you’re depressed. interest.The way you lift. or preoccupied and a tone that conveys tenderness. Movements . If you maintain an adult pace. indifferent. baby will feel secure. unsafe.Bonding vs the Attachment Bond: Understanding the different ways of connecting with your child http://www. Tone of voice . timing. and intensity of sounds. your nonverbal actions will do little to calm. conscientious parent may not be successful at creating a secure attachment bond. or reassure your infant. an infant doesn’t understand the words that you use. wash. and eventually baby will stop making eye contact. or disinterested. Some babies enjoy more vigorous movement while others prefer to be moved more gently and less often.The pacing. upset. concern. Pacing. or distracted you may not look directly into baby's eyes at all. the video examines the obstacles that explain why a loving parent may not be able to create a secure 6 of 9 25/01/2013 10:37 AM . or distracted baby will pick up on these negative emotions and feel stressed. the Helpguide video. and understanding.helpguide. and facial expressions you use with your infant can reflect your state of mind. Creating Secure Infant Attachment. and intensity . relaxed. demonstrates what a secure attachment bond looks like from the perspective of the infant as well as the parent. Follow your baby’s cues. calm. or are stressed or otherwise inattentive. but he or she can understand the difference between a tone that is harsh. sad. Touch .Obviously. and unsure. tender. and set down your baby conveys your emotional state to the child—whether you’re attentive. carry.Some infants prefer a firmer touch while others prefer a lighter.

Bonding vs the Attachment Bond: Understanding the different ways of connecting with your child http://www. traumatized. Related Articles Related Articles Building a Secure Attachment Bond With Your Baby – Tips for new parents on how to create a secure attachment bond with your newborn. Need Help Managing Stress? Helpguide's Bring Your Life into Balance mindfulness toolkit can help. 7 of 9 25/01/2013 10:37 AM . and respond to your baby's needs for food. Building a Secure Attachment Bond With Your Baby can help you understand your baby's cries. The video also describes how parents can reach out for help when it becomes necessary. or overwhelmed by stress. anxious. but it doesn't mean you have to be the perfect parent. Helpguide offers a free training course that teaches you the skills to harness stress and manage unruly emotions. rest. Focus on your own feelings to create a secure attachment bond Since secure attachment can only occur when you are calm and focused. did not experience a secure attachment bond as a child. interpret his or her and comfort. love. The toolkit is designed to help if you: are depressed.htm attachment bond or why an infant may not be able to participate in the two-way emotional exchange that creates this bond. Learn how to build a strong attachment relationship Secure attachment is an ongoing partnership between you and your baby.helpguide.

org/mental/bonding_attachment_bond. Anxiety Attacks and Anxiety Disorder – Anxiety treatments and self-help strategies can quickly help you reduce your anxiety symptoms and control anxiety attacks. causes. Attachment & Reactive Attachment Disorders – Explore the warning signs of attachment disorders and learn what you can do to help a child overcome attachment problems. and treatment—is the first step to overcoming the problem. Quick Stress Relief – Identify your own stress responses and learn how to quickly and effectively reduce stress in the middle of any challenging situation. Relaxation Techniques for Stress Relief – By practicing techniques that activate your body’s relaxation response you can effectively combat stress and ease tension.helpguide. symptoms. Free Toolkit Program Bonding and secure attachment are rooted in the safety of an environment shaped by parents who have the skills to remain both 8 of 9 25/01/2013 10:37 AM . Understanding Depression – Understanding depression—including its signs. Attachment Milestones and Your Baby – Learn about developmental milestones related to secure attachment.Bonding vs the Attachment Bond: Understanding the different ways of connecting with your child http://www. Separation Anxiety in Children – Learn how to make the separation process easier and identify and deal with separation anxiety disorder. Postpartum Depression – Learn the signs and symptoms of postpartum and how new moms can get help and support. When Baby Won't Stop Crying – Discover time-tested strategies for comforting and soothing an upset or colicky baby.htm (video) Creating Secure Attachment – A special video for parents on how to help your child get the best possible start in life. and Lawrence Robinson. is an ad-free non-profit resource for supporting better mental health and lifestyle choices for adults and Last reviewed: November 2012. This reprint is for information only and NOT a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment.Bonding vs the Attachment Bond: Understanding the different ways of connecting with your child http://www. Authors: Jeanne Segal. Not all loving parents have these skills. Helpguide’s Bring Your Life Into Balance Toolkit teaches parents the skills they need to create secure attachment with their infants and children.D. ©Helpguide. Ph. but they can be learned. All rights reserved. Helpguide.htm calm and focused much of the time. 9 of 9 25/01/2013 10:37 AM . Marti Glenn.