Did you know that human babies are the only babies whose brains have not finished forming at birth? It takes the first 2 years of your baby’s life to make all the neural connections that need to be made and those connections are determined by her early experience of her relationship with you, her mother. Babies are pre-programmed to bond with their birth mother; they know their mother by her scent, the sound of her voice and, soon after birth, they will know her face too and will want to look into her eyes. All of this helps create the bond between mother and baby.
So let me explain why bonding (or attachment) is so important. A baby is totally vulnerable and dependent on her mother for her survival, but when she is born, a baby isn’t aware that she and her mother are separate beings. She feels they are one being and therefore needs to be close to her mother; to smell her scent and hear her voice, to feel her warmth, to be held and cuddled, and comforted when she’s upset in order to feel ‘whole’. Without this emotional connection, she feels like a big part of her is missing and, as she grows into an adult she feels an emotional emptiness inside.
A newborn baby knows if she is not with her mother and her absence causes her considerable stress.
Bonding also means that a baby matters to her mother. It means that a mother wants to embrace feeling ‘in love’ with her baby; she wants to stay close to her infant and cuddle her and gaze at her lovingly and, when her baby is distressed, she will do everything she can to soothe her and calm her down.
There is some debate about the time it takes to bond with a new baby, some research suggests that the first few months don’t really matter and the baby doesn’t care who looks after her needs. I disagree. From all the evidence I have read and from my personal experience, I believe that a mother and baby need to bond in the crucial hours after birth and that this bond creates a relationship attachment that affects all the child’s future relationships into adulthood.
A baby cannot regulate her own emotions; she learns how to do it from the way her mother responds to her. It is the emotional connection, or bond, that gives mothers their ability to recognise their baby’s distress. Their comforting verbal response and gentle cuddles teach the baby that she matters and is in safe hands. It is this early experience that affects how your baby’s brain wires up and creates a future model of how she will predict future relationships. If mum is there to offer comfort, baby will feel safe and calm down. If this comfort isn’t provided, baby will become stressed and this can affect her brain development in terms of how she copes with her emotions and stress as she grows up.
Stress and Brain Development
When a baby is separated from her mother for any length of time she will eventually begin to get distressed until her mother returns to her and comforts her distress away.
The brain works in such a way that the neural pathways that are used the most are the ones that form the strongest connections. This means that repeated incidences of separation stress over long periods of time cause your baby to develop heightened states of fear and anxiety that become ‘wired into’ their brains. In addition to this, the cells designed to respond to eye contact and facial expressions are linked to how we feel emotionally, and ‘set’ how we ‘predict’ what is good or bad, safe or dangerous. If a baby doesn’t have enough opportunities to have eye contact with her mother then those neural pathways that are crucial in how we learn to experience and regulate our emotions don’t get wired in.
So in a nutshell, if a baby repeatedly experiences separation from her mother for long periods of time, if she doesn’t get adequate eye contact and physical contact with her mother and if her mother does not respond to her cries she will start to feel that the world is an unsafe place where her needs are not met, she is not important or loved and she does not matter. This causes stress and anxiety and over-activates her stress response. If this happens for long enough and often enough during her first 2 years her relationship attachment to her mother will be insecure. If however, the baby feels minimal stress and has regular contact with her mother during the first two years she will be able to develop a secure attachment to her mother.
Our relationship attachment to our mother becomes the blueprint for our relationship attachments as adults. So, if you had a secure relationship attachment with your mother, you are likely to have a secure relationship attachment in your romantic relationships as an adult. However if you developed an insecure relationship attachment as a baby (which has not been addressed) you will grow into an adult who experiences an insecure relationship attachment in romantic relationships.
Children who have a secure relationship attachment are able to feel happier, learn well, do well at school, make friends, manage their emotions and ultimately grow into adults who are more emotionally stable, experience mild to low stress and are able to form and maintain long-term relationships.
Children who have an insecure relationship attachment feel more anxiety and stress, which prevents them learning well at school, and they tend to be less confident. When children have not had their needs met they adapt and try to meet their needs in one of two ways, by acting out to receive negative attention (any attention is better than no attention in a child’s mind) or they become the child that desperately wants to please, and represses their emotions so they behave well and never risk being rejected. Both adaptations prevent the child from experiencing the freedom and ability to develop their personality. These children will grow into adults who experience high levels of stress and anxiety, low self-esteem, who have difficulty maintaining positive emotions and forming and maintaining long-term relationships. They have a predisposition to an addictive personality and to experiencing trauma triggers. For more information on relationship attachments click here.
Nearly half the population suffer from the symptoms of an insecure relationship attachment so the biggest gift you can give your child is a secure relationship attachment. However, sometimes things happen – babies are born prematurely or they need medical intervention at birth – and this can also cause an insecure attachment. Sometimes mothers suffer from post-natal depression, which can also cause attachment traumas because of the mother’s emotional state and lack of emotional attunement to her baby. The key is to be aware of these issues and help your child recover from them by giving them what they need to form that secure bond with you. Here are some ways you can do this:
- Spend time with your baby
- Show them they are welcome in your world and that you are happy they are in your life
- Frequent eye contact
- Breast feed your baby
- Skin-to-skin cuddles (if you are not breast feeding, have extra cuddles)
- Sleep with your baby
- Talk and sing to your baby
The most important thing is to have quality time with your child so they really feel how much you love them and how special they are to you.
If you experienced childhood traumas and were not able to bond well with your mother and/or father you may be suffering from the symptoms of an insecure relationship attachment. If so, you are the very women that I am most passionate about helping, because you matter so much and your relationship with your children may be negatively affected by your past wounds.
If you feel you need help with getting over past wounds then please contact me by clicking here or you can find out more about my program – The Freedom to Become a Soul Mother – here.
I love to read about your experiences. If you have any comments, thoughts or advice please leave them in the comments box below.
A Soul Mother is a woman & mother who values herself and is in control of her own destiny and can offer the best of herself to her children. If you would like my FREE guide 5 Tips on Becoming a Soul Mother click here.
Finally, if you would like to join our growing community of Soul Mothers in our closed Facebook group please click here, we would love to have you.
Remember please leave your comments in the box below.
With love & blessings,
15th January 2016
CATHERINE YOUNG is a coach and mentor whose passion is to help mothers become confident, conscious parents by connecting to their own souls and the souls of their children. Catherine’s work is based on recovering from past wounds, especially childhood wounds that are stopping you from achieving the peace and happiness you deserve. Drawing upon her vast background in Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Hypnotherapy, Relationship Attachments, Meditation, Mindfulness, Reiki, Inner Child Healing and the Law of Attraction, since 2010 she has helped hundreds of men and women overcome childhood wounds, tune into their intuition and meet their true selves – often for the very first time. Known as ‘The Soul Mother Coach’, she offers her clients an ‘emotional toolkit’ that helps them replace their anxieties about motherhood with self-confidence and a deep faith in their abilities as parents. She works with clients throughout the world via Skype or at her private treatment rooms in Weybridge, Surrey & in Belgravia, London.
Request a free “get acquainted” session with Catherine via the contact form on this website.