Babies need safe, reliable attachment. Babies and their carers co-determine their attachment in each moment they are together throughout the day. Babies communicate to us. Sometimes we think we know what babies need but how do we know? By observing! By sitting back and observing, we can get to know our child’s unique language. One baby might rub his ear when tired; another might give a distinct low moan; a hungry baby may smack his lips; his brother may crawl over to his feeding chair. We have to observe our baby to learn the language they speak. It has to be an immersion program!
The key to authentic attachment is respect. In America we tend to emphasize our children’s success but not their happiness. If we can see what they do, appreciate what they do, and not have expectations, we can do a great service for them. Do you know when this parenting attitude starts? With newborns. Everything we do with our children gives us and them a point of reference.
Our caring time (feeding, diapering, bathing) is as important as any other interaction and can be a a time for furthering our relationship. It may even be more important than any other activity because it is so intimate. They are developing a body image each time we touch them. They are learning about their bodies; their selves. Every time we touch them we’re giving a message. An infant is modified through every interaction we have with him. Are we saying “You are someone who is done TO not done WITH.” Is that what we want to say?
We also want to tap into our child’s inner initiative. We help them learn about this by talking to them as we are doing “to” them in diapering and changing,e tc. Then they begin to work with us more and more cooperatively by lifting their head while bathing, putting out their arm while changing. Eventually they will want to stand to change diapers and this should be allowed. We follow their instincts in their drive to independence. They are seeing themselves in a new way in relationship to us. Instead of lying down on a changer they want to stand and help us change. This builds confidence and they feel they are a partner with us, not an object to be dressed, bathed, diapered. They feel human. A strong inner initiator is about all they will ever need for success AND happiness.
How is this respectful relationship accomplished? By WAITING. Even when you pick him up, first communicate. “I’m going to pick you up now.” Wait for his signal that he is ready. Let him know that you have a cooperative, co-determining relationship with him. Most of us just grab a baby (even from behind) with no warning and take him where we want to go. The phone rings, we answer it. Someone else cries, we run with the undressed baby under one arm. Can’t we set things up so that this caring time is respectful and not let anything interrupt this important time together?
When we do this babies learn that they matter; that their perspective has value. If we treat babies as objects who need our custodial care, we teach them their senses don’t matter, their voice doesn’t matter, they don’t matter. They learn “I am an object.” If we place a breast or pacifier in their mouths every time they cry we are saying that their communication isn’t important to us.
This is how our babies attach to us – by being respected. They come to know we offer safe, predictable routines and interaction. They know we will give them freedom and time to process and follow their own directives. And they come to love us for it! We’re not just a warm body, we’re a respectful, loving parent!