The first few years of life play an incredibly significant role in the way we perceive and experience the world as adults, and is largely dependent on our ability to access a source of safety and security from our caregivers. An infant has no capacity to feed itself or self-soothe – two major components of easing vulnerability, creating a safe haven and developing a sense of trust in the world.
Inconsistent love and attention, and physical and emotional unavailability of caregivers often leads to the development of an anxious or avoidant (insecure) attachment style and taints the ways in which an infant grows up to view and experience the world as an adult. This can lead to an overactive nervous system, mental health issues, seeing the world through a negative lens more often than not and can impact our ability to enjoy thriving and healthy relationships later in life.
Of course, as caregivers, we have our own needs too, and sometimes we’re in the midst of challenging personal circumstances – we may be under pressure at work, we may be processing our own core wounds from childhood, we may be weaving our way through trauma or may simply need to pay the bills. It’s not about being the perfect parent, it’s about doing the best we can with what we have, and not being afraid to ask for help when we need it.
To follow are my top tips for cultivating a healthy and secure attachment:
Avoid letting them ‘cry it out’ and instead, tend to their cries with love, comfort and patience. They may be hungry, tired, too hot, too cold, feel sick, want a hug or feel overwhelmed with the external environment (in this overly stimulated and very unnatural world we find ourselves in).
Sleep as close to your baby as possible. If we were in the wild and slept away from our baby, do we think it would be there in the morning? Sleeping near our bub provides a sense of comfort and aids in mutual regulation (as Dr Sarah Buckley would say) – an exchange of chemical and energetic processes between you and your baby. Sleeping together regulates their body temperature, stress response and breathing and makes breastfeeding at night more accessible. There’s also lots of research into SIDS and how *not* co-sleeping can actually contribute to it. I know when I put my head on my pillow at the end of the day and look at Vincent’s beautiful little face I feel an abundance of joy and increase all those amazing mothering hormones which then go on to further enhance our bond.
When it gets too much: Pause, take a deep breath in through the nose and a long breath out. There will be moments you’ve had enough, and when they arise remind yourself you’re doing a great job, you’re doing the best you can. Be kind to yourself and take a moment just for you. Because the best thing you can do for your little one is to take great care of yourself. Fill up your cup beautiful Mumma, and you’ll have much more to give.
Play. At the end of the day our baby doesn’t need all these fancy toys or constant stimulation, they need us – our presence. Head out into the wilderness together, start swimming lessons or a yoga class. Whatever brings you joy! Not only will it have a profound benefit for your own mental health, but the physical proximity and social interaction with bub will greatly improve theirs.