The foundations for the healthy development of our child.
The first three years of a child’s life are extremely important for laying the foundations of a healthy and secure emotional attachment bond and developing the motor, language and cognitive skills that are vital for the future lives of our children.
But what does the term emotional attachment bond mean?
The child, especially when they’re very little, requires lots of attention that must be principally provided by the mother, the person with whom the new-born baby establishes a very special relationship, called an emotional attachment bond.
An attachment bond is composed of three key elements:
1) The need for closeness from a preferred adult figure
2) The need for a secure emotional foundation
3) Protest or upset caused by separation
The way in which the child’s adult references respond to their demands, significantly influences the way in which the child will relate to the outside world and their interpersonal relationships.
This is why it’s really important to acknowledge these important stages in their growth. Here’s some advice on how and when to intervene, to create a healthy and secure attachment bond with your child.
Dott.sa Elisa Abbate
Stages in the psychophysical development of a child – Birth (childcare, breastfeeding and sleep)
Just a few days after birth, new-borns already show enormous interest in any shape that is similar to a face. Early eye contact, particularly with mum, is extremely important for developing a secure attachment bond with the child.
During this phase, the child is completely dependent on the surrounding environment and lives in symbiosis with the mother, whose key role is to understand and satisfy their needs, through the care they give to the child. This care and attention essentially revolves around physiological needs, which are not only ‘necessary’, but strictly related to the child’s psychological development. So, the way in which mum holds, looks at, speaks, smiles and consoles them is really important.
These actions, along with empathy, warmth and emotional engagement, help build a healthy and secure attachment bond.
Breastfeeding is another important moment in which to build a secure attachment bond. This can be difficult in the beginning and the hungry new-born baby could become agitated and behave in a way that is difficult to understand for the new mum (desperate crying, refusing to feed). However, don’t be discouraged or panic. Comfort them calmly and patiently to help them overcome their anxiety.
“The parent’s sensitivity in correctly responding to the baby’s discomfort is one of the fundamental factors for creating a secure attachment bond”..
One way to calm your baby down, is to look them in the eye and speak to them in a soft, soothing voice, while holding them tightly in your arms. This will help to instil the necessary security to overcome this unpleasant moment.
Furthermore, the way in which the parents handle bedtime has a lasting impact on the child’s sleep patterns. For example, the hope that the new-born baby will sleep all night is not very realistic, because their body clocks work differently to those of an adult. Initially, the waking and sleeping patterns of the new-born can be spread throughout the day or night, later becoming a series of daytime naps and a longer sleep at night. In any case, in the first year of life, it is very normal for the baby to wake up in the night. To encourage sleep and to give them a clear idea of how and when they should go to sleep, it’s important to keep to a routine, which will help you work out the best way to reassure and calm them before bedtime.
Some of these strategies could be to:
– Avoid active engagement with the parents; don’t let them fall asleep in your arms or rock them to sleep.
If the child gets used to the constant presence of the parents, it will always require these conditions to go to sleep, which will make it harder for them to fall sleep on their own. To help them sleep, the parents can give them a small, comforting object, like a cuddly toy, for example.
– Get the baby used to not falling asleep whilst breastfeeding. This is because, over time, they will start to associate sucking with going to sleep, which will make it more difficult for them to sleep unless they’re being breastfed.
– Help the child understand the difference between day and night. For example, let them sleep in a well-lit room during the day, where they will hear the everyday sounds of the house, and put them to bed in a dark quiet room at night;
– Look out for signs of tiredness, before the baby becomes restless or weepy, so they will be in the right mood for going to sleep.
Dott.sa Elisa Abbate
Dott.ssa Elisa Abbate
Psychotherapy Psychologist registered with the professional Order of Psychologists of Le Marche Region no.1992.
Degree in ‘Dynamic and Clinical Infant Psychology’ with honours at the ‘La Sapienza’ University of Rome. Clinical and research experience at the Infant Neuropsychiatry Umberto I department in Rome.
Masters in Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapy, with honours, at the Cognitive Studies school of San Benedetto del Tronto.
Specialist work experience at the Department of Mental Health, diagnosing and providing psychotherapy assistance to patients with personality disorders.
Therapist at EMDR and Social SITCC (Italian Cognitive Behavioural Therapists Society).
Psychologist and psychotherapists at LoStudioDiPsicologia (ThePsychologyStudio), principally working with early-year patients (psychodiagnostics, psychological support, one-on-one psychotherapy, parental support); Consultant at Centro Medici Mythril medical centre and member of the H Muta cooperative, working with schools as an educator.
Patron of the ‘Rational Emotional Education in Schools’ research programme (Abbate E., Angelone L., Biondi C., Caruso C., Di Agostino C., Ionni V., Mobili A.) which investigates the principal methods and the most recent developments in Rational Emotional Therapy, in an educational setting, with the objective of evaluating the tendency to think and act in a rational manner.