Attachment is the emotional connection and relationship between you and your child. Parent-child attachment starts during pregnancy and develops in the first year of life and continues to develop throughout your child’s life.
Healthy, secure attachment is directly linked to long-term positive emotional and mental health for your baby as they develop into children, teens and adults. Children need to feel loved and safe to develop secure attachment and become secure adults. Research has shown that secure attachment can help your child be better able to learn and cope with stress; feel confident, understand and share their feelings and have fewer behaviour problems. The opposite is also true. Insecure and disorganized attachment put children at increasing risk of problem behaviours and poor physical and mental health. Some examples include preschool and school-aged aggression, difficulty understanding and managing their emotions, and depression.
Your baby was born with the ability to tell you when they need you. These are called cues. They stare into the distance, have jerky movements, yawn, fuss, suck their fingers and sometimes lose interest in people or toys. Cues that your baby is ready to play with you are eyes wide and bright, eye contact with you, smiles, smooth movements, hands reaching out to you. How you respond to your baby’s cues of wanting to play, or cues of needing a break, or cues of distress (like crying) or cues of hunger, will build your attachment relationship with your child. Your child needs you close by to feel loved and safe as they explore their environment and as they grow and develop.
Attachment with your baby starts before your baby is even born and helps to improve both your relationship with your baby and your baby’s mental and emotional well-being. Your baby can hear and feel you. They love the sound of your voice and prefer your voice over anyone else’s. When you talk or sing to your unborn baby, you are helping to build his or her knowledge of language and at the same time you are creating a special bond with them. View the YouTube Singing to the Baby video presented by Penny Simkin.
Your unborn baby also knows when you are stressed or relaxed. He or she, too, can also become stressed or relaxed, so it is important that you try to create a calm environment for your baby.
- Familyinfo.ca (also available in French)
- Indigneous Resources
- View Early Child Development videos:
- Boston Basics: Maximize Love, Manage Stress (also available in Spanish and Creole)
- Healthy Baby Healthy Brain video library (also available in French)
- Parent and Infant Relationship Clinic (Vanier Children’s Mental Wellness)
- Contact a public health nurse at the Middlesex-London Health Unit
- iParent Website