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10 Ways to Build Attachment with Your Baby

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Baby in a Sling

Wearing your baby in a sling can promote attachment.

N.R. / Flickr
Sometimes parents get mixed signals when it comes to attachment. You might hear that you are spoiling your baby or a friend might tell you that it seems like your child is “attached at the hip” in a negative tone. Rest assured that if you practice the following with love and make sure to balance your own needs for rest, adult contact and intellectual stimulation, then your child will grow to be independent and secure. The first years of life is when this groundwork is laid, and a strong, healthy attachment is the key.

Wear your baby.
Let’s face it. You’re a parent or other caregiver and you’ve got a lot of things to accomplish in a day. There’s laundry to be done, meals to be cooked and if you have other children their needs must be attended to as well. At the end of a day, it might seem like you haven’t had time to even brush your teeth. A sling is not a magical cure for the time crunch of parenting, but it can help. The greatest benefit of all goes to your baby, however. While it helps free your hands for jobs around the house or the market, it also gives your baby close contact to your body. For very young babies, the motion is soothing and similar to the womb. It can often help calm babies with colic, as well.

Read and talk to your baby.
This is especially important if it’s just you and your baby together for the majority of the time. Since you are the primary caregiver, it’s important that your baby learns to understand and trust you. Much of this understanding comes from verbal cues. Good early books to read with infants are picture books with one word descriptions of everyday objects on each page or books with short rhyming patterns. Don’t be under the impression, though, that you must provide a non-stop flow of chatter for your baby all day long. This can cause your baby to become overstimulated and tune you out. As your baby grows, he’ll learn that there are times for talking, laughing and reading and times for quiet as well. If you use language carefully now and make reading times routine, your child will be able to discern later when it’s important to listen.

Play lap games with your baby.
Games like peek-a-boo and patty cake help children develop skills like fine motor skills and object permanence, but more importantly, they provide times of closeness for you and your child. It also provides a good example — your child might see you working all day on household chores or other tasks, so make sure he sees you take time out for play, too.

Massage your baby.
Infant massage has been getting a lot of press in the last decade as an important way to build attachment and soothe fussiness. It’s especially useful for babies that get worked up quickly and have a hard time calming down, and for babies who aren’t able to self-soothe. If you’ve ever seen a baby form an attachment to a pacifier, you know how quickly they can calm down when it goes in their mouth. For babies who are given frequent massages early in life, it has the same effect. In later months, it takes just a moment of touch to help them relax and regain control. But don’t wait until he’s fussy to give a massage. Set aside time before or after a bath or during diaper changes, too.

Look at your baby while you are feeding him.
Looking at your baby promotes attachment, of course, but it also helps him develop his own sense of identity. When you gaze into his eyes during a feeding, there is prolonged, intimate contact coupled with the warmth of being nestled in your arms, and skin-to-skin contact if you are nursing. When you change sides you offer him a different view of you and help him develop both sides of his brain and body.

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