Why is secure attachment so important? How come so many people these days speak about it? Does it mean to carry my baby, breast feed on demand and have her sleep in my bed? What is the fuss about? Let me explain…
We now know that not only the first 3 years in life but also the months in utero are extremely influential on how we relate and move in the world later in life. In fact the experiences we make in that period of life are the blue print for who we become as a person. That is due to the rapid development of the brain and nervous system at that age as well as to the vulnerability of the fetus and baby.
Starting in utero: if cortisol levels of the mother are too high during pregnancy babies are more likely to be born early and with less body weight. Due to early exposure to high levels of the stress hormone of the mother they develop a bigger amygdala, which is the stress and fear center in the brain. Therefor processing stressful events and dealing with fear will be more challenging in their life.
When born we really aren’t a naked canvas but already come with a profoundly rooted set of imprints.
Every child needs a safe base. So what is that? Secure attachment is an interactive and dynamic process between child and caregiver. Successful nonverbal communication fosters a sense of safety. Managing ones own stress, responding to babies cues and successfully soothe is the basic guideline. Clearly that’s not always going to be an easy task. And: it is much more than carrying your child, breastfeeding on demand or having him sleep in your bed.
For secure attachment relationship is key.
The quality of attention matters – in fact more than what exactly you do and say. The qualities you want to meet your infant with are nurturing, a sense of connection, security and comfort, warmth and relaxation as well as respectful physical contact. Having needs met continuously and being met in an attuned way, which means with understanding and appropriate respond, lays a great foundation for secure attachment.
Quality, responsiveness and repair are three ingredients for secure attachment.
Trauma disrupts what is called the social engagement system. That leads to difficulties understanding i.e. facial expressions, tone of voice etc. Whereas secure attachment is critical for normal brain development. Not only in terms of physical, emotional, social and intellectual development – as if that wasn’t enough – but in the capacity to regulate ones emotions, to build emotional awareness and many more.
Having been raised with secure attachment is the best foundation one can be given.
Having started of life firmly rooted odds are the child will develop a sense for healthy boundaries, will perceive the world as a friendly and safe place, will develop a capacity to trust, will cherish independence as well as nurturing relationships, will come up with a set of coping strategies as well as resources and have a realistic and healthy sense of self. That I call a good start into this big adventure called life!
If you don’t heal what hurt you, you’ll bleed on people who didn’t cut you. (unknown)
And yes: we parents are asked to grow beyond our own traumatic experiences. We are called to start and continue the journey of healing and be an example for our children. This will require courage, love, education, help and over all the willingness to end ones own suffering in order to not pass it on to the next generation.