Friday, January 11, 2013

What attachment SHOULD be

Here's some homework. In the next week try to find and hold a newborn baby. Hold them long enough to settle in, feed them a bottle if possible. And then pay attention to what they do and how you feel.

I 've been watching my best friend's baby, Lil Bit, during the day when she goes to work. He is all of 6 weeks old and primed for attachment. His ideal day would include me, me, bottles and me. (Of course, he'd prefer Mom, but you get the point.) He stares into my eyes, cries when I put him down, snuggles his body into mine, screams when hungry or slightly bumped. And me - when I am holding him, all I want to do is look into his eyes, soak him up, count his fingers and toes, I feel my face soften and my mouth smile and mirror his every grimace and expression.

We, on opposite sides of the attachment dance, know our parts - as most babies and adults do.

If a baby and parent can continue this loving, joyful exchange, a secure attachment will form, as it most often does. It's estimated that about 60-65% of the population has an attachment style that is secure.

My definition of secure attachment is, people who are securely attached know deep, deep down that they have a person or two who are their safe harbor in the world. They have a place they know they will find comfort, protection, and nourishment. From this base, they can explore the world, be at peace with themselves and believe that because they know safety in the form of a person, other people can be trusted as well. The world becomes a safe and exciting place for them.

Lil Bit is exploring this every waking moment. He is on the lookout - is she safe? Will she protect me? If I get hurt, does she care? Will I be feed? Will I be clean?

And every-time I and his parents answer his questions with a resounding YES - of safety, nourishment and comfort - the message goes just a little deeper into his heart. The world is a safe place. People here want me and will take care of me. I like it here.

That is what attachment should be. Babies and children should feel safe, protected, loved and cherished by a small handful of people and when they don't, their little worlds implode.... but more on that later.

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