Who can resist turning up the stereo when the 1967 song written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney makes it to the air? Since last November, I have been marveling at the lyrics of many of the songs written during the Civil Rights Movement and their relevance today in the Spring of 2017.
The fact is…we are all born to love!!! The need to love is essential to our very survival!! Individually and as a species! As infants, our brains are developing in the third trimester to prepare for attachment to our mother. Inutero we can hear her voice. We feel if she is relaxed or stressed. If she is fearful, our sweet little bodies connected to her through our umbilical cords, are aware of our mother’s heart increasing in rate and the changes in her breathing.
Newborn babies are designed to be egocentric. Their very survival depends upon eating, sleeping, being changed when soiled, picked up when crying, held closely to their caregivers heart and spoken to in a soothing voice.
In recent years the modern attachment theory has had a paradigm shift evolving from behavior based, to cognitive based and now to the understanding of an emotional theory of attachment in which the maturation of emotional affects enables a child to self-regulate and to develop empathy. The roots of empathy are developed through attachment in where affect is communicated within a relational context. Researchers and clinicians such as Allan Schore, Dr. Bruce B. Perry, and Dr. Gordon Neufeld are seeing positive and healthy attachments early in life as the origins of emotional well being.
In his book Born For Love, Why Empathy Is Endangered and Essential, Dr. Bruce D. Perry discusses how and why our brains learn to bound with one another and why it is essential we as a society take steps to protect our children from threats to their ability to develop the attachments which are the roots of empathy.
Allan Schore’s extensive research in child development reveals that this critical period of early growth and development enhances a child’s ability to emotionally regulate. Our ability to self-regulate is directly connected to our ability to regulate stress. This critical period of right brain development is at the core of psychopathogenesis, as almost every psychological disorder shows right brain deficits which indicate a difficulty in emotional regulation.
There has been a tremendous increase in research exploring the period of tremendous brain growth which occurs in very young children between the last trimester of pregnancy and during the first 24 months of life. Critical right brain functioning happens during this time of massively accelerated brain growth and development.
The critical bonds of attachment which happen at this time and are expressed in relational serve and return communication, both verbal and non-verbal and between the right brains mirror neurons of primary caregivers and the infants and toddlers in their care.
Take a quick look at this amazing video showing the attachment between a grandmother who is is hearing impaired and her young granddaughter!!
When babies develop a secure attachment bond, they are better able to:
- Develop fulfilling intimate relationships
- Maintain emotional balance
- Feel confident and good about themselves
- Enjoy being with others
- Rebound from disappointment and loss
- Share their feelings and seek support
Strategies for a secure attachment bond between you and your baby:
- Take care of yourself!!! Ask for help. Ask for support around the house. Schedule breaks and time away.
- Find ways to calm yourself when times are stressful. Take deep breaths. Team up with a buddy. Take a walk.
- Learn to understand your baby’s unique cues.
- Eating and sleeping and letting your baby take the lead provide important opportunities for attachment as your baby learns to predictability in his world when his primary needs for eating and sleeping are met. This predictability leads to security and safety in your baby.
- Laugh, talk and play with your baby!!! Have fun! Let those mirror neurons go to work!
- Let go of trying to be the perfect parent! As Dr. Brene Brown says in The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting, parents should allow ourselves to find the gifts within our imperfect parenting.
- Dads can be primary caregivers too!
Key Point: We don’t have to read our babies cues 100% of the time to form secure and loving attachments with our young children!