babyMaternity Magazine
Creative Child

Building a Strong Foundation of Trust with Your Infant

by Rebecca Eanes

Connection and trust are the strongest foundation upon which to build a relationship. This foundation of connection is based on one of the core principles of positive parenting - attachment. Consistently and lovingly meeting your baby’s needs has a positive, long-lasting influence on brain development. When a child feels loved and secure, his brain is ready to learn. Without a secure attachment, however, learning is hindered because the focus is on getting primary needs met.

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The benefits of a secure attachment have been documented, and include better childhood and adult relationships, increased empathy, less anxiety, better ability to cope with life’s ups and downs, better emotional health, greater creativity, and more. Research has shown that a secure attachment is the best possible foundation for healthy emotional, intellectual, physical, and social development. 

Infants are learning to either trust or not trust the world from the very beginning. Their view of the world is being shaped by you. When a baby’s needs for food, love, and affection are met consistently, she learns to trust. However, attachment is about an emotional dance, a responsiveness that requires more than checking off the tasks of care. A secure attachment is not about how much you love your baby but about how much your baby feels loved. It’s about meeting your baby’s needs, yes, but also about how they are met - with warmth and tenderness. 

But Won’t I Spoil Him?

It’s a common concern. If you respond to every cry, won’t you spoil your baby? There is actually no scientific evidence that responding to your child will spoil him or cause him to be clingy. In fact, research in child development shows that being responsive does the opposite. Predictable, consistent nurturing makes babies less whiny and clingy.

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Dr. Deborah MacNamara, author of Rest, Play, Grow: Making Sense of Preschoolers (Or Anyone Who Acts Like One), says,  “Children can’t be too attached, they can only be not deeply attached. Attachment is meant to make our kids dependent on us so we can lead them. It is our invitation for a relationship that frees them to stop looking for love and to start focusing on growing. When kids can take for granted that their attachment needs will be met, they are freed to play, discover, imagine, move freely, and pay attention. It is paradoxical but when we fulfill their dependency needs, they are pushed forward towards independence. As a child matures, they will likely become more capable of taking the steering wheel in their own life and we will be able to retreat into a more consulting role.”

Studies show that premature and full-term babies who have lots of skin-to-skin contact fare better. Preemies who experienced skin-to-skin had higher IQ and significantly larger areas of gray matter in the brain. Studies on full-term babies showed similar results. 

Dr. Raylene Phillips, MD, explains: “[T]he amygdala is in a critical period of maturation in the first 2 months after birth. The amygdala is located deep in the center of the brain and is part of the limbic system involved in emotional learning, memory modulation, and activation of the sympathetic nervous system. Skin-to-skin contact activates the amygdala via the prefronto-orbital pathway and thus contributes to the maturation of this vital brain structure.”

So will holding and responding to your baby spoil her? Not at all, but it will help her brain grow better!

Tips for Building Trust With Infants

  • Get to know your infant’s cues and respond to them promptly. As you get to know your baby better, you will learn to distinguish her cries and read her facial expressions and nonverbal cues. 
  • Feed him at the first hunger cues, before he begins to cry, if possible. As you feed him, make eye contact and talk or coo at him.
  • Sing to your baby often. In a recent study on the impact singing has on babies done by  by Sandra Trehub, a researcher at the University of Toronto, Mississauga, and her colleagues, findings showed that singing—more than talking—keeps babies calm and can lead to stronger social bonds with parents, improved health, and even greater language fluency. “Babies recognize the voice much, much earlier than they recognize a mother’s face,” says Trehub. “Voice is a very powerful stimulus for an infant.
  • Respond promptly to cries. Nighttime parenting is exhausting but important. If they wake frequently and you need help, there are gentle ways to teach better sleep habits. I recommend this sleep series bundle by Raised Good.
  • Wear your baby. Baby wearing is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The AAP says wearing your baby helps prevent crying, encourages attachment and closeness, and promotes baby's development.

The trusting relationship you’re building now will benefit both you and your child in the years to come. Children who are securely attached are more cooperative and easier to parent. There will be fewer power struggles and a more peaceful relationship throughout the stages of development.

Rebecca Eanes is the bestselling author of multiple books including Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide, The Positive Parenting Workbook, and The Gift of a Happy Mother. She is the grateful mom of two boys. 


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