Attachment Parenting – why bonding and attachment are so important

Here is a beautiful and insightful article that the lovely Psychologist and Yoga Teacher, Melissa Podmore wrote for our community today. Any one who works within the field of mental health these days knows that attachment is where it’s all at.

The importance of Bonding and Attachment

Recently there has been a large shift towards what has been labelled  “Attachment Parenting”. Essentially, the aim of attachment parenting is to create what is termed “Secure Attachment” with mother and baby. Attachment theory was developed by psychiatrist and psychologist Bowlby and Ainsworth, who identified 4 distinctive attachment styles that babies develop in the early years in relationship to their mother or primary care giver.
These styles are:
1)    Secure
2)    Insecure- Avoidant
3)    Insecure- Ambivalent
4)    Disorganised

Our nervous system is actually sculpted by our early attachment relationships. Which means that attachment effects the brain development of our babies, and highlights the vital importance of healthy attachment. This also reflects that attachment extends far beyond safety and security, but in fact carves a permanent trace into the developing baby’s brain. To be specific a baby’s right pre-frontal cortex within the brain – which becomes our emotional regulation/ self-soothing centre, grows optimally with secure attachment. Therefore, secure attachment leads to children and later adults who are more capable of regulating their emotions when stressed or distressed, ie to offer themselves the capacity to gently self –soothe.
What is also interesting is that our early attachment can affect the relationship patterns we form in romantic attachments/ relationships as adults. Secure attachment means that we have a greater capacity to tolerate differences between each other in adult relationships.
Prenatal yoga encourages and enhances emotional attunement with your unborn baby. Attunement is central to secure attachment as it involves the capacity to optimally read and identify the emotional and relational needs of your baby. A recent study from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Michigan has found that attending Mindfulness Yoga during pregnancy significantly reduced depression, and increased maternal fetal attachment. Although many women do this inherently, attending prenatal yoga allows for a distinct time within pregnancy to enter that meditative state where the baby can be visualised, and the outside world can for a short time become secondary. Thus nourishing the connection with baby and mother even when this mother may be experiencing her 3rd or 4th pregnancy.
Sadly, I have noticed in my practice that women who have experienced multiple miscarriages or multiple unsuccessful IVF “transfers”, there is sometimes a difficulty in bonding pre-natally due to fear. It is important that this defence mechanism is understood with compassion and not minimised or made shameful as it is an understandable reaction to the loss of unborn babies. Women must be allowed to be honest about this struggle and to gain the appropriate support around this when required. Once the next pregnancy is established and the mother is feeling more confident about the stage of pregnancy she has reached, I would deeply recommend visualising the baby, and that both mother AND father be engaging with the baby via talking and singing to the baby, and also attending pre-natal yoga classes. Similarly, attending childbirth preparation classes such as the She Birth’s course can assist both mother and father in increasing their cognitive and emotional attachment with the unborn baby.
Attachment is a complex and emotive field of study and research. What is essential is that any pregnant or new mums who feel that they are struggling with their attachment with their baby (either pre or post natally), seek support EARLY, and be offered support in a compassionate manner. What is more dangerous to a baby’s’ emotional and psychological health is if a mum feels she needs to show the world that she is “fine” or feeling “great” out of shame of feeling any other way. A mum suffering from any stress or post-natal depression can be overwhelmed by her baby and this then creates confusion, guilt and grief – so it is essential to get help as early as possible. We must remember the relationship you have with your baby is the most essential relationship your baby will ever have, and your baby deserves a healthy and happy mum – so make yourself a priority.

Mindfulness Yoga during Pregnancy for psychiatrically at-risk women: Preliminary results from a pilot feasibility study. Muzik; Hamilton; Rosenblum; Waxler and Hadi. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice (2012) 1-6.
Attachment as a Sensorimotor Experience published in Attachment: New Directions in Psychotherapy and Relational Psychoanalysis, July, 2011.
See more about Mellissa here:www.vibrantpsychologyandyoga.com.au

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