The magic of DNA is profoundly manifested when you have kids. You and your spouse put your DNA in the martini shaker and pour out the DNA cocktail that is your child. It is one of the greatest miracles and mysteries of life! Every child has unique qualities and attributes that may not resemble the parents! The Nigerians have a beautiful word --Amachi-- roughly translated means "Only God knows what this child brings". Locked inside of this tiny person are all sorts of possibilities and talents. Parents then go through the amazing and challenging push/pull dance of nurturing the nature or vice versa. How much guidance do I provide to allow this child to become who they were meant to become? And for those of us blessed with more than one child, you learn quickly that the operator's manual is different for each and every one. No matter how much equity we want to apply as parents, we realize real fast that appreciating the differences is far more important. For if we don't recognize these unique qualities, we will miss the genius within. Like a box of crackerjacks, there is at least one prize inside each child a unique talent, skill, idea, a way of being that yearns to be discovered and appreciated.
Do the mysteries of a baby--how to help the child realize his/her potential--tell us anything about how that baby develops relationships? Are the seeds of networking planted during those early moments of infancy where the brain is an evolving grey mass of possibilities and the manifestations of the secret blend of DNA emerges?
Recently, I was introduced to a body of research on the attachment
of infants. Simply put, it is the process where the primary caregiver relationship, the attachment, to the new born forms in the first months of life.
The attachment bond
is a research based theory that has shown that the seeds of relationship capabilities is planted in early childhood and is highly influenced by the bond that forms or does not form between the primary caregiver and the baby. Put another way, your perspective on networking may have been largely formed through your attachment. According to the experts at Helpguide.org
, the following activities are critical in forming this attachment bond.
Nonverbal tools for communication between parent and baby include:
- Eye contact and facial expressions. Eye-to-eye contact between parent and baby is key to feeling connected and developing a secure and loving bond. A warm smile goes a long way, too. Babies also like to imitate facial expressions, which can be a fun way to play with your baby.
- Feeding. The act of feeding can be very soothing to a baby. Watch for cues that your baby is still hungry or if s/he needs to be burped during feeding. If you are breastfeeding, you will naturally be holding your baby close. If you are bottle feeding, make sure you are holding your baby, ideally cradling him or her while feeding- don’t “prop a bottle”.
- Gentle handling. Avoid rough, abrupt movements in very young babies and be sure to support a newborn’s head. Older babies might like more active, playful movements at times, but check frequently to make sure they are comfortable.
- Rhythmic movement. Babies love rocking, swaying, swinging, and even gentle jiggling (notshaking). They may enjoy “dancing” with you.
- A soft soothing voice. Talk or sing to your baby. Your baby can’t understand what you’re saying, but he or she can enjoy just listening to you. While you are also building language skills, the reassurance of your voice is very important in building secure attachment.
Here's the shocker, at least for me, parents are not educated or even told about this attachment process. They certainly are not aware of the cues and milestones that the parents, especially the mother needs to know. Rich moms, poor moms, there is no difference. I can only imagine that clinics and hospitals that serve low income communities are not teaching it. And equally concerning are the well-to-do households where the nannies and the au pairs become the de-facto primary caregivers. Awareness and even more important, the general understanding on how to form this attachment is not part of the pre-natal and new motherhood education process. My wife and I never heard of it. Friends of mine who just had babies were never told of it. Mothers and their newborns are being discharged as quickly as possible and are lucky if they get a bag of baby discount coupons, but nothing else. No "manual" for the new born. And the pediatricians are often not a source for this information on attachment either. There is a huge emphasis on the functions of the baby, crying, sleeping, eating, elimination, burping etc. But little or none on attachment.
I am working with some donors who are trying to fund the development of an "attachment toolkit" to be distributed to new parents/caregivers. This toolkit will concisely show parents the benefits and the methods of forming this attachment bond. More on this later.
While the DNA dice have been rolled and many things are pre-determined, the role of the caregivers/parents in these first days and months of life are crucial. We have to tell others about this. If you know someone who is pregnant, please tell them about the importance of the attachment bond. Parents that pay close attention to this bonding process can lead to early diagnoses of mental health issues and other early childhood challenges. And our adult relationships, our self-confidence, our resillience, and our self satisfaction are ultimately linked to this attachment! In other words, there are many payoffs for the creation of the attachment bond. And as we all know, we will never get this time back. While you have been reading this blog 75 babies were born in the US!
Networking with our babies to attach by connecting and bonding, like all networking is mutually beneficial.
Thanks for reading. John