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Bonding and Attachment: Baby's cues and parents' responses

Your baby will send you different types of cues when he is ready for you to pay attention to him, such as:

  • various types of cries;

  • facial expressions (such as, quivering lips and furrowed eyebrows);

  • making or avoiding eye contact; and

  • gestures (such as, putting his hands up).

Your baby's cues are signals for you to relate in a number of different ways, such as:

  • soothing;
  • holding;
  • food;
  • body contact;
  • affection;
  • gestures;
  • facial expressions;
  • singing; and
  • talking.

If your baby is feeling hurt, sick, upset, sad, frightened or lonely:

  • comfort and reassure her by holding, kissing, and talking quietly and calmly;

  • focus on her needs;

  • do not make light of his feelings; and

  • do not become annoyed.

You can make your child feel loved and safe by paying special attention to her when caring for her daily physical needs:

  • feeding (for example, holding your baby comfortably, looking at your baby face-to-face);

  • diapering and dressing (for example, using lots of one-to-one interaction through talking, singing, smiling, labeling body parts and clothing, and games like peek-a-boo);

  • sleeping (for example, singing a pre-nap song, telling a poem or story, holding and rocking your baby); and

  • bathing (for example, using lots of talking about body parts being washed, gently drying off your baby).

It is normal for babies and little children to be anxious when you leave, because they do not totally understand that you will return soon.

Separations can be made easier by:

  • Never sneaking out without saying goodbye - have a pleasant ritual around leaving (such as, hugs and kisses, and smile and be sure to say that you will be back soon);

  • Leaving your child with a caregiver who is patient, loving and responsive even if your child experiences signs of distress;

  • Asking your caregiver to arrive 15 to 30 minutes before you plan to leave so she can get involved with your child while you are still home; and

  • Offering your child an object that helps to make him feel secure while you are away (for example, a favourite toy or blanket).

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