Pearls of Wisdom: Emotional Bonding- Part 1: Birth to 12 Months

We hear the term “bonding” so often in modern culture that it’s easy to minimize its importance and impact. But the bond between parents and children is so critical that immediately after delivering a baby, barring complications, a mother will be given some time to spend holding, stroking and looking at her baby. During this sensitive period when the newborn is very alert and responsive, the very first exchanges of touch, eye contact and sounds between a mother will occur; these first interactions are all part of the bonding process.

Many of the basic core emotions you feel for your child will begin during the period right after birth. Watching your baby look back at you, mirroring your facial expressions and following your movements, you will feel a wonderful surge of awe, protectiveness, and limitless love. This initiates what is called the attachment process. Moms who are sedated or who have babies requiring immediate medical attention may not be able to spend this time but should not worry. This will have no long-term repercussions on their relationship since bonding has no time limit. Once your baby is stable and you have recovered from the stress of labor, you will have this opportunity and achieve the same heightened connection.

shutterstock_78150679Parents have an active role in the infant’s state regulation, by alternately offering stimulation or soothing to lengthen the social interaction. Likewise, the parents are regulated by the baby’s signals, responding, for instance with a bottle or breast to answer cries of hunger. These interactions comprise a system directed toward developing the infant’s normal physiologic homeostasis and physical growth. This also forms the foundation for the budding relationship between parent and child. Your baby learns that you as the primary caregiver can alleviate her stress or tension by feeding and shows this preference by calming down quicker for the mom or dad than for a stranger. In turn, this gives Mom a sense of validation and strong connection with her infant. Breastfeeding is a wonderful means by which mothers feel fulfillment and joy from the physical and emotional connection they experience while nursing. These warm feelings are augmented by the release of the hormone prolactin, producing relaxation and the hormone oxytocin, which promotes the sense of love and attachment between mother and infant.

Babies learn basic trust when they realize that their urgent needs are met. The presence of an adult who provides consistency creates the scenario for a secure attachment. Studies show that infants who are consistently picked up and held in response to distress cry less at 1 year and show less aggressive behavior at 2 years.

shutterstock_130586048By the age of 2 months, infants have their first voluntary social smiles and their amount of eye contact increases, marking a change in the parent-child bonding and also giving the parents a sense of being loved back. The baby interacts with increasing sophistication and range, expressing varied emotions of joy, anger, fear, interest and surprise by different facial expressions. When interacting with a trusted adult, the infant and the caregiver have matching expressions about 30% of the time; the eye-widening, laughing and lip-puckering rises and falls together. If the parent turns away, the baby leans forward and reaches out to get the adult involved again. Infants of depressed parents have a different pattern and spend noticeably less time in coordinated movement with their parents, and make less effort to re-engage. They show sadness, apathy and a loss of energy when the parents are not available. This face- to- face behavior demonstrates a baby’s ability to share emotion and expectation from the relationships, which is the initial step in communication.

Babies 6-12 months old show advances in cognitive understanding and communication ability, with new tensions around themes of attachment and separation. Babies look back and forth between a stranger and a parent, as if to contrast a familiar versus an unfamiliar, and may cling or cry. At the same time, there is an emergence of asserting independence; hence, they attempt self-feeding and refuse to take the spoon from the caregiver. This is when temper tantrums arise as the desire for autonomy comes into conflict with parental control.

The unique emotional relationship that forms between you and your baby is key to him feeling safe, and also influences your child’s social, emotional, intellectual and physical development. A secure bond ensures that your baby will have a firm foundation for life, which includes a healthy sense of self-awareness, eagerness to explore and learn, and trust and respect for others. When babies develop a secure attachment bond, they are better able to enjoy interacting with others, develop confidence, handle disappointment, loss or stress, form mature intimate relationships and maintain emotional balance.

How do you bond with your children? Share your stories in the comments or on our Facebook page!

All information contained in this blog and on our web site(s) should be independently verified by you by a medical professional of your own choosing and you should always conduct your own research and due diligence before making any decision related to the subject matter of this blog or our web site. 

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Dr. Pearl

 

Dr. Pearl Cenon

A pediatrician in private practice in New Jersey for over 15 years, Dr. Cenon (we like to call her Dr. Pearl) also has two children of her own. Dr. Pearl’s husband, Kevin McDonough is also a pediatrician and they work together. She writes basic posts about topics that interest many parents, from skin care and nutrition to seasonal issues, such as allergies and colds. Her kind, approachable tone in each blog post will have you looking forward to the next one.

Pearls of Wisdom: Potty Time

PottyTrainingOne of the most challenging tasks that parents face is toilet training their child. Every mom and dad who has bought, changed and disposed of stinky and wet diapers appreciates and celebrates this monumental milestone. No parent has a built-in GPS to help navigate the road to “potty town” and even the experienced parents will see variations in readiness from one child to the next.  Remember, too, that forcing little ones to pee/poo using the toilet or potty chair before they are ready can lead to difficulties. Although as parents we anticipate each new stage with eagerness, some things must come naturally.

Though many creative strategies have been developed and tested (star charts, prizes, songs, help from siblings, even talking toilets!), realistic parenting is all about setting developmentally appropriate expectations for children and offering praise and positive reinforcement when it’s due.  Trust me, approaching this sensitive subject with optimism and encouragement is far better than resorting to negativity, regardless of how challenging potty training becomes.

Many children show interest in using a potty between 18-24 months of age. However, some children may not be ready until after 2 ½ years old, so it’s best to let your child’s behavior and actions guide you. Just like speech, motor skills, and cognitive development, toilet training will happen when your toddler is ready. Once he is able to sense the urge to go — or does a noticeable jig — and verbalizes the need go to the toilet or potty chair, you’re on the right track to successful potty training. Another factor to remember: the process can be affected if there are stressors at home like illness, death, divorce or separation, moving, or any other crisis that impacts the family.

The Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following tactics to facilitate successful toilet training:

  • Decide what words to use to describe body parts, urine and bowel movements. Use terms that will not offend, confuse or embarrass anyone.
  • Pick a potty chair that a child can easily get onto with feet touching the floor. If you use a child-size seat attached to an adult toilet, place a stepstool beneath to support her feet so that she can bear down with ease.
  • Help your child recognize signs of using the potty and encourage him to inform you before, not after, the fact.
  • Make trips to the potty part of a routine. Once you see telltale signs, take your child to the potty and explain what you want to happen.
  • Encourage the use of training pants to make him proud, as this is a sign of being a “big kid.” Don’t get upset when accidents happen since it may take weeks, even months, before toilet training is completed.  Frustration is normal, but try not to let your child sense your frustration.
  • Last and most importantly, give loads of encouragement and positive reinforcement during the whole process to keep your child interested in being diaper-free. Be their cheerleader! Showing lots of excitement when the toddler uses the potty properly will ensure a healthy transition.

Awareness of your own tone and approach is what truly guides toddlers into a success story. Children try very hard to make their parents happy and proud of them, so try your best to applaud your child’s efforts and keep a sense of humor as she tries to master this new skill. It’s just like riding a bike, and once your child gets the hang of it, they’ll never forget how!

Do you have any methods of your own? Post in the comments below, or head over to BabyLegs’ Facebook page and look for today’s post on potty training. Share your wisdom with other BabyLeggers for helpful tips.

Warm Regards,

Dr. Pearl

 

All information contained in this blog and on our web site(s) should be independently verified by you by a medical professional of your own choosing and you should always conduct your own research and due diligence before making any decision related to the subject matter of this blog or our web site. 

———–

Dr. Pearl

 

Dr. Pearl Cenon

A pediatrician in private practice in New Jersey for over 15 years, Dr. Cenon (we like to call her Dr. Pearl) also has two children of her own. Dr. Pearl’s husband, Kevin McDonough is also a pediatrician and they work together. She writes basic posts about topics that interest many parents, from skin care and nutrition to seasonal issues, such as allergies and colds. Her kind, approachable tone in each blog post will have you looking forward to the next one.