This is the second piece to our Your Child’s Development series and today we are focusing on the infant.
The first year of life is an exciting time for all parents. Whether you are having your first child or your fourth, a new baby is a much anticipated and welcomed event for parents.
Infancy can also be riddled with uncertainty, questions, and sleepless nights. During a year of rapid growth and constant change, staying on top of what is going on with your baby can be challenging. Not only are the obvious physical changes of weight gain and overall growth occurring, but so are the subtle developmental changes that are just as important.
Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Stages of Development informs us that during infancy, the baby’s main task is to form an attachment with his caregiver. Basic trust is established and the infant understands that his parents are dependable and the world can be a safe place. The foundation of hope, confidence and trust–essential for future relationships– develops at this very young age.
Attachment should be one of our primary goals as parents and feeding your baby is an excellent way of setting this in motion. Whether you breastfeed or bottle-feed, you can successfully achieve a healthy connection. If you want to know more about attachment theory, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides a comprehensive document.
Here are ways you can connect and enhance attachment with your baby through feeding:
- Mimic your baby’s sounds and actions.
- Hold, touch, tickle (gently), and look at your baby.
- Focus on your baby when you feed him—fully engage in the moment and show your complete attention.
- Respond to hunger–baby demonstrates this by crying, rooting, and/or sucking on hands and fingers. Remember: the younger the infant, the more frequently hunger will strike. A newborn can be hungry every 1.5-2 hours and an older infant every 3-4 hours.
- Recognize fullness–a baby who pulls away from the breast or bottle, turns their head away when a spoon is offered, or shakes his head “no” are all potential signs of fullness.
You need to be good at reading both the hunger and fullness signs so that you can help your baby maintain his natural hunger-fullness cycle (which he was born with and which helps him eat just the right amounts of food). Let your baby take the lead on how much he eats–but be watchful and attentive to his signals. Overfeeding or underfeeding your baby can happen when you don’t understand or accurately read your baby’s signs.
What is the opposite of attachment?
Detachment. The reality of our modern world is that parents are very busy and they look for quick and convenient ways to achieve the mundane day-to-day tasks (me included). Sometimes parents streamline their chores by multi-tasking–and multi-tasking can invade the kitchen and feeding kids.
Our modern world also promotes early independence. ‘No-hands’ bottle feeders, cup holders in the car seat, packaged food products that young ones can eat while they multi-task (play) are maxing on convenience but potentially undermining the parent-child bond.
Don’t get me wrong–I am a busy mom too and am all for simplicity–but not at the expense of a strong trusting bond with my child. I wouldn’t be inclined to gamble or risk it.
Remember how many times we have to connect and form this strong bond with our child? Over 28,000 times. Lots of opportunity to make it or break it. And when it comes to feeding your baby, creating a strong attachment is key to a healthy, happy and nourished child.
How do you bond with your baby? And what gets in the way?
Written by: Jill Castle, MS, RDN
Published on: May 18, 2011
Updated on: February 13, 2016