Bonding and attachment

Attachment refers to the baby’s emotional connection with the parents (or the primary caregiver) and can be described as a secure, reciprocal, and long lasting bond. The attachment process begins shortly after birth, develops rapidly in the following months, and continues developing throughout life.

Bonding refers to the parents’ sense of connection to their child. The bonding process already begins before birth and is heavily influenced by experiences during pregnancy and delivery. After birth, bonding usually develops very quickly in the first days and weeks of life.

Physical contact with the parents’ skin is the first very important component to initiate the bonding process right after birth. Further, interactions between parents and child and the implementation of daily care procedures supports the establishment of a strong and safe bond between parents and their baby.

Interactions can include speaking to the baby, kangaroo-care, where the infant is held skin-to-skin by the mother or father, breastfeeding, or simply watching the baby. Even watching a picture of the baby may help to strengthen the relationship.

Although every baby inevitably develops a bond with the parents, different attachment and bonding qualities can influence social and emotional development and behaviour of the child later in life. The separation of parents and their baby immediately after birth can lead to the interruption of these fundamental bonding processes. The attachment quality of a baby towards parents has an influence on how the baby will behave later in life.

Attachment forms by interaction between baby and parents. Involving parents in the daily care and encouraging them to interact with their baby from the early beginning may have a positive influence on the parent-child-relationship and child development later in life.