Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Nurturing attachment

My son is almost a year old. His needs at the moment are almost that of a newborn. He wants to feed regularly, at night it's again down to every two hours, and he wants to be held and be physically close, particularly at night. In the day he goes crazy exploring and cruises around like no tomorrow. I can hardly keep up. And then back to the breast, back to the cuddles. It's exhausting, but it's got to be done. Many voices there are who say a lot to the contrary. I find this confusing and puzzling. I am amazed at how strong these voices are that decry closeness and champion independence. Maybe I see it, hear it everywhere because I am aware that some of these voices are also inside of me. 

I've noticed that the voices about independence start pitching up at around two months, but definitely at around three months of a baby's life. This seems to be the acceptable cut off point of continuously being at the mercy of the baby. The things I have been told or have heard: Don't cuddle too much, for too long, otherwise he will get used to it and will eat you up. Don't ever make the  mistake of taking the baby into your bed, you will never get them out again. He will grow up mother fixated! At this age he should not be wanting so many feeds, he should be sleeping through now. Wouldn't a bottle be better? For you, easier? It's all that sling carrying you did, he got used to it now. It's the breastfeeding, it makes them dependant. It doesn't harm the baby to be left crying a little (what's a little I wonder). Do you leave the baby alone at home while you go to get the girls from school? He has to learn to be on his own too and not always be wanting mother. 

But see I say, I think, the little one was born with the need for closeness and physical contact. Nothing else but mother will do. No dummy, no bottle. Mamma. And why should it not be like that? Who benefits from it not being like that? Why do we in this society value independence so highly? What's wrong with me committing to nurturing that attachment to that child as long as that child needs it? Believe me, sometimes I would rather sit down and have a cup of tea and read a magazine. Or go for a snooze, on my own. Or do some gardening. This attachment business does not come easily to me. And I don't always do it with a smile. I can be rather grumpy about it sometimes. But the commitment is there, because I believe in its importance. 

I believe that for the first few years, the infant needs to have that secure base to which they can come back to again and again (it is often one step forward and ten steps back) until they have a more solid footing in the world out there. I want to give that to my child. Because this child is the future. This child will have an impact on the world so I want to do a good job because I care about the world. And my commitment and the belief in it is not theoretical. It's real. With my twin girls the attachment was far more patchy and difficult because of their prematurity and them being twins. I worried many times that because of our circumstances I had not been able to give enough to them. It turned out that my worries were unfounded. I believe it's the commitment that was crucial in our relating. They always knew and still do that I am there for them, however grumpy. 

And with my son, him and me having the luxury of time and no competition of another baby, the work that goes into nurturing that attachment shines through every day in the form of smiles and laughters and cuddles he gives to me. In the way he is completely sure in his knowledge that I am looking after him and making sure he is safe (when he crawls up those dangerous concrete stairs and grins back at me!). It glimmers in his eyes. And he not only graces me with his glimmer, others get it too. So I shall continue with my commitment of giving, of nurturing - for this attachment is the basis for Love to oneself, and Love to an other. It's a lived experience on a daily basis. 

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