The Cycle of Attachment

The start of healthy attachments begins in the womb. Optimal fetal development occurs when the expectant mother cares for her emotional and physical health. Also, when a mother is experiencing a happy outlook concerning her pregnancy. Good nutrition and avoiding stress provides an environment for the fetus to flourish in. Substances, like alcohol and drugs, should be avoided to ensure proper development of the unborn child. When the child is born, immediate comfort from the mother is needed. She provides the nurturing and soothing for her new baby.

When and infant has a need, which is normally due to hunger, pain, illness or the infant being overly tired, they will cry out due to their discomfort. An infant learns to communicate their needs in this way. As the parent soothes and meets the infant’s needs the infant becomes satisfied, relaxed and regulated. The cycle of trust begins and happened over and over each day. The infant learns to depend and rely on the caregiver as this cycle repeats hundreds of times in an infant’s first year of life. These experiences are a large part of the bonding process between mother and child. This creates an optimal environment for the infant to receive the mother’s loving energy. As the infant is being rocked or held and glazing into their mother’s eyes, the baby mirrors the mom’s smiles and facial expressions. Mother and child become finely attuned to one another as this bonding process continues. This cycle aids in stimulating brain development.

When a baby experiences discomfort and the mother does not respond or her responses are inconsistent, the cycle of attachment is disturbed. An infant is unable to self-regulate thus resulting in a heightened level of anxiety and rage. As the baby’s needs are not being met and the neglect continues an infant will eventually cease crying. The infant can shut down completely or go into survival mode, all of which can interfere with healthy brain devolvement. If the mother is inconsistent with her care giving, the infant can remain anxious not knowing if or when his needs will be met.

This may be a mother, who has substance abuse problems, depression or any issues that inhabit her for meeting her infants needs consistently. Ongoing exposure to abuse and neglect of an infant’s needs can lead to the development of attachment disorder (RAD) or disinhibited social engagement disorder (DSED) as well as other mental health problems.