baby's emotional needs

Love and security – Baby’s Emotional Needs

baby's emotional needs

The essentials we have discussed so far for the new baby have been physical requirements. Obviously without food, warmth and shelter the baby will die. He will survive if deprived of love and security, but his development will be impaired and he could grow up with severe emotional problems. Observation has shown that babies who do not receive love are unable to be loving people when they grow up, and mothers and fathers who have been ill-treated themselves when young are more likely to ill-treat their own children.

It is normal for a mother to love her child, though the length of time it takes fo: affection to develop varies. Affection grows during pregnancy and following the birth. Some women feel a strong emotional attachment immediately after the birth, but sometimes, especially if it has been a long, difficult birth, these reactions are delayed because the mother is exhausted. Some mothers experience deeper maternal feelings than others, and some have a very prolonged period of developing attachment. The mother should be allowed to hold her child next to her body and put him to the breast immediately after the birth. During her stay in hospital he should be in a crib at the side of her bed day and night (`rooming-in’), so that she can feed him as and when he needs it and pick him up and cuddle him when he cries.

If the baby needs special care because he is premature, or ill in some way, mother contact should be maintained by letting her care for the baby – cleaning him, changing his nappy, feeding him if possible, and stroking and touching him through the portholes of the incubator.

It has been shown that when strong bonding attachments have been made, babies thrive better, they breast-feed more successfully, their language development is more advanced and there is less chance of ill-treatment by the mother. The bonding is lasting and persists even during temporary separations.

The first person a baby becomes attached to is the person who cares for him physically and loves and cuddles him, and this is usually his mother. Within a few days he can recognise her shape, the outline of her face, her voice and the tones of her voice, and he is sensitive to her individual smell. He will respond to her moods; if she is depressed, angry or happy, he will be frightened, unhappy or content. The more she can keep him in close bodily contact, by using a baby sling when she is working and by nursing him whenever possible; the more eye contact there is; the more she talks and sings to him; the more loved and secure and content he will be.

Although the baby will usually become attached first of all to his mother and will always return to her when he can, after a short time he will form attachments to other people, usually his father and perhaps his grandparents or other relatives he sees frequently. The mother should guard against being too possessive; it is important that the bond between father and child is also given the chance to develop. He will begin to love those who show him love and who comfort him when he is distressed. A child who feels secure in the love and affection of his parents and family will have the confidence to explore other situations and relationships, knowing that his mother (or the person who cares for him in the same way) is always there to return to.

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