Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 4:56PM
Most of us know that it is important to bond with our baby and form a strong attachment, but what does this really mean, and what can happen if this does not occur? Sometimes post natal depression gets in the way.
The bond a mother has with her baby is paramount in providing her baby with the essence of what we all need to feel secure: that is a sense of emotional safety. Of course dad’s are important too in this process, however in reality mums continue to be the primary carers, meaning they often (not always) do the majority of feeding, settling and soothing, ie attending to the baby when the baby is distressed.
Mum needs to feel safe herself
So what happens if mum herself is not feeling safe? Often we don’t think of our own emotional safety as adults, (having been programmed primarily to only identify practical safety in the past), but usually we can identify this as when we ourselves feel stressed, anxious, angry (a milder form of anger being frustration), overwhelmed or depressed.
The Anxiety Link
Past research has shown that anxious mothers often have baby’s that have more difficulty settling. This is due to the fact that your baby is very intuitive and will pick up on your own emotional energy. What is discussed less frequently in popular media is that a mother who is depressed can also affect the attachment and bonding with her baby.
Essentially babies learn to interact with the world by reading facial expressions and babies are highly suggestive when it comes to this. Think of how easily a baby with smile when we smile at it or pull a silly face. However, when we are stressed, it is more likely a baby will respond in a way that shows that he/she is upset, frightened or even confused.
When a mother is chronically stressed, anxious, angry or depressed – her facial expressions are affected and this can affect healthy attachment. In extreme forms, dysfunctional attachment can affect the personality development of a child. But what is important to remember is that many of these dysfunctional attachment behaviours and consequences may not be identified until the child herself starts developing her own friendships or intimate relationships. What is even more profound, is that dysfunctional attachment will also be more intensely evident when the child becomes a mother herself , and thereby this may have a significant affect on her ability to bond and attach with her own baby.
What Steps Can You take?
So where does that leave us and is there hope if you are feeling emotionally drained?
YES! What is paramount, is that you do not feel that you have to silence your fears or stresses, or consider them an essential part of becoming a mother. Motherhood is extremely challenging. No longer do we have a tribe of women to support us, and elders to guide us, so we need to form our own tribes and reach out for the help we need.
Gaining support via counselling, naturopathy, homeopathy and stress management and/or yoga for stress, anxiety, post-natal depression is essential for both you and your baby’s psychological health. The benefits are significant.
The energy of sending love and kindness to your baby in a calm manner can only occur if we can send that feeling to ourselves, and allow ourselves to take the time to find the physical, emotional, practical and psychological support we require to nurture our own self, so that we can offer this peace to our gorgeous baby.
If you would like further support or advice from our psychologist and yoga teacher, specializing in post natal depression and bonding as well as stress management call Melissa Podmore on 0413 925211