Fact sheet: Bonding for Brain Development

From the Centre for Community Child Health

The relationship that you and your baby develop is about more than just love and cuddles. The attachment that your baby develops with you and other significant caregivers is an important part of how your baby's brain grows and develops.

One of the first tasks that your baby will learn how to do is to express and regulate emotions. These emotional skills, developed in the first weeks and months of life, provide the foundation for your baby's future mental health. These skills are developed through a secure attachment relationship with you- their primary caregiver.

Infant in stroller looking towards the camera.

A secure attachment relationship

  • Involves opportunities for play, everyday activities and sharing emotions.
  • Facilitates optimal brain development.
  • Stimulates your baby's curiosity to explore and learn.

Building a strong relationship with your baby

Your baby works very hard to communicate with you. That's what crying, smiling and looking into your eyes is all about in the early weeks and months. When you respond promptly and sensitively to your baby's efforts to communicate, you help to build your relationship. Your baby needs you to:

  • Notice promptly when they are communicating something
  • Interpret the cue
  • Respond to and satisfy their need

Of course, there is no magic wand that will always tell you what your baby is trying to communicate. But it's really important that you are emotionally available for your baby and really try to engage with your baby and respond.

Supporting a strong relationship

To develop a strong attachment relationship with your baby:

  • Get to know your baby and their particular needs, likes and dislikes
  • Learn about your baby's signals and respond to them
  • Sudden changes, like being picked up and nappy changing, can be startling and upsetting for your baby. Talk to your baby about what you are going to do so that your baby learns that the world is predictable
  • Be flexible
  • Don't stick to a set routine if it doesn't suit you and your baby
  • Copy your baby's noises and gestures- this is the beginning of conversation- and wait for your baby's response before going on
  • If your baby looks away or yawns, stop and try again later
  • Babies like to look into your eyes. Make plenty of eye contact with your baby
  • Comfort your baby when they are upset
  • Get to know your baby's world, what are they looking at or trying to do?
  • Remember you are the most important part of your baby's life

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