Why should a mother abandon her baby

Early parent-child bond - how do I treat my child sensitively?

1. Tell parents

“Our daughter Lisa is 12 months old. I actually have her with me all day. Mostly she plays in our living room. But when I leave the room, e.g. to go to the kitchen, she immediately starts crying. When I come back, she calms down, thank God, pretty quickly, is happy to see me and continues to play. Is it normal that she always cries when I leave? My friend's daughter is very different. When mom is not there, she can go on playing alone. "Heidi K. (26 yrs.)

“Our Vincent (eight months) is actually a happy and open baby. He always let everyone carry him around very well and didn't show any fear of strangers. And we were really proud of his open and happy nature! But recently he has changed completely. He cries and is afraid when strangers approach him. He looks like he's changed. We don't know how to behave. "Joshua B. (38 y.)

2. What does bond mean?

When parents think about the term attachment, terms such as relationship, love, care and closeness come to mind. It quickly becomes clear that you are only really attached to a few people in your life. The unique relationship between the baby and its parents is one of those few and at the same time holds a special place among them. But what does bond mean?

Bond arises in the everyday encounter between parents and babies. A delicately coordinated exchange, for example when feeding, diapering, playing, increases mutual trust and means that the baby and the parents get to know each other better and the baby can feel familiar and safe with its parents. Bonding could therefore be compared to a secure and soulful bond between parent and child, invisibly connecting them to one another over space and time.

The development of the bond between parent and child begins in the prenatal period and is decisively influenced by experiences during pregnancy and childbirth as well as during the first months of life. Although every baby inevitably develops a bond with their parents, the qualities of the bond differ. From the quality of the bond between the baby and its parents, it is possible to deduce fairly precisely how the baby will behave as an adult when dealing with other people and with problems. A child who experiences their parent as sensitive and supportive will likely experience themselves as lovable and competent.

According to this, securely bonded babies with a secure bond quality are better able to control their aggressive impulses in adolescence, for example. In contrast to insecurely attached children, they are more likely to show a high level of self-esteem and self-confidence, are socially competent and are better able to deal with problems in difficult situations. Neglected children, on the other hand, develop a negative inner conception of themselves as not very lovable and poorly accepted and are less able to trust relationships.

A bond is created through the baby's interaction with the parent. After the first year of life, one of four different attachment styles can be observed in babies: the secure, the insecure-avoidant, the insecure-ambivalent and the disorganized / disoriented attachment style.

Secure bond

Safely bound babies cry when their mom leaves them alone. Crying is then an expression of the fear they experience at the moment of separation. Since they have no way of knowing whether their mom is coming back, they feel alone, helpless, powerless and even more scared.

Securely bound babies call their mother, follow her and seek immediate proximity to her as soon as they become afraid. They are able to show their attachment needs very clearly and, because of parental sensitivity, develop a great deal of confidence within them that their mother will come back and comfort them by teasing them. For securely bound children, the mother fulfills the role of a “safe haven” that will always offer protection and to which one can return when one is afraid.

Insecure-avoidant attachment

Babies who are insecure and avoidant do not seem to notice a brief separation from their mother. They show little emotion on their return. They avoid closeness and contact, e.g. turn their bodies away and turn their backs on their mothers. Rather, they are concerned with their game. These kids have learned not to show their feelings as their mom probably doesn't like it. These mothers are not very sensitive to their child.

Insecure-ambivalent attachment

These babies overreact when their mom leaves the room. They scream, cry and cling to her. They have learned to show their fear in a dramatic way. When their mother comes back, the children find it difficult to calm down and also show angry and aggressive behavior directed against the mother. After the separation you find yourself in a conflict between the need for closeness and aggression.
Disorganized / disoriented attachment

When their mothers return, these babies exhibit abnormal behaviors, such as freezing behavior, stereotypical motor movements, or contradicting behaviors, such as happily walking up to the mother after her return, but stopping halfway, turning around and lying on the floor throw and romp.

This pattern of attachment is particularly pronounced in children who have experienced abuse and in particularly less sensitive mothers. Parents largely have a say in how a bond develops, whether the baby is securely or insecurely attached to the parents. But how can parents have a supportive effect on their baby so that it is securely bound?

3. Everyday upbringing

When parents respond to the signals and needs expressed by the baby, their behavior is called sensitive. Sensitive parenting means observing the baby carefully, recognizing its needs and reacting to them accordingly. Parental behavior is considered sensitive if parents perceive the child's signals, interpret them correctly and react to them immediately and appropriately. This gives the baby the feeling that parents are caring for it lovingly and reliably and can give it exactly what it needs.

Parents usually have an intuitive repertoire of behavior that they can fall back on to help their child develop. Most of the time, they intuitively recognize their baby's needs and react accordingly sensitively. The child responds with well-being, later with a smile and with eye contact, which in turn triggers satisfaction in the parents and moves them to positive signals such as smiling, speaking and tenderness. When the baby is dissatisfied, whining, or screaming, parents try to find out the need behind it. When the need is met, the baby usually sends out positive signals again. Bonding is not only created in this exchange because parents meet their child's needs. Bond develops because parents come into sensitive contact with their baby. You are talking to your baby and the baby answers even though it cannot speak yet. It is the gestures, looks and touch that both parents and children use to communicate and communicate. The better you succeed in fine-tuning yourself, the more likely it is that a secure bond will be established.

Nevertheless, it can help parents to know which behavior triggers a feeling of security and security in their baby and thus enables him to develop positively. In the next chapter you will find out what you can do to give your baby a feeling of security.

4. Go new ways

Learning to understand children

Example 1 in the first chapter

Be a safe haven for your baby!

When securely bound babies - like Lisa in our example - cry, this is an expression of the fear they experience at the moment of separation. Since they have no way of knowing whether their mom is coming back, they feel alone, helpless, powerless and even more scared. Securely bound babies call their mother, follow her and seek immediate proximity to her as soon as they become afraid. They are able to show their need for bonding very clearly and, because of parental sensitivity, they develop a great deal of trust inside them that their mother will come back and comfort them, for example by kidding them. For securely bound children, the mother fulfills the role of a “safe haven” that will always offer protection and to which one can return when one is afraid. When Heidi returns, Lisa immediately tries to be close to her mother. She is happy that her mom is back. After being comforted by her mother, she can break away from her and continue playing. Babies who are insecurely bound behave differently in such situations.

There are three types of insecure or disoriented attachment behavior:

  • When the child returns, the child avoids closeness and contact with the mother and devotes himself entirely to play.
  • The child is so overreacting that it is difficult to calm down for a long time after the mother returns.
  • On return, the child shows conspicuous behaviors, such as freezing behavior, stereotypical motor movements, or contradicting behaviors, such as happily running to the mother after her return, but stopping halfway, turning around and throwing himself on the floor and rages.

If you notice that your baby's behavior is prone to one of the three variations, you should definitely learn to be sensitive to your baby. You can find out how to do this in the suggested solutions.

Watch yourself

Example 2 in the first part

Strangers as an expression for strengthening the bond.

One expression of the developing bond is the so-called strangling, which occurs in almost all babies around the age of eight months. Vincent's father, Joshua, needn't be unsettled by this. Strangling is an important new step in his son's development and an expression of the strengthening of Vincent's bond with Joshua. From the eighth month of life, the baby's sensory perception becomes more differentiated. From now on the child is able to distinguish between the familiar and the unfamiliar. If it loses sight of its father, it lacks the certainty that its father is still around. Vincent changes from blind trust to a healthy distrust of new things. Vincent always stays close to familiar people. This natural protective mechanism protects Vincent, who is just becoming mobile, from situations that he would not be able to cope with on his own.
Give your child a feeling of security!

Joshua should try to consider his son's change to be healthy and appropriate to his level of development. He could be even more responsive to his son's needs and be more empathetic. So the trust between the two can grow more. Through the experience of security and security, Vincent will soon understand inwardly that his father is still there for him when he does not see him but a stranger.

5. Suggested solutions

Research into the development of parent-child relationships has shown that parental empathy for the baby has a central influence on the further course of the relationship development. Parents' positive feelings towards their child contribute significantly to the creation of a secure bond. Most of the time, parents recognize their baby's feelings intuitively and can react sensitively to their basic needs. But how can parents be even more sensitive towards their child?

Be as attentive as possible

Basically, parents should always devote all their attention to their baby so that they can perceive his expressions of needs. In practice, this means that in all situations in which you are close to the baby, such as breastfeeding, you should concentrate on the child mentally, emotionally and in behavior in order to be able to receive weaker signals from the baby. This works best when the mother maintains eye contact with the baby.

Try to correctly interpret what the baby is saying

Only over time do parents learn to distinguish whether the baby is crying because of hunger, pain or boredom. In doing so, they are initially dependent on the phase of trying out. It is helpful to empathize with the child's situation. Considerations such as: “I've been playing with the baby for a long time now. Is it crying because it is now hungry, or is it tired now? ”Will help you.

Respond according to the child's needs

When parents perceive a child's need, they should respond appropriately. That means you should play with the baby when it is bored and feed the baby when it is hungry. Feeding a baby on a schedule does not suit his or her needs. Nor to play with the baby when he is hungry.

Respond immediately to the baby's expression of need

Parents should respond immediately to their child's expressions of needs. The baby cannot wait in the first few months of life. It perceives the current state of “non-fulfillment of a need” as unchangeable and eternal. However, since all of his needs feel vital, he becomes desperate if there is no prompt response from the caregiver. The baby has yet to learn that there is a relationship between their behavior and the parents' response. Only by reacting quickly can you give the baby the feeling that it can make a difference in the environment through its behavior.

Get help

If you need professional support in handling your baby, we recommend attending a SAFE® course. SAFE® was developed by the Munich attachment researcher and private lecturer Dr. med. Karl Heinz Brisch developed. In a total of 10 full-day seminars from the beginning of pregnancy to the end of the baby's 1st year of life, parents receive from experts from the University Children's Clinic in the Dr. von Haunersche Children's Hospital in Munich Information about child development, video sensitivity training to strengthen parental skills and the possibility of getting professional help at any time via a hotline.

It also offers parents the opportunity to seek psychotherapeutic help for their own traumatic childhood experiences and thus to break the vicious circle of passing on the traumas they have experienced to their child in the form of mistreatment, abuse and neglect.

More information on the SAFE project


Alliance for Children. Against violence

Reprinted with permission