UA Matters: Tips for Moms, Dads in Developing Infant Attachment Bonds

  • April 18th, 2016

This is the last in a series of three UA Matters posts that focuses on the importance of parent-infant attachment bonds, as well as specific ways fathers can develop a stronger bond with baby. 

Dr. Mary Elizabeth Curtner-Smith
Dr. Mary Elizabeth Curtner-Smith

Now that you understand the importance of developing that parent-infant attachment bond and have learned some ways that fathers can also be involved with developing that strong bond, The University of Alabama’s Dr. Mary Elizabeth Curtner-Smith offers some additional tips to help during this bonding process.

  • Learn to read your baby’s cues. After a baby is born, it is important for each parent to spend one-on-one time with the baby to get to know him. Babies communicate their needs to parents through cues such as using different sounding cries that mean different things, gurgling and cooing. When babies have had enough stimulation, they communicate their need for downtime by turning their heads away from the parent, flailing their arms and legs and sometimes even covering their ears and eyes.
  • Protect your baby from frightening behaviors and hostility. It is also important that babies be shielded from adult behaviors that may be frightening. For example, babies whose fathers attempt to play, but do so in a way that frightens the baby, are less securely attached to their fathers. Consequently, avoid play that involves growling and showing your teeth to your baby. In addition, babies exposed to hostile, angry interactions whether they are in real life, as in witnessing a parental argument, or whether they are on television, experience elevated levels of cortisol, the hormone associated with stress. Thus, it is a good idea to begin screening what you watch on television in the presence of your child, even when your child is a newborn.
  • Babies need a daily dose of daddy. It is important for fathers to spend time on a daily basis with their child. It does not necessarily need to be a long time each day, but it does need to be a repeated presence across time.
  • Do not be afraid of spoiling your infant. Lastly, do not be afraid of spoiling your infant by giving him too much attention, holding him too often or answering his cries. Babies cannot be spoiled. In fact, responding to your infant’s needs and cuddling him often makes him feel secure. Secure babies become more independent as they get older. In contrast, research shows that babies who are held less and have their cries ignored are actually more dependent as they get older, and they are more stressed when they experience a change, such as starting day care.

“A baby will make love stronger, days shorter, nights longer, bankroll smaller, home happier, clothes shabbier, the past forgotten, and the future worth living for.”  Anonymous

Curtner-Smith is an associate professor in UA’s College of Human Environmental Sciences’ department of human development and family studies.uamatters_logo-thumb

The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.