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What Every Mother Knows

Written by Anna Jahns   
Saturday, 01 September 2007 00:00
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What Every Mother Knows
The Importance of Attachment
Page 3
Trusting the Children
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Every mother intuitively knows the supreme importance of the relationship between her and her child with every fibre of her being, for Nature has designed it to be this way.

There is nothing obscure or esoteric about the bond of intuitive connectedness that exists between mother and child—it is something so inherent to our biological system that it is as natural to us as breathing, and in many ways it is just as essential to our survival.

And while it’s true that babies don’t come with instructions, what we do have is unlimited access to the wisdom of millions of years of nurturing encoded into our very experience of mothering, especially for the crucial early years of our babies’ lives. All it takes is for us to trust Nature’s plan, for there is an inherent feeling of rightness, which every mother knows, guiding and affirming this process of developing a new human life. When baby feels well, mother feels well, and she is deeply motivated to ensure this is so. We all have this knowing; it is part of our “hardware,” so to speak. This knowing is already informing our mothering all the time, and with a little attention, it can be an unquestionable ally.

Communication Between Mother and Child

On a very subtle and physiological level, this communication channel begins to establish itself from the day of conception and evolves throughout pregnancy. A mother vividly remembers the first real exchange with her baby, no matter what her birthing experience has been. It is a look of profound recognition, one that she carries with her for her entire life. This bonding at birth sets in motion an exquisitely intricate exchange of biological and hormonal messages that causes a mother to be attuned to her baby, who is in turn wired to behave with cues that a mother intuitively knows how to read and interpret. Like a transmitter-receiver network, mother and baby, through practice, fine-tune their communication until the reception is clear. Prolactin and oxytocin are powerful mothering hormones that help to form the chemical basis for what is called mother’s intuition. “It comes with the mothers’ milk,” as the saying goes. And it is really true, chemically and hormonally, it quite literally does!

Whether the initial bonding between mother and infant develops into what is known as a “secure attachment” is largely dependent on the mother (or other primary caregiver, if the biological mother is not raising the child) being consistently present and responsive to her baby’s needs. The “attachment” between mother and infant has been established and strengthened throughout human history by mothers holding their babies close to their bodies during their early lives and sleeping alongside them at night, by responding to their needs whenever they cried, and providing nutrition and comfort through breastfeeding. A baby’s physical, intellectual, emotional, and early social development is designed to take him or her through this interactive process, and is vital to establishing the crucial neuropsychological foundations for trust, affection, and empathy—the very foundation of all that it means to be human.