Most expectant or new Mums experience a sense of excitement and anticipation at the prospect of meeting their new arrival, but for many these feelings are also accompanied by anxiety or even some fears. Untreated, these negative feelings can sometimes inhibit the natural bonding that mothers and babies should experience during their first few weeks together, and possibly even interfere with the development of a secure mother-baby attachment. Developing this secure relationship will have lasting consequences for both mother and baby. Disruptions to the development of a secure attachment can have implications on a child’s development in many areas including behaviour, brain, social and emotional, and psychological.
A secure attachment refers to those bonds that develop as a result of sensitive, responsive parenting, which reassures the child that their caregiver is a “safe base” from which they can explore the world. Parents who are in tune with their child and able to respond to their needs show that, whatever happens they will be there to pick up the pieces and dry the tears. This gives the child the confidence to explore and learn from their environment with the knowledge that they are safe from harm. In addition, as the child experiences multiple repetitions of this kind of care, they begin to develop a model of relationships that will later facilitate their own intimate relationships and how they will behave, and expect others to behave, in those relationships.
We are fed media images of doting mothers, staring at smiling, bouncing babies, but this isn’t always the way new mothers feel. After 9 months of physical and emotional changes culminating with the most gruelling physical and emotional trial most women will ever experience -- fatigue, feelings of being overwhelmed, and low mood can be unwelcome guests at the party. Post-natal depression (PND), post-partum depression, or baby blues can be a serious and debilitating problem and can affect the development of secure attachments. Mother’s with PND or high levels of stress and anxiety may be functionally “perfect parents”, feeding, washing, and clothing with great efficiency. But, they may find it harder to tune into their child socially and emotionally and so the attachment is affected. Many women suffer in silence worried that family, friends, and even care providers might not understand their struggles. It is so important for these women and their children that they receive timely support and help.
Dispelling myths, creating confidence, and reducing stress, anxiety, and depression prior to birth can be pivotal in protecting mothers against developing PND and other emotional difficulties. Reducing feelings of blame and guilt felt by women with PND as well as actively helping them to work through depression and encouraging the development of secure attachments are also important to ensure a healthy, happy future for Mum and baby. Luckily, help is out there but the stigma of PND must be reduced and people must feel comfortable to step forward and ask for the right help. Mellow Parenting is a package of three group programmes that have been found to reduce maternal depression and anxiety as well as facilitating the development of secure attachments. If you would like any more information about the groups or accessing support, contact Dr Rose Logan (email@example.com).
Clinical Psychologist (UK)
Facilitator, Mellow Parenting
Soor Center for Professional Therapy and Assessment (Kuwait)