Secure Attachments Help Irritable Babies’ Sociability Later by Vimala McClure


A study in Child Development found that measures to promote attachment between mother and child are especially important for highly irritable newborns. 84 infants were followed from birth to age 2 and the study was based on the baby’s reactions to a series of tests, including being undressed and hearing a bell ringing. Securely attached infants turned toward their mothers when distressed, while insecurely attached infants did not. Toddlers who were highly irritable newborns were the most sociable if they had a secure attachment to their mothers; toddlers who were highly irritable newborns and had insecure attachments were least able to explore their surroundings.


Infant massage is one obvious way to secure attachments between parents and their babies. The catch is that parents of highly irritable newborns can tend to disengage, feeling rejected and overwhelmed, guilty that they cannot get their babies to calm down. We can market our classes to this specialized group, and work with them slowly, giving them that all important supportive feedback and information.


I found working with this group one-on-one helpful; I had two pediatricians who would suggest to their new parents to get in touch with me. I could focus directly on the mother and baby, discovering where the irritability may be coming from. I could explain how infants introduced to infant massage are often very fussy the first coupl樂威壯
e of times, and show them how to sit, relax, make contact, and respond to their baby’s cues. One-on-one gave me the time and focus to help these mothers know that their baby’s irritability was not their fault, and show them several means of “organizing” a baby who has lost his ability to “organize” himself. Swaddling, Indian bouncing, resting hands, all can bring a baby back to center.


Most important was to convince mother that she needed to disengage from the irritability, slow down, and observe her baby; crying would not hurt him, he may need to cry to release pent up tensions. Parents can continue the massage, finding a stroke or series that the baby seemed to respond positively to, and go from there. Again, the all important role of the infant massage instructor here is to help mother relax and slow down, build up her self esteem and her ability to hear her baby cry without tensing and taking it personally.


by Vimala McClure