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Attachment And Clinging

Your baby’s first smiles are for anyone, but a month or two later, his smiliest smiles are just for you, and he’s starting the first and most important love affair of his life, a love that will keep on building to give him the foundation for all the later loving of his life.

Every baby needs at least one warm, responsive loving person to attach himself to, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t choose more. If his care is shared between partners or with a caregiver, he’ll make a relationship with each, and the one that seems most basic may even change as the months pass.

His attachment has to be earned and isn’t earned by doing his laundry or paying the mortgage, it’s earned by offering him play, talk, and fun.

Once your baby singles you out as his most special person, he’ll want more and more of your time and attention, and when he can’t have it, he’ll cling. In the second half of the year, he may cry whenever you leave the room and reject anybody who isn’t part of his magic circle. Try to feel proud and flattered rather than irritated and smothered.

If you try to push a ninth month old baby away or force him to stay with people he doesn’t know well, you’ll make him anxious about losing you, and he’ll cling even more. And when he can’t have you, do make sure he has a replacement parent person; that way he’ll always feel safe until you can come back to him.

Penelope Leach, Ph.D., is one of the world’s most respected (and best-loved) developmental child psychologists. She is most widely known for her best-selling books on child development and parenting. They include Babyhood, Children First: What Society Must Do — and Is Not Doing — for Our Children Today, the classic Your Baby & Child: From Birth to Age Five (now in a new edition for a new generation), and Your Growing Child: From Babyhood Through Adolescence.

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