I was reading the following article about breastfeeding in the Ovia Health app. The article did not state who the author was, but here is the quote:
“Responsive feeding helps lay the groundwork early for your child to develop healthy eating habits — including recognizing signs of being hungry and being full — and eventually feeding themself in a healthy way. It also lowers your little one’s risk of becoming overweight when they’re older. Responding and being receptive also encourages bonding and helps your child feel secure — think about how good you feel when you clearly communicate something you need and then have your needs met promptly!”
As a part of mental health assessments, we often ask if there were any significant issues that arose for the client prenatally, during birth, or in early years. The above passage details one aspect of why that is so important- and why those early bonding moments are so important for any expectant moms out there! Obviously, we don’t consciously remember those moments, but it can be enlightening to learn our early history, if possible, to get an idea of why we interact the ways we do as we get older. I’m sure many of you are familiar with the older perspectives of allowing babies to “cry it out”. The issue with that is that we must learn co-regulation before we can learn self-regulation. We must feel safe and that our needs are met before we can feel ready to thrive. If you have always had a sense of being unsafe and have no idea why, it may be as simple as not having those early needs met regularly. It doesn’t necessarily have to be as extreme as abuse or neglect. It can simply be that method of parenting that was popular at the time (and may still be to some).
The question is, how on earth do we work with this? My best answer: a time machine! Okay okay, obviously, we don’t have that. But we do have cool methods that can deal with those early life situations, even without conscious awareness of the memories. It can also be helpful to have secure relationships in adulthood to help shift some of those patterns, although it definitely takes time, patience, and understanding. I’m excited as I will be learning more in the future on this topic and look forward to implementing knowledge gained! For now, maybe reach out to those who raised you (if possible and if safe)– ask them what your childhood was like. Here is a list of important developmental questions you could possibly ask:
- Were you stressed, anxious, or depressed during pregnancy?
- Were there any physical issues throughout the pregnancy?
- Were there any issues during the birth?
- Was I in NICU or have any complications after birth that prevented us from having skin-to-skin contact?
- Did I have any other hospital stays in the first few years of my life?
- Was I fed on a schedule or on demand?
- Was letting babies “cry it out” popular when I was little and did you ascribe to that style?
- Was I generally happy or did I cry often as a baby?
- How did I act when I was separated from you and how did I act when you returned?
These questions bring in the extremely interesting topic of attachment theory. I will post a picture with attachment styles from this article where you can learn in more detail about the styles and studies that established this information.
This can be a difficult issue to face. Please only have those conversations if it is safe to do so! Sometimes, we can’t access the answers, but looking at this chart, it is easy to make those connections. Your childhood is not your fault, but you can work on changing the outcome and learn to form secure attachments. Please don’t hesitate to reach out should you need counseling. We at AHC are here to help! If you are in a state other than Virginia, a good resource in finding local therapists is Psychology Today.