Friday, 14 March 2014

Attachment and Parenting your Premature Baby

I had the pleasure of attending an amazing conference today talking about Attachment in Early Years. The most inspiring talk was given by Suzanne Zeedyk. It's really made me think even more about attachment and parenting.

Suzanne is a research scientist fascinated by babies' innate capacity to communicate, something which has always fascinated me. As Suzanne states on her website "babies are born already connected".

I'm not a psychologist and have but the briefest understandings of attachment theory. What I loved today was Suzanne's explanation of attachment. "It's having an internal teddy bear whom you can call on when you need comfort no matter what your age".

My first teddy bear given to me by my grandmother

But what about our babies? The ones that are taken at birth and put in plastic boxes? The ones that in their first hours, days and weeks aren't snuggled up with their mummies and daddies, but subjected to medical procedures and the care of strangers?

Suzanne talked about the work of the Robertsons who in 1952 produced a film "A 2 year old goes to hospital" which highlighted the practice of admitting children into hospital care and allowing their parents to visit only once a week for 2 hours. The film highlighted this practice and it was changed. Now when children are admitted into hospital it is expected their parents will be integral to their care.

It made me think very much about our sick and premature babies, being taken from their parents and care for by strangers. 

What can we do as parents to give babies that first feeling of the "internal teddy bear", to protect them against sabre tooth tigers? And what can we do as parent supporters to help parents find their inner teddy bear and take care of themselves too?

For me I gave baby massage, to counteract the heel pricks and other negative procedures Joseph was experiencing. In the early days this was just his feet. I sang to him and read to him, despite opposition from some of the medical team. I swapped muslins, so he had my scent and I had his.I learnt containment holding.  I fought for kangaroo care. When we finally got home we spent lots of time cuddling, and him being baby worn.

One of the things about today that was very powerful is that it's never too late. Attachment is important throughout one's life not just in the early years. When I was caring for an elderly lady with dementia I would do containment holding when she was frightened. Attachment is relevant regardless of your age.

I think for parents too, that if they've had issues with attachment in their early years that the special care experience can be even harder and more damaging. How can we as concerned parents help others through this experience?

I know for me, that I was so worried Joseph would come out of hospital not knowing who I was, being scared and feeling unattached. When this photo was taken I was deeply traumatised, and my beautiful friend Jen spent time with me helping me to realise that actually, Joseph was mine and I could get better.

I don't think you can say for a moment, on the strength of this photo that Joseph had any issue identifying me as his mummy.

1 comment:

  1. Lovely to read, this is such important stuff, can you describe containment holding for me?