News for Moms – use smiles, food, eye contact, touch and motion to help that avoidant baby!!
Babies – treat now, not later!! Have that baby that won’t look at your face, even if standing on your head? Will look at your mouth or nose, yet not your eyes, especially when you are holding them? That baby that won’t snuggle deep in your arm? That baby that you just don’t FEEL cares if you are around or not, or seems to care until you pick them up? Doesn’t cry or coo? Frets and whines a lot? Very withdrawn or passive? Has poor muscle tone? Slow to creep, crawl or sit up? Is called a “too good baby”? Has no joy that touches their soul? Has a history of multiple caregivers and or neglect? Or chronic inconsolable pain?
If so, your baby or toddler most likely has signs of attachment disorder. If not helped, there is GREAT danger for their emotional healthiness, as well as the lives of those they touch. By age 5 they can be hurtful to pets, have frequent lying, be extremely manipulative, devious and destructive. It only gets worse. ACT NOW!!
There is help out there, and the sooner you start, the sooner the baby can get on with its job of being the center of the known universe. It works, I know from personal experience. There is no quick fix, and it can take years for total recovery, yet the longer you sit and do nothing, the more damage is done. Love alone with babies with attachment symptoms is not enough!!!! And yes, a few month old baby CAN BE DAMAGED!!! My daughter was 16 weeks old with many of the above symptoms when we got her. I know of others. I will use the name “baby and toddler” as one as well as “Mom” meaning the primary caregiver.
What Can You Do?? Read On!!
- YOU, AND ONLY YOU, WEAR YOUR BABY!! Carry them with you wherever you go, and whatever you do. (unless dangerous) Attach them to your bodies. A great baby carrier is one that the baby can have skin to skin contact with you – Baby Trekker (1-800-665-3957) is a great one, and DHS bought mine! (Tank tops are great to encourage skin to skin contact). Carry the baby on your hip; tie to your body under a sweatshirt, front carrier, or in your arms. The more contact the better. These babies were not held enough. Hold Them!!!! ALOT!!! ALL THE TIME!!!! For the rare times the baby is not in your arms, have them in the same room as you are in.
- YOU ARE THE ONLY CAREGIVER!! You always bottle, feed, bath, dress, change and most of the play. If friends and family want to help let them walk the dog or clean your house, wash bottles or do laundry, bring food or make you tea. No baby-sitters and no sending the baby away for respite. Until your baby is firmly emotionally attached to you. NO ONE the baby doesn’t see daily should hold or even touch them, and even those that the baby sees daily should hold them at a very minimum.
- KEEP THE BOTTLE AS LONG AS POSSIBLE –EVEN LONGER! You, not the baby, hold the bottle. I hold the bottle with my chin so I have two hands to snuggle my baby close to me. Hold them the way a nursing mother does – chest to chest, close to you with as much skin to skin contact as possible. Always insist your baby look in your eyes and when they do, instantly put the bottle in their mouth and tell them good job!! Keep looking at their eyes so when they are ready for eye contact, you don’t miss it. Rub them gently, rock, sing.
- BATHE WITH YOUR BABY, this encourages skin to skin contact in a nice relaxing warm fun way.
- A LOT OF FACE TO FACE baby games and funny faces and TONS of smiles and kisses!! Paint bright circles around your eyes. Close one eye, then the other, rapidly blink, then change speeds, all the time with funny noises. Cover both eyes then one, and so on. Have the baby sit on your lap, and if this is too hard for them at first, lay them on a bed to do it. Then slowly trick them into letting you touch and hold them!! Keep it fun for them.
- WHEN THERE IS A GREAT DEAL OF ANGER OR AVOIDANCE, the baby NEEDS you to hold them, even if they don’t WANT to be held. They feel so far away from you, and have to be brought closer to heal. Cradle the baby in your arms. Have their arm closest to you held close. Talk soothingly to them, and tell them to look in mommy’s eyes. They most likely won’t at first, and will become very angry, (actually they were already very angry, the anger is just allowed to come out in a safe loved way) Other times in their life they were not able to get their needs met; anger and avoidance came out of that. They were often either ignored, hit, or yelled at. That is why it is SO IMPORTANT this ALL be done in an extremely loving way. Never squeeze the baby too close, speak harshly, lose your cool or forget why you are doing this. If you get to feeling their anger, immediately put them down and call support. You have to remain supportive, yet expect their best. Often they will try to hit you, scratch, bite, scream and get to you any way they can. Their intense rage is there. Yes, even little babies. Eye contact, feeling safe, and being accepted no matter what in a loving way is the goal here. For whatever reason, they have shut off people. Now they need YOU to heal. My daughter needed it most after someone she didn’t know EXTREMELY well would touch her or hold her. Rub them, soothe them in singing, and soft speech, rock them and tell them you love them. Keep it up until they will calm down and look in your eyes and FEEL connected to you. At times they will fall asleep screaming. If so, and if possible, continue to hold them until they wake up, then continue above. If you need to lay them down, have a monitor on so you can pick them up as soon as they wake up. For the very avoidant baby one unsolicited eye contact a week could be considered good! Keep it up, you have several good eye contacts a minute to look forward to! Remember, you did not create this anger in your baby.
- NOW IS THE BEST AND EASIEST TIME TO WORK WITH YOUR BABY.
- DO A LOT OF BABY MASSAGES. For the real avoidant baby, a half hour. Each day you delay, the harder it is for them and you. Attachment issues do NOT just go away on their own. They only get worse. Twice a day would be minimum. All the time talk, sing and let that baby know how special they are!! Most of the babies seem to really enjoy this, and my daughter would even get out the lotion as soon as she could reach for it!!
- ROCK THAT BABY!! They often can’t stand you sitting in a rocking chair, but can often tolerate and enjoy you walking and dancing with them in your arms. (remember face to face contact during this) Gentle motion, bouncing and rocking are a must!!
- SLEEP WITH THE BABY. If you can, the best is to have the baby in your bed close to you. Second choice is to have the baby in their crib right next to your side of the bed with the side rail down. Have the crib touching snug to your bed, so if they climb out, they climb safely onto you!! They need t hear your breathing and know you are close. My daughter was always asleep when I put her in her crib, yet that little tiny thing would move her body as far away from me as she could, and always would turn her head away from me. I still remember the first night she didn’t!! What Joy!! DHS will let you have a baby under one sleep in your room with no problems. (It’s in the rule book!) Yet for someone over one, you get special permission (in writing) to have them sleep in your room for mental health reasons. Should not be a big problem. Have the baby always fall asleep in your arms. Nap or night. They need to get used to feeling loved!!
- SING, SING, SING!! It lightens the load, and helps the baby feel the happy friendliness they missed out on. Joyful voices are so important!
- ENCOURAGE EYE CONTACT WHEN FEEDING, BOTTLING, TALKING, CHANGING, AND ALL THE TIME!! Bribery of candy, special toys or sounds, tickles, or whatever. As one specialist told me in giving them candy, “They can live with rotten teeth, yet can not truly live without attachments!!”
- EXPECT A DIRTY HOUSE, soup out of the can and sandwiches for supper and piles of laundry. Know that you are not super mom, and that baby can’t wait until all is in order to get on with their lives. Here is where all those well meaning friends that want to hold that precious baby come in!! Let them work!!!
- EXPECT TO BE CRITICIZED AND ACCUSED as over possessive, spoiling the baby, and making more than you should out of the baby’s problems. You will be told all babies do that. This is by well meaning friends, neighbors, relatives, doctors, and social workers. Stick to what YOU KNOW the baby needs, and fight to get that for them. Remember YOU know that baby more than anyone else.
- HAVE A GREAT SUPPORT SYSTEM. Have a trusted friend (hopefully someone who has had experience in attachment disorder) that you can call without being told you are making too much of it. Read books on attachment disorder. Know what dangers await that baby if they are not helped. Working with an infant or toddler has such a HUGE chance for success!! Not one act of kindness is wasted.
- GET AN OFFICIAL EVALUATION BY AN ATTACHMENT EXPERT. Dr. Dan Hughes does these (207-872-2121) That way in court and with workers you do have leg to stand on in getting these babies what they need!!! It is a lot easier when you have a well respected expert stick up for you. Even judges listen to Dan!!
- KNOW YOU NEITHER CREATED YOUR BABY’S PROBLEMS, NOR CAN YOU CURE THEM. Your job is to give the baby the tools they need. The rest is up to them.
- PRAY, A LOT. It is a very big job you have undertaken and at times a very lonely one. Know YOU are just as precious to Jesus as that little baby you are working with.
- FOR THE BABY THAT HAS NOT YET ENTERED YOUR HOME – when you get that baby, get a piece of clothing or blanket unwashed and used recently by the primary caregiver. The smell will help the move. And don’t you wash it!! Keep it close to the baby to help the baby adjust. No matter the baby’s age or living conditions, the move to you is not easy. Never push this object, but make it available.
- HELP YOUR BABY GET A TRANSFERENCE OBJECT. This is a blanket or soft toy they can sleep with, use it in the car seat, and for the RARE time you cannot be with them. Helps in security.
- IF YOU DO ALL OF THESE WITH LOVE AND KINDNESS AND THINGS GET WORSE OR REMAIN THE SAME, GET HELP. I have never heard of them getting worse when done this way, yet anything is possible.
I wish you all the best in your adventure. No one is superhuman, and there will be times when you cannot do all you want with your baby. Take heart, NO ONE can do it all!! If your baby is getting emotionally closer to YOU, you are doing great and giving the baby a priceless gift. I have worked with older children with attachment problems also, and believe me, NOW is the easiest and best time to start!! God bless you on your adventure!
Please feel free to copy this paper and give to anyone who might use it.
This treatment and paper have been approved by Dr. Dan Hughes, attachment specialist. Thanks Dan.