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© 2010 By Deborah Beasley, ACPI CCPF


What is Bonding Anyway?

Bonding is the opportunity to be in connection with another person through the consistent meeting of their emotional, psychological, physical, and spiritual needs.   Bonding occurs at the moment we take action to meet the need of another.   We experience bonding with such daily variety and subtlety, that when it is missing we often fail to associate its significance to the totality of our well being.  The truth is, the deficiency and malformation of a parental bond resulting in mal-attachment causes a deep gaping hole in our psyche which burns its negative affects into every aspect of our development. 

 Bonding is grounded in the positive and loving interaction of human contact.  Attachment is the result of many met needs between the caregiver and child.  It is an essential part of our healthy human growth, a primal necessity.

Making Sense of It All

All we know in life begins as sensory experience. Sensory memories are stored in the deepest part of our memory beginning long before birth.    As we grow and interact with the world around us, our brain plays an intricate match game with sights, sounds, sensations, and emotions.  Connecting early sensory memories correctly depends on a healthy and organized environment for the child.  This often means the caregiver provides the child with many opportunities for physical interaction and exploration. 

A baby’s exploration of a rattle, for example, is a complete sensory experience.  He takes delight in the sight of it. He learns to grope for it until he masters his grip.  He manipulates the rattle in his two-handed grasp while thoroughly mouthing the toy.  He feels exhilaration simply seeing its colors and shape.  His movement of the toy produces a pleasing sound, and he expresses his joy through coos and gurgles.  His brain has established a clear and positive emotional connection with the rattle. 

In the first three years of life our brains will assign millions of stored sensory memories to particular life experiences.  With a simple rattle all the child’s sensory curiosity about this object is satiated. He now remembers what the toy means for him.  Neural pathways have been forged, memories tracked, and perceptions formed.   Should the child through, let’s say, a gross lack of coordination, only hit himself with the rattle each time he has it in his hand, it then becomes a negative object for him.  He might show intense fear and upset when he sees or hears the rattle.  He may only  be able to associate the rattle with a positive emotion after repetative positive interaction replaces the negative memories.   Sensory input lays the foundation for how we ultimately understand and relate to life and the world around us.  

Our Inborn Need to Connect

Infants are born with a need to seek that which will comfort, soothe, nourish, and keep safe.  Every sense is ignited toward self-survival, preservation, discovery and growth.  They are born to nurse immediately at their mother’s breast, and their sucking reflex is in practice before birth.   A newborn begins almost at birth to root and nuzzle toward the sweet smell of their mother’s milk.   After the trauma of birth infants instinctively seek comfort in their strange, bright, loud, and new surroundings. 

 When a newborn is swaddled snuggly and placed is her mother’s arms to nurse, or be fed by bottle, one can witness an immediate calming of the newborns body.  This body/mind regulation is sometimes seen at the first recognition of the mother’s voice.  The infant is calmed and finds new security in the sensations of being cared for.  She feels herself surrounded by the swaddled blanket and held securely by her parent.  Her brain begins to store the sensory memory of what it means to feel safe.  Her body experiences changes between the upset of birth, hunger, cold, or pain, and the calming effects of soothing attentive actions from her parent.  The child knows what it feels like to be suddenly physically separated from the parent’s body and it feels vulnerable. She is soothed again by the mother’s voice, but may continue to fuss and cry until she feels and smells her mother’s physical presence.  

All is experienced through what is happening in her immediate surroundings.  She is the center of her world.  Her needs are paramount.   When a child’s needs are not routinely met, with loving and considerate care from caregivers around her, the damage to her ability to develop healthy attachments begin to set in.  Trauma is a process.

Watch for my next installment…