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Baby and You: Getting Off To a Good Start
All babies have three things in common when they're born. First, they have a limited ability to communicate their needs other than by crying and fussing. Second, they're not yet attached to their parents. At the same time, they're completely dependent on their parents.

I realize that most parents-to-be know all of this before baby is born, but it's important to remind yourself of these three basics in the weeks following the birth of your child.

During this time, baby cries when feeling distress, discomfort, hunger, thirst or fear. Upon hearing the crying, the parent springs into action to determine what the baby needs, and to provide it. Once the baby feels his needs have been met, he quiets down, and the parent feels like a good parent.

This pattern continues for months following a child's birth. During that time, two things are beginning to take place. One, babies start to develop pathways in their brain that enable them to expect that they will be cared for when distressed. This expectation begins to lead to a sense of security and trust within the baby.

The second thing that happens over time is that babies fall in love with their parents, and parents fall in love with their babies. This is called bonding or forming an attachment.

This attachment is very powerful and meaningful for babies. Research shows that babies who get off to a good start in life, and who learn to trust others, have a great chance of becoming happy children. Babies who do not become attached to their parents are unable to develop a secure sense of trust, putting them at risk for developmental and emotional problems.

Ideally, both parents should be involved with their new baby. This is called co-parenting. Co-parenting takes place when both parents share almost equally in the care and nurturing of their baby. There are four advantages to this arrangement. First, a baby experiences the love of not one but two parents. Second, when Dad and Mom enjoy equal status one parent is not shouldered with all of the parenting duties. Third, resentments don't develop between parents who share parenting responsibilities. And fourth, Dad becomes confident in caring for his child and is less likely to take a backseat to parenting in the years ahead.

Remember, creating a strong bond with your baby can only help him in the months and years ahead. In forging this bond, you'll be rewarded with a loving relationship with your child and the knowledge that you've gotten him off to the best possible start.

Kenneth N. Condrell Ph.D Child Psychologist