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What is Attachment?

Updated: Jul 7, 2020

We asked an expert to break down attachment for us and why it's so vital to your baby's development. Dr. John Stewart is Licensed Psychologist and Assistant Clinical Professor at the Department of Psychiatry at Tufts School of Medicine. Check out what he has to say below!

Attachment is the outcome of the relational dance between a child and their caretakers and serves as one of the most critical variables in a child's development.  This dance begins with the very  private loving connection between an expecting mother and her child as they prepare for the separation of birth.  At  birth the dance becomes more complicated as mother and child face the daunting task of simultaneously letting-go and holding-on to one another.   It is this process and capacity to hold on that we call attachment and will hugely impact the path forward. In the first months of life the infant's steps in the dance are relatively passive as their caretakers work to refine their attunement to the child's needs and cues.  For the infant the experience of the parent's physical presence through smell, touch, sound and facial expressions becomes associated with comfort and the meeting of their needs.  This association over time becomes the root of what we call attachment; ultimately transitioning from feelings of safety and security in the presence of a loving caretaker to the child's ability to use an emotional memory of this relationship to support feelings of safety/security. The capacity to carry this positive emotional-relational memory is core to our ability to move forward and take necessary developmental risks and connect lovingly with others.  The dance of attachment can be impacted negatively  by many factors, including poor caretaker attunement and trauma (seperation, loss, pain, illness,), yet the potential for healing in this realm is enormous in the context of attuned loving care.     The richness of our feelings of being known, loved and lovable are at the core of positive attachment and positive attachment is at the core of our ability to thrive.

Find more about Dr. John Stewart at

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