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Your Brilliant Baby in Week 44: Understanding Attachment Hierarchy

Baby’s Brain in Week 44

You know your baby is well attached to you: He proves it every time you leave him by turning on the tears and flashing that curled-down-lip face. He does so even when you leave him with Daddy, Grandma, Grandpa, or Nanny. And sometimes even though Dad could feed Baby, he insists on Mommy doing it. What’s this about?

Up until six months, your child was willing to respond to several caregivers, specifically those who tuned in sensitively to him when he was in a needy state. At about seven months, however, most babies attach to one person, usually Mom. And even now, a few months later, such clear-cut attachment may still be apparent—and you may still be grappling with resulting separation anxiety.

What the Research Shows

In another study on attachment, researchers set up a room in which a baby’s mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, and childcare provider were available. When the child was in a needy state wanting food, reassurance, or assistance, she turned to the primary attachment figure, usually Mom.

Then the mothers left. Some children cried, others only looked sad or bewildered. But because these other familiar, loving, and trusting people were available to the child, baby after baby in the study was observed to recover easily. Each child turned to the second person in their “attachment hierarchy” for comfort and care. This next person was quite often Daddy.

If Dad then left the room, the baby turned to Nanny, Grandpa, or Grandma depending on their position in the attachment hierarchy.

Week 44 Brain Booster

A child’s mother and other people in the attachment hierarchy are a baby’s secure base as she crawls about and then walks around, exploring her world. It’s totally normal for kids at this age to attach to and then detach from their primary caregivers and people in their world beyond; call it the Velcro Syndrome.

Sometimes, Daddy or Grandma will want to provide care, and if Mommy is in the room, the child will insist on her over the others. Why’s that? Life is easiest for the child when the primary attachment figure attends to her: Mommy usually can read cues for care quicker than other people can, so the child doesn’t have to work very hard to communicate her needs.

The question that you will likely face daily is, “Should I indulge Baby and take over when her dad or grandma could provide the care? Or do I let them handle it and go fold laundry or answer a few emails?” Do both. Sometimes walk away—you know that relying other caregivers is healthy for Baby—and sometimes step in and attend to your child.

Your Week 44 Toolbox

Related skills and topics this week include …

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