Understanding the different types of attachment

Knowledge of the different stages of infant/parent attachment is important in infant massage in understanding the different needs of the baby at that point in time. We know the important role infant massage can play in enhancing attachment, but what exactly is it?

Attachment is the bond between parent and child which provides a sense of security to children. Attachment is deeply emotional and is an important part of child development in helping them feel safe to explore their environment while being able to return to the adult carer during times they may feel distressed. Attachment develops between the ages of 0 to 5 years and influences early brain development.

Attachment generally occurs over 3 phases:


  1. Undiscriminating Responses (0-3 months)

Newborns seek comfort in a variety of ways which are primarily the result of reflexes such as sucking, grasping, crying and other autonomic responses. Caregivers at this important stage help the baby in responding to these ‘cues’ which are indicative of biological needs (feeding, the need to be close for regulating temperature and so on)

2. Discriminating Behaviour (3-6 months)

There is a preference at this stage by the infant for a particular caregiver, usually the mother. The mother and infant typically become more attuned to one another. Feelings of attachment at this stage increase by the infant as she associates her needs being met by the availability of the caregiver.

3.      Formation of Secure Base (6-24 months)

At this stage the infant has a need for closeness with the preferred caregiver while at the same time a developing sense of autonomy and independence. At this stage babies are learning to crawl and walk, and as they explore their environment, will be looking for their preferred caregiver for feelings of safety and security while they learn about the world around them.


Information from the St. Joseph’s Women’s Health Centre, Canada, ‘Attachment across cultures’ project. http://www.attachmentacrosscultures.org/about/about15.htm