Mama and Papa Bear: Parent Protectiveness Over Babies in Separation

Having a child brings out the Mama and Papa Bear in all parents. It’s not only mother’s protective instincts that become apparent – fathers fall in love with their new-born child too! Even before the birth, fathers are affected by hormonal changes during the pregnancy. Their testosterone levels drops, making them less aggressive and more attentive.  And so, the parenting journey starts for both parents before the birth.

We are primed to become protective and hyper-vigilant over our children. Children and parents alike need constant contact with each other, and even the smallest activity becomes deeply appreciated – thus creating very strong attachments. Children are stimulated by both parents and therefore need both.

Sadly when separation happens, contact with both parents is affected. Interaction with both parents can be interrupted. Infants and toddlers can be the most adversely affected by separation as the need to have safe and constant contact and attachment with both parents is vital for a baby.

It is not uncommon for a parent to become a stranger to their child. Father’s role can be diminished as mother’s level of trust drops to ‘suspicious’ level. As the ‘other’ parent is assigned an increasingly negative profile, contact can become highly stressful and perhaps even avoided, with the view that it’s best to ‘leave it alone’.  Children then become the victims of parental loss, with one or both parents resenting the other so much it blinds their reasoning to what is needed in their interests. Research on early attachment demonstrates that children do need evenings and overnights with both parents. Every day activities, such as meals, tucking into bed, bath times, playing, and morning cuddles with each parent is vital. This helps to strengthen and build on the precious parental bonds that are vital for a healthy and happy child.

Breastfeeding can be a contentious issue between separated parents of an infant. There can be a resistance for overnight or full day access.  Whilst breastfeeding is also a building block for attachment it should not be used as reasoning to diminish father’s involvement.  Fathers, in turn, should also be flexible to modifying schedules to cater for breastfeeding routines.  Both parents need to appreciate their individual roles and respect that both are equally critical to their child’s welfare.

The loss of a parent in the early years can create anxiety and depression in a young child. Infants don’t have the cognitive or emotional ability to process the loss of such an important caregiver. The stronger and more secure the relationship is with both parents, the stronger the child becomes and more readily able to adapt to changes and transitions. Babies, who are less anxious or preoccupied, are less needy, more creative in play, more curious about the world, and adaptable.

The nurturing love of a parent is incomparable and forms the building blocks for a healthy and happy child. Having two loving parents magnifies and strengthens the potential and possibilities for every child.