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"Oh, I hear the baby," says Tania, mother of three-month-old, Erin. "Excuse me. I'll just go get her."

"Are you sure that's a good idea?" asks Susan, Tania's visiting neighbor. "You only put her down half-an-hour ago. Aren't you afraid you'll spoil her, make her too dependent on you?"

"No, I don't think so," answers Tania, as she leaves the room to attend to her child. "It just doesn't feel right to me to leave Erin alone when she's crying. My instinct tells me that babies cry because they have a need, not because they are spoiled."

Tania's instincts are spot on. Thirty years ago, prevailing wisdom reflected Susan's point of view. On the advice of behaviorists, well-meaning parents left crying infants alone in their cribs, sometimes for hours.

Thankfully, times have changed. Studies conducted by child development researchers have ascertained the importance of establishing a strong bond between the child and a prime caregiver, usually the mother.

These studies indicate that when a mother is there for the child, when she responds to an infant's needs, picks it up when it cries, feeds it when its hungry and otherwise provides constant nurturing, the baby is more content. As a child and then an adult, the individual who has developed a strong attachment to another person as an infant is more likely to possess the self-confidence and the security to explore the world and establish positive relationships.

Children who have lost their primary caregiver at a young age or who have never bonded with a significant adult readily illustrate the importance of attachment. Unless such children receive help and are given the opportunity to develop new bonds with caring individuals, such unfortunate youngsters can grow to develop significant social and psychological problems.

Thanks to her mother's good sense, that's something baby Erin will never have to worry about.
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