What is the difference between bonding and attachment?

mother holding baby on lap


Bonding is about falling in love with your baby. It can be extremely visceral and overwhelming. It can occur in utero; when you see your baby on the first ultrasound visit, with an IVF conception at the embryo stage or at the moment you see and hold your baby for the first time. It can however sometimes take a significant time to occur after your baby is born or in some cases it may not occur at all. In fact, some parents do not fall in love with their child but still love their child and are attached to them.


All babies form attachments because they are critical to survival. Attachment is a process, based on secure relationships and it develops over time. It is influential in the social, emotional and cognitive development of the child.

The difference between the two

Bonding usually occurs in the first few moments, days, weeks of a baby’s life whereas attachment usually develops over the first two years of a child’s life. The key differences are that bonding is essentially a response whereas attachment describes a developmental process and a relationship between the child and the parent or primary caregiver.

Attachment is about the infant achieving a secure base from which it can explore its world and that it can return to when it becomes distressed.

The www.raisingchildren.net.au website has a useful guide for parents wanting to build a secure foundation/attachment for their child. It recommends providing comfort, taking time to be with your baby, thinking about your baby as a separate person, seeing the world from your baby’s perspective, be flexible, give your baby a chance to succeed and find support for yourself.

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