Why is the primary attachment figure the best carer in the first three years?

In most cases, the mother's behaviours bring pleasure, comfort and nourishment to the infant. Loving attention ‘fires’ synaptic growth and begins the process of building the links between neurons, and thus building the brain (Schore, 2001). The primary attachment figure will foster optimum brain development in the infant.

Separation from the primary carer causes an infant to feel stressed and this stress elevates cortisol levels (Ahnert, 2004). Research shows that persistent raised levels of cortisol in infants over an extended period of time have a detrimental impact on the developing brain (Gunnar, 2003).

That’s not to say a mother shouldn’t have a few hours break every now again, leaving the baby with another attachment figure. In fact, it’s important for the mother to have some time to herself.