Your children are born loving you. They cannot help it, and they cannot choose. They come into the world with eyes for their parents. You will be the ones they will want for years and years. It will be you alone who can comfort them, you alone they look for, and look up to. In modern America, as moms and dads go back to work post-baby, and consider the amount of time their child will spend in childcare, a common seed of anxiety is often planted: What if my baby likes the babysitter better? Science says think again. Parents, even for newborns, you make more of an impression than you know.
Parent and infant interaction and relationship building-- basically parent behavior-- actually shapes the behavior and the future of an infant. In fact, the way a parent acts toward their infant provides the foundation and the very example of what relationships are, and should be. These interactions determine how they develop a sense of worth, and a sense of place within all other human relationships. They will learn what they must do to meet standards, to feel love, acceptance and affection. So this parenting thing? It might just be the most important, crucial thing you will ever do.
While many people struggle to see how vital early childhood care and relationships are, early bonding sets the stage for one's entire future. This includes temperament, risk and resilience, and patterns of thoughts and behaviors. Maternal behaviors are so important, that infants can actually become depressed. Infant and childhood Depression rates are around 1-3%, but it is detrimental to the child's entire future; their likelihood of having mental illness as an adolescent and adult is increased. While you may have heard of studies of infants in over-crowded orphanages in developing nations that develop depressive symptoms and fail to meet milestones because of lack of human interaction, infants can also become depressed when a caregiver suffers from Depression. Studies have shown that primary caregivers with severe Depression often lack voice inflection, enthusiasm and positive facial affect that are necessary for attachment bonding. Positive synaptic connections in the brain that are normally made are not made, which can affect the releases of our 'happiness' neurotransmitters (serotonin and norepineprine) and in-turn, associations with happiness and joy. Ultimately, this influences their growth and understanding of the world. While they won't necessarily remember it, it is the template for their future. (This is one reason Post-Partum Depression is very serious, and requires professional help.)
In a recent study on a number of newborns, a mother's voice, when compared to the voice of a stranger, activated parts of the left hemisphere that a stranger's voice did not activate. Actually, parent voices stimulate learning and growth in infants. This includes motor skills, milestones and language acquisition. So not only are parents, (as opposed to other teachers and caregivers), important in determining one's future of trust, relationships and happiness, their very being is important in learning!
So, when baby is putting her arms out for her babysitter to pick her up, or your little one can't wait to get to Grandma's, don't feel too crushed. Baby is bonded, first and foremost, to mom and dad. Mom and dad are right there in their brain, even when Grandma's house is better.
Swain, J. E., Lorberbaum, J. P., Kose, S., & Strathearn, L. (2007). Brain basis of early parent-infant interactions: Psychology, physiology, and in vivo functional neuroimaging studies. Journal of Child Psychology And Psychiatry, 48(3-4), 262-287.