This study examined whether individual differences in perception of the quality of professional support available at a time of stress may be associated with security of attachment. We developed a new measure of parents' perceptions of emotional and practical support provided by a wide range of professionals involved in the treatment of infants with cleft lip. It showed good internal reliability and stability over 4 months. Mothers of 102 infants with cleft lip, with or without cleft palate, completed the measure at 2 and 6 months, together with the Parental Bonding Instrument and the General Health Questionnaire. Mean scores reflecting how much they could trust or talk frankly, or share their worst fears, with professionals, and the extent to which they saw them as a source of useful information or practical help, were lower among mothers with recollections of low maternal care in childhood, or high control. This was the case at 2 and 6 months, and there were some indications of an increasing contribution of low maternal care from 2 to 6 months. The associations were not explained by current depression. Further research is needed to clarify the role of attachment processes in parents' responses to serious medical conditions in their children, and into the implications for the way professionals in paediatric services provide support. © 2004 Taylor & Francis Ltd.