What is attachment parenting? What makes it different from other parenting styles? When you hear the term attachment parenting, you think, aren't all parents attached to their children? The answer is yes, and no. The norm for parenting in our country is to have lots of places to 'put' the baby. Playpens, swings, carriers, bouncers, walkers. Attachment parenting takes a more hands on approach.
Attachment parenting is term coined by pediatrician Dr. William Sears (author of many books including The Baby Book with his wife Martha) more than 25 years ago. He noticed how mothers in other cultures raised their children in a natural, instinctive manner. The parents and children had a strong, secure attachment. Dr. Sears and his wife have raised eight children using the attachment parenting technique. They have also written several books on the subject.
So what does it take to create an attached family? The eight ideals of attachment parenting are as follows:
1. Preparation for childbirth
2. Emotional responsiveness
3. Breastfeed your baby
4. Baby wearing
5. Shared Sleep
6. Avoid frequent and prolonged separation from your baby
7. Positive discipline
8. Maintain balance in your family life
Preparation for childbirth-
Connecting with your baby begins in pregnancy. Make an informed decision to make your birth experience positive for yourself and your baby. Maintain a strong relationship with your partner. Create a peaceful womb environment for your baby, and try to avoid stress. Prepare yourself. Learn what to expect at the birth of you child, and those early days. Take childbirth and breastfeeding classes.
Emotional responsiveness means simply responding to your babys cries and cues. When your newborn turns his head and roots at his fist, pick him up to nurse. Each baby has their own special set of cues. Observe your baby. You will learn what all the little signs mean. Common cues or cries indicate hunger, tiredness, discomfort, and loneliness.
Other reasons babies cry include overstimulation, mothers stress,needing to be held or put down, needs skin to skin contact for security,has gas or colic, or a 'high need' baby who requires lots of physical contact.
Breastfeed your baby-
Breastfeeding your baby gives them the optimal nutrition, tailored just for them. It provides many benefits for both mom and baby. So can bottle-feeding parents use the attachment parenting technique? Of course. Bottle-feeding parents can hold and feed their babies in the same manner as breastfeeding mothers. Switch positions during the feeding, and avoid propping the babys bottle so baby will benefit from the holding and touching.
Baby wearing is the practice of "wearing" your baby in one of several styles of carrier. Slings, pouches, front packs, back packs, and many other styles of flexible cloth carriers are used to secure the baby to the parent. The baby gets the benefit of being close to the parent and observing the world from a safe place. The parent gets a hands free way to carry baby and continue the tasks of daily life. Babywearing helps satisfy the baby's need for closeness, touch and affection.
Babywearing promotes and strengthens parents' emotional bond with their baby.
The movement that naturally results from carrying your baby stimulates their neurological development.
Babies cry less when worn or held.
Holding helps regulate their temperature and heart rate.
Baby feels more secure.
If you don't "wear", be aware:
To hold your infant as often as possible (especially if bottle-feeding).
Avoid the overuse of baby devices (swings, pacifiers, jumpers, plastic carriers).
Babywearing facilitates easy outings and travel.
Shared sleep, co-sleeping, the family bed. In short it means the family sleeps together, at the infant stage. Shared sleep facilitates nighttime feedings, and actually reduces the risk of SIDS. It also increases the quality of sleep of both parents and baby. Safety is important, of course. A firm mattress, light coverings, and no heavy quilts. If parents are not comfortable with co-sleeping, then use of a "sidecar" style baby bed is fine. Having baby in a close proximity is the important thing. At an older age the child is encouraged to sleep in a separate, but nearby bed. Eventually the child will move to a room of their own. Check out www.attachmentparenting.org for more information on safe cosleeping.
Avoid frequent and prolonged separation from your baby-
Babies have an intense need for the physical presence of their parents. Frequent seperation can interfere with the developement of strong attachment. If seperation is unavoidable, help your child work up to them. Avoid multiple caregivers. Introduce a responsible, consistent, loving caregiver. When you return to your baby, immerse them in love and affection. This will re-cement the familial bond.
Boundaries and limits are necessary as children grow. Positive, non-violent methods of discipline and loving guidance promote the development of self-control and empathy towards others. Begin by understanding that your long-range goal is to teach your child how to make good decisions. They learn by following their parental role-models, so be the sort of person you'd like your child to be.Learn the stages of child development and what is normal for these age groups.
Maintain balance in your family life-
Remember not to overextend yourself. An overworked, frazzled parent will lead to an overstimulated, frazzled baby. Do not overschedule activities. Find a support system within your community. Be sure to make some time for just mom and dad. Get a friend, family member, or mothers helper to play with the baby to give you and your spouse a little 'we' time.
Remember, you can never be too responsive or attached to your child, or your child to you. It is virtually impossible to 'spoil' a baby, so don't hesitate to follow their cues, and your own heart. Do what is best for your child, your family, and yourself.
For more information:
1. Attachment Parenting International (API)
Nashville, Tennessee 37215
Phone or fax: (615) 298-4334
A big thank you to API for thier help in compiling this article.
2. The Baby Book, William and Martha Sears, Little Brown & Company, New York, 1993
3. Parenting the Fussy Baby and High-Need Child, William and Martha Sears, Little Brown & Company, New York, 1996
4. The Attachment Parenting Book, William and Martha Sears, Little Brown & Company, New York, 2002
5. Ask Dr. Sears- www.askdrsears.com
6. Kelly's Attachment Parenting- www.kellymom.com
7. La Leche League- www.lalecheleague.org
8. Get Attached Today!- www.getattached.com
9. Mothering Magazine- www.mothering.com
Enjoy getting attached to your baby! :D