Many of us hear the term “Attachment Parenting” and may or may not realize what it means. For some they find it to be a set of guidelines to foster stronger family bonds. Others see it as a return to the natural way, while others, simply do not bother with understanding it, they just do what feels natural and right for their family. All of these things are correct. To practice attachment parenting there are some basic principles that come into play. The most basic principle is giving an example of love and trust, in turn raising children who will become conscious adults with the capacity for empathy and connectedness. Attachment Parenting challenges us as parents to treat our children with kindness, respect and dignity, and to model in our interactions with them the way we’d like them to interact with others. Adhering to strict guidelines is not what attachment parenting is about. Parenting with loving kindness with a mindset to be sensitive and emotionally available to our children is the key to understanding this approach.
Often in today’s society we find adults who, because of a childhood of strife find much of their adult lives reliving past experiences, repeating unhealthy cycles of behavior, unable to fully live in the present moment. The Attachment Parenting techniques allow us as parents to treat our children as we wish we had been treated or the way we would like everyone to treat us now. When there is no need to heal the past, one can live in the present moment.
The benefits of attachment parenting are numerous, the main one being a happier child and family. This sensitive parenting technique includes creating strong bonds with the parents and can be practiced in traditional mother / father homes as well as in single parented homes, blended families, and with extended family members. Indeed any type of family can use this parenting technique as a tool to create strong family bonds between parents/caregivers and their children.
In the early months of a child’s life, the mother may be the main caregiver. AP moms use natural mothering techniques. Today’s modern society has perhaps conditioned some to ignore natural instincts. Even the most modern of moms will find that if they truly embrace motherhood, the ways of natural mothering and attachment parenting tools come quite naturally. During the early months a baby is with family, mom seems to have the main role, however there are many ways to include other family members in the bonding with the baby. Be creative and you will find that the familial bonds of attachment parenting extend to the entire family. Some common ways to practice attachment parenting are as follows:
Prepare for the birth and BIRTH BONDING
It is important to become emotionally and physically prepared for the birth of your child. Do as much research as possible and spend time creating the environment you wish to raise your child in. Discuss with family how you would like the birth, and the family life to be.
Having a natural, peaceful childbirth and bonding immediately with the baby are key (whether it is a hospital birth, a home birth, or a birthing center birth).
The way the child comes into the world and the days and weeks just after the birth are a uniquely sensitive. Biological behaviors of the infant and the mother are intuitive to both. Allowing these intuitive attachment – promoting behaviors to unfold naturally is a key.
BREASTFEEDING and feeding with Love and Respect
Breastfeed immediately upon birth and continue as long as is mutually desired between the mother and child. Breastfeeding releases oxytocin and prolactin. These hormones relax the mother and strengthen the maternal bond. An increase in the mother’s oxytocin levels makes the uterus contract more quickly and reduces bleeding (eliminating the need for pitocin, a drug sometimes given to control bleeding post labor).
Breastfeeding helps you read your baby’s cues and the body language allowing a natural way to get to know your child. Breastmilk is the best food you can give to your newborn. Breastmilk enhances brain development, provides optimal growth, greater immunity, protection from SIDS, protects from infections and both types of diabetes.
Breastfeeding immediately and on demand as opposed to a schedule is key in attachment parenting. If for some reason one cannot breastfeed you can still feed your little one with love and respect. “Bottle nursing” is a way to mimic breastfeeding using the bottle while still following the cues of your baby and not schedules. These cues can be followed by both babies and children as they grow to encourage healthy eating behavior. Be a model of healthy food choices and offer a variety of healthful foods.
Whenever possible, wear your baby using a carrier or sling. This encourages the familial bonds. All family members can enjoy this as a bonding time with a new baby. While using a stroller or another artificial type of carrier is something many practice, remember to use these as non essential things. Continuous close contact is essential in the early stages of development. Have your baby with you as much as possible. While you may have to work, perhaps the family can make necessary adjustments to allow a new baby to be with the mother or a family member at all times. When alternate caregivers are needed remember to chose those who adhere to the same practices you do.
CO-SLEEPING (either in your bed or in a crib next to your bed)
Ensure for a safe sleep both physically and emotionally. Many modern practices discourage co-sleeping, however if you research this and use your common sense you will realize that this is the way nature intended. Attachment parenting encourages co-sleeping and a family bed. Certainly you want to strive for balance as many partners feel this subject to be a tricky one. Use your instincts, be safe, and do what feels right for you and your family. The key in baby wearing and co-sleeping is to encourage closeness and bonding.
BELIEF IN THE LANGUAGE VALUE OF YOUR BABY’S CRY
Attachment parenting does not adhere to the ‘cry it out’ philosophy. Being sensitive and responding accordingly to your baby’s cries builds trust and security. A child’s cry is the first line of communication. Learning to distinguish what the different cries mean is a key to building a loving way to communicate with your child for years to come. Responding to a child’s cry also helps parents to ‘listen’ to their child, something that builds more as the child grows. Babies and small children are not capable of self soothing, and responding sensitively to your child from infancy on builds a trust that lasts a lifetime.
BEWARE OF BABY TRAINERS
Artificial soothers, swings, strollers and the like create distance between you and your child. While some things can be utilized as a way to enhance comfort with a little one, these things should not be relied upon as a substitute. The baby needs that comfort from you.
Always strive for balance. Parents are not perfect. Attachment Parenting is not about adhering to strict practices, it is about loving kindness, respect and enhancing connectedness. Practicing one or all of these methods is fine. Do what feels best for your family life. When parents feel in balance they are more able to be emotionally available and responsive. Have fun, stay positive, be creative and remember to love yourself and care for yourself so that you are more able to care for your child and family.
Guidance and role modeling are generally the approach taken in attachment parenting. With a baby discipline is not something we think about much but as your little one grows into a toddler, young child and on to the teenage years, certainly parents must address the issue of how to discipline. Keep age appropriateness in mind always while disciplining your children. We are striving to help the child develop a conscious so that self discipline comes into play. Be proactive rather than reactive while dealing with unwanted behaviors. Try to get to the root of why the behavior is happening and create solutions rather than reacting negatively. Discipline that is loving and respectful creates solutions and helps keep everyone’s dignity intact.
Using some or all of these methods will help to create a strong and loving bond with your child. As a child grows from a baby to a toddler and on into a young child to a teen, attachment parenting techniques can still be used. Nurturing mutual respect, having open and loving communication and practicing positive discipline are all things that can be fostered during all stages of your child’s development. Attachment parenting is more of a mindset than a set of guidelines. All one really needs to be an AP parent is a desire to create stronger family ties and happier healthier more loving children who are our future. We all want the best for our children and it starts with ourselves. Positive childhood experiences have positive lifelong consequences.