Attachment parenting is a concept taught by Bill Sears, M.D.
and his wife Martha Sears, R.N.
and is clearly explained in The Baby Book
, co-written by the two of them. The fundamentals are; know your child, help your child feel right and enjoy parenting. Dr. Sears explains attachment parenting as “a way of caring that brings out the best in parents and their babies, the commonsense parenting we would all do if left to our own healthy resources.”
To arrive at his conclusions he spent years consulting the real experts; those parents in his practice who seemed to be in harmony with their children, who were intuitive, could read their child’s cues who enjoyed parenting and whose children turned out well. He arrived at a core list of techniques, culled from a long list of parenting styles. The basic conclusions boiled down to five basic ways a parent could foster a good relationship with their children. He tried this with his own eight kids, with good result, and now he teaches and writes about this parenting style.
He suggests making this a non-rigid hands-on experience that you adapt to your own specific child. There are no militant feeding and sleeping schedules, dogmatic shoulds and oughts or admonishment for responding intuitively to your child. Rather, he recommends entering your “parenting career” with an open mind in order to prevent many of the common frustrations that years of bad teaching have set up for new parents. You may not get the “easy” baby you envision. In any case your style will be based on your specific child and circumstances, regardless of any well meaning advice you get from your mother-in-law about spoiling the baby. Conflicting advice will come from all around, much of it from people who don’t actually have kids. Don’t let this erode your intuitive understanding of what your child needs. The five basic tools of attachment parenting are as follows:
Connect with your baby
Begin by taking an active role in the birth of your child. Take responsibility for your birth. Learn about the birth process. Ask friends and family about their birth experiences, read everything you can. Watch birth videos. Talk with your partner about your needs. Make a birth plan and share it with your doctor or midwife. Find out what your care provider really thinks about birth. Are they willing to talk about “alternative” birth, what is their cesarean rate, do they think a woman is essentially strong enough to handle birth or do they expect that you will need lots of intervention? Feeling good about your baby’s birth carries over into feeling good about your baby. Do what you can to lower your chances of a having a difficult, traumatic or unnecessarily surgical birth. Find a caretaker you can trust, you will rely on trust and faith when you are in labor. If your doctor or midwife gives you a bad feeling, will not answer your questions or rushes you, find some one else to attend the birth. If medical complications do arise you will want to know that your doctor is doing everything in his power to lessen mother-baby separation. If something isn’t perfect for the birth, don’t worry that you have wrecked the whole thing, as this just diverts more energy away from your baby. We are dealing with ideals here. There is no perfect way to do it.
Read and Respond To Your Baby’s Cues
Your baby will help you become a good cue reader. They are not passive little beings, instead they actively shape their parents responses. Pick your baby up when he cries. Letting the baby “cry it out” or “work out his lungs” will not make a good baby. Instead your baby learns early on that he can not communicate or trust that his needs will be met. Your baby’s cries will bother you, they are supposed to. Crying is a powerful language designed for development and survival for the baby and responsiveness for the parent. Respond to it. Doing this in the early without hesitation will form solid communication patterns. As your baby learns non-crying language you will be able to delay your response to fit the situation because your baby will know that your are on your way.
Breastfeed Your Baby
The most successful breastfeeding pairs are the ones with supportive partners. The benefits of breastfeeding for the baby are numerous and well known but there are untold benefits for the mother as well. While nursing an infant (or toddler) prolactin and oxytocin enter the mom’s bloodstream. These compounds are also known as the chemical basis for mothers’ intuition as they increase the sense of love and attachment. Nursing also forces you to take several relaxing breaks through out your day. It also delays the onset of menses once the baby is born. This is the one part of attachment parenting fathers can’t do directly, but they can create a nurturing environment in which the mama can breastfeed in comfort. Get your partner a glass of water, a pillow or blanket, perhaps a footstool.
Wear Your Baby
This is described by Dr. Sears as “the most exciting concept to hit the Western world in years”. Women in other cultures wear their babies in sling like carriers, which tends to make their babies very content and the mothers very attentive. It’s good for the baby to be warm and close to mom, snuggling into her breasts, watching the world and improving co-ordination. It makes things easier on the mother, leaves both hands free and is easy to pack. Wearing your baby reverses the notion that babies lay around all day in cribs, staring at mobiles, enjoying contact only during feeling time, or while being consoled long enough to stop their crying. Carried babies cry less and develop faster.
Share Sleep With Your Baby
Wherever you and your baby sleep best is the right arrangement for you and it’s a very personal decision. Be open to many sleeping arrangements including sharing sleep with your baby. Most babies the world over sleep with their parents. It isn’t weird or wrong and more people co-sleep than will usually admit in mixed company. (In my particular case I have found this to be very valuable. Both my children sleep in our bed, and have from day one, and both of them are very sound sleepers who sleep through the night ninety-eight percent of the time. It would be very uncomfortable for me to get out of bed to nurse or console a sick child when I could just reach over and pat a head or present a booby. This is a classic case of doing the easiest thing with positive results for all involved.) A co-sleeping child will eventually sleep on her own, really, friends swear this is true. And you and your partner can have sex in other parts of the house, perhaps even learning more about each other due to forced creativity.
Attachment parenting may sound difficult, but in the long run it is really the easiest parenting style. Initially there is a lot of giving, but by being especially mindful in the early years you will make parenting an older child much easier for yourself. When they leave the breast, bed and lap you will have a cursory knowledge of their non-verbal cues. You will be able to see things from their perspective. Rather than creating an overly dependent child or spoiled child, you will have a child who knows he can trust in her parental comfort zone, and she will return to you if a situation becomes too much to handle alone.
That said, parents are too individual and babies are too complex to posit that there is only one way to get connected to your baby, but it can be said that you will need to get connected. Once this connection is established stick to what is working, discard what doesn’t and find your own style. This is how you and your baby will bring out the best in each other.
As a parent you will mess up, but an attached child is more resilient. A baby is never too little to respect. They depend on you for everything. Even when you make mistakes, your child learns from how you handle it. Babies can be very forgiving. Log off and go cuddle.