What is Attachment Parenting
There are a lot of different ideas about what Attachment Parenting is. It can be interpreted in many different ways, both by people who identify with Attachment Parenting in their own family, and by people who judge it from the sidelines.
My understanding is that Attachment Parenting is just a set of ideas and tools, it is not restrictive, it is not just for “hippies”, it has nothing to do with whether or not your baby wears cloth nappies, eats a purely organic diet, whether you vaccinate or exactly how you birthed your baby. It’s not just for mothers, mothers who breastfeed, or stay home parents, you can utilise the tools of Attachment Parenting regardless of whether you “tick all the boxes”. The benefits of a secure Attachment are not exclusive to one parenting type or philosophy.
The “Attachment Theory” is about the importance of Attachment for children, that babies instinctively seek attachment (through physical closeness to a care provider) and that the absence of a secure bond or attachment can have a long term intellectual and emotional impact. Which I think obvious to most parents that children having a close bond with someone who cares for them is important for their social and emotional development. So with that in mind, Dr William Sears, coined the term – Attachment Parenting, which is about focusing on fostering a secure bond, or attachment, with your child.
Dr Sears suggests “7 Baby B’s” as tools (rather than rules or steps) for developing a secure attachment.
They are :
Bedding close to baby.
Belief in the language of your baby’s cry.
Beware of baby trainers.
Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting
Feed with Love and Respect
Respond with Sensitivity
Use Nurturing Touch
Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally
Provide Consistent and Loving Care
Practice Positive Discipline
Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life
Again – these are just tools and ideas you may want to think about integrating into your own parenting, check out the links above to find out more detailed descriptions of each of the points listed.
Standing On The Outside Looking In
I’ve noticed a lot of people when they talk about “What Attachment Parenting is”, often it doesn’t reflect either of these lists. I’ve been told that “Attachment Parenters” cannot use prams – because of the separation between mother and baby. To that I say – does that mean that people who practice attachment parenting cannot also use cars – as there is a lot more separation between mother and baby if baby is in the back seat, rear facing, while mother is driving. I’ve heard sympathy for poor fathers who get pushed out because of Attachment Parenting, but I see no reason why fathers can’t also baby wear, co-sleep and have a wonderful attachment to their children, it’s called Attachment PARENTING not “Mothering”. Although I do know that there are times and families where men opt to sleep in a spare bed, away from co-sleeping wiggly babies and children, because they have work outside of the home and occasionally that is what happens in our household. To be perfectly frank – LUCKY THEM! Would anyone be feeling sorry for me if I could sleep alone, untouched, undisturbed, in my own space, for 8 straight hours? Sounds like bliss to me!
There also seems to be an assumption that people who practice Attachment Parenting do so competitively, with almost an outward focus for their “baby-led” parenting, I’ve seen many times people thinking that mothers breastfeed beyond 12 months to prove a point, or baby wear to show off, or respond to their babies and children to be a martyr and that is simply not the point. Parents – not exclusively Attachment Parenting – parents in general, do the best they can for their children. I think that striving to do better, and seeing what other people are doing and what’s working for them and being competitive are totally different things. Thanks to the Time Magazine cover last year people have started to hear about, and form ideas of what Attachment Parenting is, but the one thing I didn’t like about that cover was the headline “Are you mom enough?” because that’s really not what its about. It’s not about being “AP enough”, its not a competition.
Attachment Parenting Long Term
In my experience Attachment Parenting gets more complicated when you introduce another baby into the household, , because I’ve found it is a lot “easier” to respond to the needs of one child, I’m not sure its possible to always respond immediately to both children, at all times, so we’re always trying to find balance. Also as they grow passed babyhood the path becomes less clear, with a baby it all came very naturally and instinctually, and sometimes I feel like my instinct with an older child when dealing with challenging behavior is to yell and shout – my gut reaction isn’t always appropriate! I read “Children are People Too” by Louise Porter and really enjoyed some of the ideas in it, I wouldn’t say I “follow it” rigidly, but I found it valuable all the same.
You might notice that “Balance” made both those lists as an important factor of Attachment Parenting. I know a lot of people think of Attachment Parenting as being an extreme parenting method, and while some ideas and ideals within it can seem unfamiliar to some people, I think the underpinning concept of responding to your child sensitively, respectfully and gently is not particularly controversial. While the name does imply, Attachment Parenting does not require a parent to be physically attached to their child at all time, although physical proximity with touching and holding your baby does certainly aid in the bonding process. Some babies also seem to require a lot more physical reassurance, while other babies seem to be more content to not be held all the time and perhaps prefer to interact more face to face engaging with their parents.
While there is a tendency with Attachment Parenting to focus on the baby or child’s attachment to their mother, but your baby can foster secure attachment to their father, grandparents and people who are close and secure within their environment. I cannot stress enough that no matter how you parent “It takes a village to raise a child” and this is no less true with Attachment Parenting.
Also, Attachment Parenting doesn’t mean never having a bad day, making mistakes, getting flustered or frustrated, feeling “touched out” or overwhelmed. Some times you might need to put yourself first in order to have the energy to continue, and some times you may need to put your baby down somewhere safe and walk away to catch your breath and centre yourself. Some times you might need to take care of yourself in order to continue to be able to respond appropriately to your child – and that’s okay too.
What are your thoughts or experiences with Attachment Parenting?