INTRODUCTION TO ATTACHMENT PARENTING
Note: This article was published, citation information below.
Ang, M. (2005). Introduction to Attachment Parenting. In ParenThink! magazine, Chinese edition. Sept 2005 issue.
Attachment Parenting (AP) is a philosophy based in the practice of nurturing parenting practices that create strong emotional bonds, also known as secure attachment, between the infant and parent(s). This style of parenting encourages responsiveness to the infant or child's emotional needs, and develops trust that their emotional needs will be met. As a result, this strong attachment helps the child develop secure, empathic, peaceful, and enduring relationships. .
The term “attachment parenting” was coined by Dr William Sears, paediatrician and author of several landmark parenting books including the encyclopaedic volume, “The Baby Book”. The concept in itself was however not new, the need for its formal definition brought about by the trend towards a parenting style dictated by rigorous routine where parents were advised to feed and nap their babies strictly by the clock, leaving them to “cry it out” when these same babies requested for feedings or cuddling outside the set schedule. This latter approach caused the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) to respond with a formal Media Alert, stating “Scheduled feedings designed by parents may put babies at risk for poor weight gain and dehydration.” .
The bottom line in Attachment Parenting is responding promptly to your child’s needs. AP philosophy recognizes the helplessness of the infant human, including baby’s absolute dependency on his or her parents, and advocates immediate parental response, not only to physical needs but also to emotional ones.
While every baby is an individual with different individual needs, AP encourages 8 ideal practices. These ideal practices are not the do all and end all of AP, and in fact many AP families may not practice all of them. However, these ideals are commonly found practiced among those who claim AP as their parenting style, and in cases where the ideals are not followed, there is typically a very good reason for it (such as a medical reason).
On to the 8 ideals of AP. These are listed below, with brief explanations.
1. Preparation for Childbirth
AP parents will typically enter parenthood as well prepared as they can. This includes educating themselves on as many aspects of parenting as possible through extensive reading, attending childbirth and breastfeeding classes, besides carefully discussing and weighing up parenting philosophies and birthing choices. In the case of the latter they will, as far as possible, opt for the most natural or least interventionist delivery approach. AP parents often prepare birth plans, stating their preferences on matters such as labour, monitoring, pain control, delivery positions, post delivery baby care, breastfeeding and caesareans, among others.
2. Emotional Responsiveness
AP parents always pick up their babies, often pre-empting the need to cry, and most certainly responding promptly when they actually do cry. AP babies are never ever left to “cry it out”. AP philosophy does not believe that young babies can be spoiled by too much cuddling or carrying, instead prompt response to baby’s cries now lead to secure parental attachment, self confidence and independence later on when your child is ready for it. AP’s rationale is that babies never cry without a reason – it’s up to parents to discover what that reason is and to meet that need, which could be anything ranging from hunger, tiredness, discomfort and loneliness to over stimulation, picking up on mom’s stress, needing to be held or needing to be put down, colic, or just needing a little love.
3. Breastfeed Your Baby
Breastfeeding is the ideal way to meet many of your baby’s needs, including for best nutrition as well as for physical contact with mom. . The World Health Organization (WHO) code recommends breastfeeding until at least two years of age or beyond. Advantages to baby and mother are numerous, including those listed below :
Advantages to mother and family
Advantages to baby
Mothers who are unable to breastfeed can still practice AP. Parents who bottle feed are encouraged to use “breastfeeding behaviours”. These include holding your baby when feeding, talking to your baby and changing positions during the feeding. It excludes propping the baby's bottle since your baby needs your touch and holding.
4. Baby Wearing
Baby wearing refers to the practice of carrying your baby, typically in a baby sling or soft carrier that keep baby close, meets baby's need for physical contact, security, stimulation and movement; all of which promote optimal brain development. There are many reasons for baby wearing: babies who are worn cry less, are more calm and content, sleep more peacefully, nurse better, gain weight better, enjoy better digestion, and develop better. Baby wearing enhances parent-baby bonding, is practical, facilitates breastfeeding, helps working parents reconnect with baby, makes transitions from one caregiver to another easier, and allows you to meet baby’s needs while still getting things done. .
The key is close proximity and responsiveness to baby’s night time needs. Typically, AP parents share their bed with their baby. There are however several guidelines for safe bedsharing:
Benefits of bedsharing include significantly reduced incidence of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), reduced crying and night waking, better parent-child bonding, and improved breastfeeding.
6. Avoid Frequent and Prolonged Separations from Your Baby
Frequent, prolonged separations can impair the attachment process and can have life-long effects on the infant's long-term psychological and emotional development. Babies have an intense need for the physical presence of a loving, responsive parent. Through daily care and loving interactions strong parent-child attachments are formed. Frequent turnover of caregivers is very damaging to the attachment process. .
7. Positive Discipline
Positive discipline begins with an understanding that your long-range goal is to teach your child how to make good decisions as an older child and as an adult. They learn from following good examples and role models. Become the kind of person you want your child to be. Boundaries and limit-setting are necessary as children grow. Positive, non-violent methods of discipline and loving guidance promote the development of self-control and empathy towards others. .
8. Balanced Family Life
AP means responding immediately to your baby’s needs, because his/her needs are immediate. It does not mean neglecting your other family members. Baby is only this young once. Include baby in your activities, include dad in baby’s activities. Do things as a family.
These then are the 8 common practices of AP. The scientific basis for attachment comes from many different studies. Research shows that children who are securely attached to one person from birth – typically the mother – grow up to be secure, confident and emphatic children, with excellent people skills.