A few weeks ago, I was asked if I plan to continue breastfeeding my almost 3 year old daughter. Of course, my answer has always been as long as my little girl wants to, which definitely raises some eyebrows within my very own circle.
I have been known for my choices regarding raising my kids, from exclusive breastfeeding to babywearing to co-sleeping. And yes, even with homeschooling my older kids. I did not realize that behind that choices came the concept of attachment parenting until someone mentioned it to me.
What is attachment parenting?
Attachment parenting is a concept introduced by American pediatrician Dr. William Sears. This parenting method is meant to provide the utmost parental attachment between the mother and the infant and their continuous physical bond. Attachment parenting aims to develop a strong emotional bond between the parent and the child, which will raise independent, secure, and grounded adults.
In the book The Attachment Parenting Book: A Commonsense Guide to Understanding and Nurturing Your Baby, Dr. William Sears and Dr. Martha Sears emphasized that connecting with your baby as early as during pregnancy will significantly impact your relationship and your baby’s well being in the future. While it is very early to say, the principle of attachment parenting aims to develop self-reliant individuals who can maintain relationships of their own as adults.
The approach uses different techniques, leading to responsiveness, empathy, and physical bond between you and your baby. For instance, you are well aware of your baby’s cues based on his needs, while your baby confidently knows and feels that you will attend to his needs no matter what. The belief in healthy attachment parenting also strengthens both the parent and child’s confidence towards each other.
The 8 principles of attachment parenting
Attachment Parenting International (API) is a worldwide organization that promotes this kind of warm, responsive parenting style. API helped promote the 8 principles concepts based on Dr. Sears’ “The 7 Baby B’s” to make it easier to understand and apply among parents and soon-to-be parents. The 7 practices include birth bonding, breastfeeding, babywearing, bedding close to baby, belief in the value of baby’s cry, beware of baby trainers, and balance.
The 8 principles of attachment are also based on research describing the basic foundation of a healthy relationship between you and your child:
- Prepare for pregnancy, birth, and parenting. Your journey as a parent starts during your pregnancy. This is when you’re given the time to prepare physically, emotionally, and mentally for parenthood demands. Even your birth plan says a lot about the choices you are making as a parent. Educating yourself during your pregnancy is the initial step to invest in your relationship with your child.
- Feed with love and respect. Exclusive breastfeeding is truly a wonderful journey I have had with my children. Besides giving them the highest form of nutrients, breastfeeding takes care of your baby’s emotional needs as he adjusts to the new world. As an essential factor of this principle, you should be able to know your baby’s cues before he even starts crying. The benefits of breastfeeding also extend to the mother. In instances where breastfeeding is not practical, you can do bottle feeding instead. However, the breastfeeding model and behavior encourages a secure attachment between you and your baby. Remember, no matter what the circumstances are, when it comes to feeding your baby, fed is always best.
- Respond with sensitivity. The beginning of infancy is the best time to build a foundation of trust and empathy. Always respond to what your child is telling you most appropriately and consistently. Your baby can’t manage to soothe himself yet, so your sensitivity to his needs will make him learn how to self-soothe as you go along in your relationship. It is perfectly normal for your baby to be held by you most of the time. Delaying to respond to this scenario can cause a high level of stress. And stress may place his physical and emotional state at risk later on in his life.
- Use nurturing touch. Have you heard anyone telling you that holding your baby frequently can cause more harm than good? Well, this happens to me very often. We practice babywearing, so my baby was always with me. I chose babywearing because I notice that my baby cries less and has been calmer. I believe that this has something to do with our physical proximity that can positively affect her development. The use of physical touch with your baby and your older kids, and even in adults, has a positive impact because it provides comfort and security and makes relationships thrive.
- Ensure safe sleep, emotionally and physically. There is a thing called nighttime parenting. We practice co-sleeping and wait until our kids are ready to sleep by themselves in a separate room. This way, we as parents can tend to our children’s needs even at night time. It makes our kids sleep soundly through the night, knowing that we are just in the other bed. Although we are co-sleeping, we still make sure we have established routines. We teach our kids to learn how to trust their body by determining on their own if they’re tired instead of forcing them to sleep, which can induce stress not only to the children but to the parents as well.
- Provide consistent and loving care. Your consistent presence plays a vital role in the life of your child. But, what if you needed to work and be separated for a couple of hours? This seems to be the dilemma of every working parent that I know. As much as possible, please avoid the use of shame, fear, or anger when a separation is necessary. It may harm the child, and you don’t want them to carry the burden to adulthood.
- Practice positive discipline. Do you use the traditional way of disciplining your children, such as corporal punishment or even using harsh words? Attachment parenting encourages you to do the positive and gentler way of discipline, starting at your child’s birth. Instead of focusing on how to correct your child’s mistake, attachment parenting focuses on how you can guide your child in seeing the outcome of his every action. Since your child communicates through his behavior, it is imperative to talk to him and ensure to keep his dignity intact while resolving the problem. There are different tools that you can use to instill positive discipline. However, most parents find it hard to adapt to it because of the authoritarian environment they grew up in.
- Strive for balance in your personal and family life. Every family’s objective is to balance their family and personal lives wherein every need of each member is met, not only that of the child. It is very typical for you to prioritize your child’s needs over yours. However, this is very unhealthy as it can cause some parents to burnout. When dealing with this, there are things you can do to take care of yourself. And of course, when your emotions really get in the way, asking for help is the best way to do it.
Is attachment parenting healthy?
There are many benefits of attachment parenting that you and your family get to enjoy. Among its benefits include: positive emotions are reciprocated within your family, your child’s behavior and development improve, your child becomes more competent and can learn about independence early on in his life, etc.
While many studies have proved the advantages of parent-child attachment, there’s also widespread controversy that it demands too much from the parent, which can eventually take a toll on them either physically, emotionally, or mentally. However, there’s not enough evidence to prove or refute this claim.
In addition, attachment parenting critics have submitted that the practice promotes a patriarchal family structure that keeps women at home and tied to their baby’s desires and that it has morphed into a lifestyle that promotes organic food, cloth diapers, homeschooling, and rejects vaccinations.
My final thoughts on attachment parenting
Every parent has his own parenting style and whatever method you use in rearing your child depends on you. As long as you meet child’s needs and his welfare is a top priority, your parenting style can never be wrong, as they say. “Your child, your rule.” We have to respect each other’s choice of raising our children, no matter how different it can be.