Understanding Attachment Parenting

dreamstime_m_4507951Attachment Parenting is an approach to raising children in which there are no hard and fast rules.  There are general guidelines to pull from, but parents don’t need to follow all of them to participate in this parenting style.  The actual term was coined by Dr. William Sears, a leading expert in child development.  He based this term on the concept of John Bowlby’s Attachment Theory, the philosophy that the quality of the bond formed between parents and their children in the first few years of life will dramatically affect the mental health of the child.  Dr. Sears’ guidelines for attachment parenting consist of seven “Baby B’s,” as he calls them.

The first is bonding with baby from birth.  Placing the child directly into the mother’s arms from the moment he or she is born will get the parent-child bonding off to a great start.  If this is not possible for some reason, bonding can still take place, but the ideal is to start from the very beginning.

By listening to their children, following their instincts, and selecting certain tools, parents can build the best environment possible for their own unique family.

The second “b” is breastfeeding, which allows mother and baby to bond closely while baby gains all his nourishment from his mother’s body.  Mother and baby can look into one another’s eyes, feel and smell each other, and baby can often hear mom’s heartbeat.

Bedding near baby.  When parents sleep with or near their child, they learn their baby’s sleep patterns.  They are likely to notice if something changes (such as a child getting into a position in which they can’t breathe), which increases safety.  Also, baby can nurse easily during the night time hours, allowing for ease in going back to sleep, which creates better rested mothers and babies.

Believing in the communication value of a baby’s cry is a very important aspect of attachment parenting.  Babies cry to communicate that something is wrong; therefore, a crying child should be attended to right away.  The sooner they are picked up in the comforting arms of their parents, the faster babies learn they are heard and their needs are being met.  Babies raised with Attachment Parenting usually cry less, in fact, because they are picked up at the first sign of crying, and rarely get to the point of screaming.  This particular guideline is probably the biggest worry for those considering attachment parenting, because parents understandably don’t want to spoil their child.  The good news is that a baby will never be spoiled by being comforted when upset.  Being soothed when they cry will only give children reassurance and confidence to be calm more often, which also makes parents feel calmer.

Baby wearing is common across many cultures, and has been utilized for thousands of years.  Wearing a baby in a wrap teaches the baby her parent is always near, which makes her feel secure.  She can hear, smell, and feel her parent, while the parent is able to walk around, show her interesting sights and sounds, and have both arms free to get things done!

Beware of baby trainers means not following the advice of people who want to put their babies on strict schedules.  Babies will not always adhere to a rigid schedule, especially during growth spurts.  Attachment parenting allows parents to take cues from their baby, to trust the baby to communicate his needs, and to trust themselves to read those cues accurately.  Relying on scheduling more than the baby himself can lead to serious health problems.

Finally, attachment parenting requires balance.  By listening to their children, following their instincts, and using the above ideas as tools to choose from, parents can build the best environment possible for their own unique family.

About Meghan Toledo

Meghan Toledo holds a degree in Psychology from UCLA. She loves interacting with both animals and children, and she worked with abused horses rejuvenating their spirits with love and carrots. She spent time in Los Angeles and San Francisco as a zookeeper and educator, allowing her to care for animals while fostering a love in children of the natural world. These days she is enjoying the adventure of being a new mother and the joy of that experience. In her spare time, she is freelance writer and a proponent of natural childbirth and attachment parenting.

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