Advertising
Advertising

Why Attachment Parenting Is About Nurturing, Not Spoiling

Why Attachment Parenting Is About Nurturing, Not Spoiling

If you have had a baby, you know that babies are a lot of work. Not just a little bit of work. They require round the clock care and they will take over your life as you know it. No joke, a tiny human being can turn your life upside down in a heartbeat. It’s not just that they need constant physical care, but they need emotional care too. Physically they cry, poop themselves, need constant changing, and they need to be fed every couple of hours, even during the night! That is just a normal baby. Imagine a baby with reflux or colic that cries for hours on end. It happens.

Babies require an enormous amount of physical care, but their physical care affects their emotional well being for a lifetime. An entire body of work on Attachment Parenting, also know as AP, has proven that the level of care for a baby affects their social, emotional, intellectual, and mental abilities for the rest of their life.

If care for an infant does not involve the appropriate care required for attachment to happen with a caregiver, then the rest of that baby’s life can forever be affected. It is a huge responsibility for parents and caregivers. Attachment and creating a bond between a baby and a caregiver is just as important to a baby as providing food for that baby. The attachment and efforts to bond come from the caregiver, as babies are helpless. However, babies are born with an innate need to bond and attach to someone, typically the person who is the primary caregiver.

Babies are born to emotionally and physically attached to someone in order to survive.

John Bowlby is the developmental researcher and theorist who coined the term “attachment theory” back in the 1960’s. This theory proposes that a baby must be emotionally and physically attached to at least one care giver in order to develop normally. The theory, which has been heavily researched by thousands over the years, has overwhelmingly pointed to the overall benefits of Attachment Parenting practices. These benefits go far beyond infancy and childhood. A child who is “attached” will benefit from their early care for a lifetime.

The Aha! Parenting Website provided some great commentary on this body of research on the Attachment Parenting theory:[1]

Advertising

Is “Attachment Parenting” a science? Yes. Decades of research, including longitudinal studies, shows that as securely attached babies get older, they form better relationships with others, have higher self esteem, are more flexible and resilient under stress, and perform better in every aspect of life, from schoolwork to peer interactions..

Please don’t panic and worry if you don’t know about the theory and you assume because you don’t know what it is that you didn’t practice Attachment Parenting methods. Many parents use attachment practices and don’t know about the theory at all.

It is important to understand that these methods are not only helpful, but essential to creating well adjusted children and adults. Infancy is such an important phase of development and the level of care of an infant should not be taken lighly.

Without significant attachment, babies have social connection problems later in life.

There is plenty of research that has proven Attachment Parenting to be effective in helping babies become more well adjusted, emotionally stable adults. There is also a down side for those babies who do not attach to a caregiver. There are extreme cases such as babies in orphanages who are not held in infancy who end up very detached and have serious emotional and social connection problems later in life. That is an extreme example, but babies in regular households can experience problems if attachment is not made with a parent or caregiver. The practices and patterns of Attachment Parenting are essential for normal childhood development.

New York Magazine has a great piece on the Attachment Parenting theory.[2] Here is a quote from that article about how a lack of Attachment Parenting practices can cause major problems:

Advertising

Researchers believe this pattern of attachment, assessed as early as one year, is more important than temperament, IQ, social class, and parenting style to a person’s development. A boom in attachment research now links adult attachment insecurity with a host of problems, from sleep disturbances, depression, and anxiety to a decreased concern with moral injustice and less likelihood of being seen as a “natural leader.”

Obviously, there are clear benefits to practicing Attachment Parenting methods. The sake of the development of all humans is dependent on it. It is up to parents and caregivers to provide the proper care of their infant in order to ensure that attachment happens.

Attachment parenting is one way to ensure that attachment happens.

Researchers have been trying to pin down the exact methods of proper Attachment Parenting practices. Here are six of the most widely accepted and research proven Attachment Parenting practices for infants. Keep in mind that researchers have shown that you do not need to do all of these in order for a baby to attach. Just doing several of these practices is enough for a baby to attach to their caregiver.

There is no such thing as spoiling a baby. That has been proven to be a myth. Therefore, the more of the Attachment Parenting practices you utilize, the better it is for the attachment and overall development of the child. You are not spoiling a child by doing these things. You are creating a well adjusted human being by utilizing these Attachment Parenting practices.

1. Sleep near the baby

Safety is foremost in the care of an infant, but sleeping near a baby is possible with safe methods. There are co-sleeping units on the market that allow parents to sleep near their child and touch the child as they both sleep. Sleeping near the infant allows the caregiver to easily feed the baby at night and also soothe the infant when he or she cries. The Mother How Website has some practical tips for safely co-sleeping with an infant.[3]

Advertising

    2. Feed on demand

    Back in the 1950’s the primary theory regarding baby feedings was that you put the baby on a strict feeding schedule according to a timed schedule. Babies were only to be fed at the scheduled feeding times, regardless of the babies crying or hunger cues. The Attachment Parenting theory proposes that babies are to be fed on demand. When they cry or indicate they are hungry their care giver is to feed them. Schedule or timing does not matter, it is more important that the baby’s needs are met.

    Attachment Parenting International also specifies that breastfeeding is the best way for a baby to attach to the Mother.[4] If breastfeeding is not possible, or does not work out for one reason or another for some moms, just always try to create a physical bond with the babies. The Attachment Parenting theory is all about physical bond which creates an emotional connection between Mom and baby.

    3. Practice empathetic care

    Babies do not need scolding or harsh treatment. In fact those things have been proven to be detrimental to their development. Babies need sensitive care and love. It is essential to healthy development. Attachment Parenting International provides specifics on this topic of treating infants with sensitivity.[5]

    4. Ensure physical closeness with touch

    Keeping baby close by physically touching and holding the infant are essential to Attachment Parenting practices. Babies need to be held and cuddled. A practical way for busy Moms to do this consistently is by baby wearing. Using a sling or baby carrier to attach baby to Mom (or caregiver) is a great way to create physical closeness between Mom and baby.

    Advertising

    5. Be attentive to baby’s needs

    Good Attachment Parenting practices include being attentive to the baby’s needs. If the baby is crying the caregiver needs to be prompt in trying to assess why the crying is happening and to remedy the problem. It’s about meeting the needs of the baby in a timely fashion. Baby’s needs come before all else. It is detrimental to babies, especially in early infancy, to be left to cry. When a baby cries and someone repeatedly ignores those cries, chemical brain activity is altered and can have long term damaging effects.

    6. Show consistent care

    This is tough for many families, as both parents are working and child care is needed. However, consistent care means that the primary care giver, typically a parent, does most of the care for the baby. This gives the opportunity for that baby to then attach. If the baby is cared for by a multitude of people on a regular basis, it becomes more difficult for the baby to attach to at least one person. If at all possible, it is best for a parent to stay home and take time off work, ideally at least six months, for the benefit of the child. Attachment is much more likely to be successful when their primary caregiver is there during the day and night, especially in early infancy.

    Babies are only babies once. There are no do-overs.

    The time goes by so quickly and those first months of life affect the entire rest of their life, as major mental and emotional developments happen in the first year of life. The primary care giver of an infant has a huge responsibility. It’s possible that some working moms face challenges in being around their babies every single minute, and it’s okay because the main point is to maintain the bonding with their babies no matter what.

    Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

    Reference

    More by this author

    Dr. Magdalena Battles

    Doctor of Psychology

    Most Overlooked Signs of Autism in Children (And What Parents Can Do) Parents Are Their Own Worst Enemies How To Raise Healthy, Happy Kids After Going Through a Divorce Signs of Depression in Children (And How to Help Them to Overcome It) How to Maximize Family Time? 13 Simple Ways You Can Try Immediately

    Trending in Psychology

    1Striving Towards Secure Attachment: How to Restructure Your Thoughts 2Being in Narcissism Relationships Is Like Playing With Fire. It Is Risky. 313 Crippling Social Anxiety Symptoms Explained & How to Deal with Them 48 Powerful Reasons to Love Your Enemies 5Meditation for Beginners: How to Meditate Deeply and Quickly

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising

    Published on July 13, 2018

    Striving Towards Secure Attachment: How to Restructure Your Thoughts

    Striving Towards Secure Attachment: How to Restructure Your Thoughts

    What if you could discover some tools and methods that could improve your relationships? What if by gaining a little knowledge you could understand your relationship dynamics better and give them a boost up?

    By learning what secure attachment is and how to restructure your thoughts, you can become more self-aware of your relationship dynamics. After becoming more aware, you can then take a few steps to make them better than ever. That’s something that many of us could benefit from.

    When we hear the term secure attachment, our mind typically goes to a relationship. And that’s exactly what it’s about.

    In this article I’ll discuss the concept of secure attachments in more detail and how restructuring your thoughts can help you strive towards achieving better relationships.

    Relationships are a hugely important part of our lives and whatever we can do to improve them is a good thing for everyone involved.

    What is attachment theory?

    Let’s do a quick overview of what attachment theory is. This will provide a good foundation for the rest of this article.

    The esteemed psychologist John Bowlby first coined the term attachment theory in the late 60’s. Bowlby studied early childhood conditioning extensively and what he found was very interesting.

    His research showed that when a very young child has a strong attachment to a caregiver, it provides the child with a sense of security and foundation. On the other hand when there isn’t a secure attachment, the child will expend a lot more developmental energy looking for security and stability.

    The child without the secure attachment tends to become more fearful, timid and slow to explore new situations or their environment.

    Advertising

    When a strong attachment is developed in a child, he or she will be inclined to be more adventurous and seek out new experiences because they feel more secure. They know that whoever is watching out for them will be there if needed.

    Bowlby’s colleague, Mary Ainsworth, took the theory further. She did extensive studies around infant-parent separations and provided a more formal framework for the differing attachment styles.

    How attachment develops

    Simply put, attachment is an emotional bond with another person. Attachment doesn’t have to go both ways, it can be one person feeling attached to another without it being reciprocated. Most of the time, it works between two people to one degree or another.

    Attachment begins at a very young age. Over the history of time, when children were able to maintain a closer proximity to a caregiver that provided for them, a strong attachment was formed.

    The initial thought was that the ability to provide food or nourishment to a child was the primary driver of a strong attachment.

    It was then discovered that the primary drivers of attachment proved to be the parent/caregivers responsiveness to the child as well as the ability to nurture that child in a variety of ways. Things such as support, care, sustenance, and protection are all components of nurturing a child.

    In essence a child forms a strong attachment when they feel that their caregiver is accessible and attentive and there if they need them; that the parent/caregiver will be there for them. If the child does not feel that the caregiver is there to help them when needed, they experience anxiety.

    Different types of attachments

    In children, 4 types of attachment styles have been identified. They are as follows:

    • Secure attachment – This is primarily marked by discomfort or distress when separated from caregivers and joy and security when the caregiver is back around the child. Even though the child initially feels agitated when the caregiver is no longer around, they feel confident they will return. The return of the parent or caregiver is met with positive emotions, the child prefers parents to strangers.
    • Ambivalent attachment – These children become very distressed when the parent or caregiver leaves. They feel they can’t rely on their caregiver for support when the need arises. Even though a child with ambivalent attachment may be agitated or confused when reunited with a parent or caregiver, they will cling to them.
    • Avoidant attachment – These kids typically avoid parents or caregivers. When they have a choice of being with the parent or not, they don’t seem to care one way or the other. Research has shown that this may be the result of neglectful caregivers.
    • Disorganized attachment – These children display a mix of disoriented behavior towards their caregiver. They may want them sometimes and other times they don’t. This is sometimes thought to be linked to inconsistent behavior from the parent or caregiver.

    What attachments mean to adults

    So the big question is how does this affect us in adulthood? Intuitively it makes sense that as a child, if we have someone who will be there when we need them, we feel secure. And on the other end of the spectrum, if we aren’t sure someone’s going to provide what we need when we need it, we may become more anxious and fearful.

    Advertising

    As an adult, we tend to wind up in one of three primary attachment types based on our childhood experiences. These are secure, avoidant, and anxious. Technically, there is a fourth one, anxious-avoidant, but it is quite a bit less common. They are described as follows:

    • Secure – When you have a secure attachment, you are comfortable displaying interest and affection towards another person but you’re also fine being alone and independent. Secure types are less apt to obsess over a relationship gone sour and handle being rejected easier. Secure types also tend to be better than other types with not starting relationships with people that might not be the best partners. They cut off the relationship quicker when they see things in a potential partner they don’t like. Secure attachment people make up the majority of the attachment types.
    • Anxious – Folks who have an anxious attachment style typically need a lot of reassurance from their partners. They have a much harder time being on their own and single than the other styles and fall into bad relationships more often. The anxious style represent about 20% of the population. It’s been shown that if anxious attachment styles learn how to communicate their needs better and learn to date secure partners, they can move towards the secure attachment style.
    • Avoidant – Avoidant attachment style represents approximately 25% of the population as adults. Avoidants many times have the hardest time in a relationship because they have a difficult time finding satisfaction. In general, they are uncomfortable with close relationships and intimacy and are quite independent. They are the lone wolf type person.
    • Anxious-avoidant – The anxious-avoidant style is relatively rare. It is composed of conflicting styles – they want to be close but at the same time push people away. They do things that push the people they are closest to away. Many times there can be a higher risk of depression or other mental health issues.

    Here’s where it gets really interesting:

    Move towards secure attachment

    The good news is that it is possible to move from one style to another. Specifically, it is possible to move towards a more secure attachment style.

    Now as you might imagine, this is not an easy or a quick process. Like any type of big change where you are attempting to alter such a deeply ingrained mindset, it takes a strong will to accomplish.

    The first step is developing an awareness of your attachment style. The next step is to have the desire and drive to move your attachment style towards the more secure style.

    If someone with an anxious or avoidant style has a long term relationship with a secure type, the anxious or avoidant person can slowly get brought up more towards a secure style.

    The opposite is also true, they could bring the secure person more towards their attachment style. Therefore, you have to be conscious of your type and if you want to move more towards secure, it takes persistence.

    Therapy is an option as well. Anxious types many times need to work on their self-esteem, avoidants on their connection specifically and compassion.

    How to restructure your thoughts

    Ready for the way to do it? Here we go:

    Advertising

    For the Avoidant Style

    As with any type of change on such a deep level, the first step is awareness. Realize you have an avoidant style and be aware of it as you have interactions with your partner(s).

    Try to work towards a place of mutual support and giving/taking. Try to lessen your need for complete self-reliance. Allow your partner to do some things that make you a little uncomfortable that you would normally do yourself.

    Don’t always focus on the imperfections of your partner. We all have them, remind yourself of that.

    Make yourself a list of the qualities that your partner has that you are thankful for.

    Look for a secure style partner if at all possible, they would be good for you to be with.

    If you have a tendency to end relationships before they go too far, be aware of that and let it develop further.

    Get into the habit of accepting and even instigating physical touch. Tell yourself that it’s good for you to have some intimacy. Intimacy can help you feel safe and secure.

    And over time you can realize that it’s okay to rely on other people.

    For the Anxious Style

    For the anxious style, the #1 thing to work on is learning to communicate needs better. This is a huge issue for the anxious style.

    Advertising

    First and foremost if you communicate your needs more clearly, you will have less anxiety, that’s already a big win. This will also allow you to better assess if a potential partner is good for you.

    Try to bring your feelings more to the surface and most importantly, share them with your partner. Remember that secure attachments typically communicate pretty well, this is what you are working towards.

    For the Anxious-Avoidant Style

    The anxious-avoidant is a very small percentage of the attachment styles. Since this type tends to be anxious in the relationship AND more or less a loner, the key here is working hard to be very self-aware of your actions.

    Use the parts of striving towards secure attachment from the anxious tips and the avoidant restructuring of your thoughts to consciously work towards being more secure.

    When you find yourself pushing someone away, ask why. If you feel worried that your partner is going to leave you, again, ask yourself where this is coming from. Have they shown you any reason to believe this? Many times there is no real evidence. In that case, allow yourself to calm down and try not to obsess over it.

    For the Secure Style

    Since the goal is to move towards a more secure attachment style, there isn’t much needed here as you might imagine.

    Something to be aware of is being in a relationship just because it’s “okay”. Don’t stay if it’s not a good place for you and your partner. If your partner is of an anxious or avoidant attachment style, stay mindful to not start developing characteristics of those styles.

    Strive towards Secure Attachment

    As we wrap things up, you’ve probably developed a good idea of the benefits of secure attachment. If you don’t currently have a secure attachment style, here are some benefits of restructuring your thoughts more towards this style:

    • Positive self esteem and self image
    • Close and well adjusted relationships
    • Sense of security in self and the world
    • Ability to be independent as well as in relationships
    • Optimistic outlook on life and yourself
    • Strong coping skills and strategies for relationships and life
    • Trust in self and others
    • Close, intimate relationships
    • Strong determination and problem solving skills

    If you are an anxious or avoidant style or the combination of anxious-avoidant, it is possible to move towards a secure attachment style.

    It takes self-awareness, patience and a strong desire to get close to being secure but it can be done. You will find that putting the effort into it will provide you with more open, honest and satisfying relationships.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

    Read Next