“If you were on an island, and you had no mother-in-laws, no psychologists, no doctors around, no experts, this is what you would naturally and instinctively do to give your baby the best investment you’ll ever give.” – Dr. William Sears on Attachment Parenting
Your baby cries. You bend over and pick him up or offer him a soothing hand. His little hand wraps around your fingers and you both are smiling. Granted, not every interaction with your baby goes so smoothly, but you proved the attachment theory naturally: that it’s the response to the security & touch of a caregiver that is important to a baby.
Attachment Parenting, a phrase coined by Dr. William Sears, pediatrician and author, promotes a maternal figure providing crucial warmth, security, nourishment and love in the critical stages of infancy to help ensure a successful, well balanced child.
Attachment parenting promotes very close connection between the mom and her baby.
The four key elements that center around Attachment Parenting encourage what is instinctively given between a loving caregiver and baby. These items help to form a bond and strengthen that connection between the caregiver, usually the mother, and the newborn child.
- Responding to Crying – tending to needs when crying begins and not letting baby get distressed.
- Body Contact – Keeping baby physically close through holding it when feeding and wearing baby close to your body in a baby carrier or sling for as many hours as possible.
- Co-Sleeping – sharing the same bed/ same room with baby, using safety guidelines. The American Academy of Pediatrics urges against using the same bed, due to possibility of parents rolling over on their babies, but suggests sleeping in the same room- in a separate bed to help prevent SID.
- Feeding on demand– Feeding baby when he wants, even if he is snacking and not at the parents convenience. Attachment parenting encourages feeding a child past the stages of infancy.
Why is parental attachment necessary?
It is essential in healthy childhood development for a baby to make that maternal bond. If the attachment is broken during the baby’s critical stage, the result could be detrimental to that child and their future.
In a highly criticized experiment done by psychologist Harry Harlow in 1958, a group of baby Rhesus monkeys were taken from their mothers. Half were put in a cage with a cloth mother, while the other half were given a wire mother who had milk. It was the monkeys with the the cloth mother who were more secure and ran to the safety of their mother when feeling scared, not the milk provider. Further experiments proved that lack of close maternal connections resulted in emotional and social problems when they were introduced to other monkeys.
The good things about Attachment Parenting
Children reared using Attachment Parenting are healthier, have higher self-esteem and are more resilient under stress. The other positive side effects are:
- It makes you a better person. – Giving love and care to an infant is rewarded by smiles, giggles and love in return.
- It reinforces your parental instinct skills. – By paying close attention to your child, you begin to pick up on their non-verbal cues, like when they start sucking on their hand means they are hungry.
- It helps your children to be more trusting, confident & secure. – Providing a close, secure environment, your child learns that you have got their back. They will face their fears with you there by their side.
- Your child becomes better at learning to speak. – Being at your side, observing and listening to a parent speak, they are quicker to pick up on language and use it.
- It helps to make them smarter & independent. – When all of their needs are met, and they don’t need to stress over not being fed or having that wet diaper too long, they can focus their resources on exploring/observing their world.
- You and your child are more connected. – The child-parent connection grows strong with Attachment Parenting, and they can have a closer relationship growing up because of it.
- Disciplining your child becomes easier. – A simple look can convey disappointment and displeasure when parent and child are more connected. That quick shake of the head can dissuade a child from doing something ill-advised.
The negative side of Attachment Parenting
With all pros, there are cons, and the Attachment Theory is not without critics.
- It is too demanding on parents. – Responding to every cry can be taxing on parents and being awake for all those nighttime feeding is rough and dangerous, as it was proven that an over tired driver is just as dangerous as a drunk driver. Studies show that being awake for 18 hours is similar as having a .05 blood alcohol level.
- It’s not feasible when parents work. – Unfortunately society does not always allow us to keep our babies strapped to our bodies. Work commitments often separate parents from their children, and third party caregivers are brought into the mix. Babies are often handed over to day-care centers to be taken care of during those hours.
- The baby doesn’t learn to soothe itself. – If parents respond to their child’s every cry, then how can this baby learn to soothe itself? Babies learn techniques to calm themselves and even put themselves to sleep, that a well-meaning parent can disrupt by picking them up.
- The baby becomes too accustomed to being held/fed and can be hard to wean. – A baby that has grown accustomed to food on demand can be harder to wean. And a baby that is picked up and comforted at every cry can become spoiled for attention and demanding.
- Putting the child’s needs in front of parents’ can lead to a future of serving the child above parents themselves. – Critics of Attachment Parenting argue that by serving your child above yourself, you are opening up for a life of servitude- always putting your child first.
Taking the Middle Ground
Though with modern day lifestyles, wearing your baby in a sling for hours may not be feasible, taking a middle ground on Attachment Parenting by using what works for you and your baby best. Do what feels natural.
Spend quality time with your infant
The most important time for your baby during this critical infant stage is time spent with you. This is necessary for parental bonding and can be done through quality time. One on one.
Offer your baby unconditional love
Your baby reaches out by crying and getting your attention as instinctive act of survival. They are also aware when they are not receiving the love and nurturing that they need. A newborn is a clean slate. Untainted by time or experiences. Hold your baby often. Speak kindly. Comfort him when he is stressed. Offer reassurances.
Invest in a baby carrier
The closer your child is to you, the more you bond. A child carrier enables you to hold your baby and have your hands free to perform other tasks as well.
Hold your baby during feedings
Not everyone breastfeeds their baby, but the mere act of holding your baby close during feeding- be it with a bottle or otherwise, can establish a close connection between you and your child.
Infancy is just a brief period but its impact on the child can be forever.
With the arrival of this new baby, your life has changed forever. Even though in the moment it can seem eternal, babies grow up at lightening speed. Infancy is a brief period and that one precious time you can form a lasting bond with your child. Use that time wisely. Use your instincts with your child to parent naturally.
Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io
|||^||Sears, Bill; Sears, Martha: The Attachment Parenting Book: A Commonsense Guide to Understanding and Nurturing Your Baby|
|||^||Susan Krause Whitbourne Ph. D. Psychology Today. The 4 Principals of Attachment Parenting and Why They Work|
|||^||AAP.org: American Academy of Pediatrics Announces New Safe Sleep Recommendations to Protect Against SIDs, Sleep-Related Infant Deaths|
|||^||Saul McLeod. SimplyPsychology.com: Attachment Theory|
|||^||AhaParenting.com: Pros and Cons of Attachment Parenting|
|||^||NationalSleepFoundation.org. Drowsy Driving Vs Drunk Driving: How Similar Are They?|
|||^||ChidhoodDevelopmentMedia.com: The Infant Brain: An Long Way to Grow|