Attachment parenting is an approach to children's upbringing with a long-term goal to educate children to become adult individuals with developed empathy and ability to perceive life in all its contexts. Our ancient ancestors asserted this method with their children and traditional nations untouched by our Western civilization with its values and pace also enjoy it in accordance with their nature.
Attachment parenting calls on parents to treat their children with respect and kindness. Essentially, it encourages us to treat our children the way we would like others to treat ourselves. In many aspects, it falls back on intuitive behaviour of our ancestors and therefore to the traditional approach to parenthood.
The term "attachment parenting" was coined by pediatrician William Sears. In practice, it entails interconnecting attachment theory and knowledge of developmental psychology. It is comeback to intuitive behaviour and respecting and loving upbringing of our children. Both children's physical and emotional needs are fulfilled, mainly thanks to firm contact with the mother.
Principles of Attachment Parenting
Principles of attachment parenting clarify normal development in children and lead to identification of their needs. It is suitable and important to pick whatever works best for us and what do we best see ourselves in these principles. The most important elements of these principles are overall respect and dignity we approach our children with.
1. Preparation for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting
PThe preparation for pregnancy and birth should be deliberate. Start preparing for pregnancy already before the planned conception; rid your body of toxins, up your intake of folic acid, change your diet, etc. During pregnancy, find information on what are the options for you in health centres and birthing hospitals and learn how to take care of a newborn properly. The hours and days after the birth are a very sensitive period. Spending time together immediately after birth and in the following period supports the harmony of natural contact behaviour of the newborn and intuitive behavioural patterns in the mother. The first 6 weeks after birth play a crucial role in forming a bond between the mother and the child successfully.
2. Feeding the Baby with Love and Respect
Maternity hormones support the mother's intuitive behaviour and allow her to connect to her child better and identify or feel the child's needs. The first step in building a loving and open relationship is responding to the baby's needs during breastfeeding.
3. Perceiving the Child with Respect, Perceptive Reactions towards the Child, Sensitive Response, Trust in the Child's Crying
Babies and small children use crying to communicate. It is a signal of great importance as it provides survival of these small human creatures. Crying is not a tool of manipulation with the parent; the more sensitively you respond to the baby's crying, the better will the baby learn to trust you and he/she will not doubts his/her abilities of communication with their surroundings. You cannot presume a baby can manage to calm himself/herself down. But emphatic, loving and sensitive parents are able to teach their child how to handle his/her emotions.
4. Carrying Children and Other Physical Contact
Babies need physical contact to satisfy their need for comfort, stimulation and safety; parents can provide it by cuddling with the baby, breastfeeding, bathing or baby massages. Children carried in baby slings or baby carriers usually cry less and they are more often in the state of quiet wakefulness when they learn most about their environment and surroundings. Parents carrying their baby also become more sensitive towards the baby. Closeness of your child will allow you to get to know him/her better. When held by adults, babies also learn a lot about the environment they live in. In older children, the need for physical contact manifests by cuddling, back-rubbing, massages or physical games.
Both babies and small children need to sleep both at night and during the day. Throughout the day, they may also get hungry, lonely, afraid, hot or cold, etc. In these matters, children rely on their parents to make them feel better and help them handle their sometimes intense feelings. Most children sleep best near their parents. Co-sleeping mitigates separation anxiety, night terrors and similar sleep problems and helps children realise that sleep is a safe and pleasant condition. Furthermore, some sleep-teaching techniques may have undesired impact on further mental and physical development of the child. It is also more convenient for the mother to have her baby near e.g. for night nursing sessions.
6. Positive Discipline and Behaviour Boundaries
Discipline which is emphatic, respectful and loving enhances the bond between the parent and the child and helps develop the child's self-confidence and his/her empathy with others. It is suitable to communicate in a manner maintaining dignity both of the parent and the child. Remember that attachment parenting doesn't mean you should bring up your children without boundaries. Children need boundaries because they make them feel safe. It is a space they know well and in which they may move around freely. These boundaries are better flexible, we don't want them too rigorous or borderline tyrannical. Trust your child that he/she will be able to do some things on their own but at the same time don't let them cross the line in a way hurtful to others. Respectful and loving upbringing is about mutual respect.
7. Balanced Personal and Family Life
Children are our mirrors; when the parent is happy, the child is happy as well. Our problems, imbalance or relationship problems... our children perceive all that and they reflect it. Give them time for spiritual hygiene, time for them only. People sometimes have problems asking others for help, but by taking care of yourself, you are more ready to take care of your loved ones. Enjoy time only for you, take care of your body and your soul, enjoy some movement and comfort. When you feel balanced, it is easier to be emotionally more perceptive to your surroundings and your baby. Set realistic goals, don't be afraid to say no and prefer people to things. Be creative and enjoy your parenthood as well as the time for yourself only.
Goals of Attachment Parenting
The goal of attachment parenting is to support such behaviour of parents and approach to education of their child so as to form healthy and strong emotional attachments and bonds among the family members. Children's needs for trust and empathy are fulfilled and they become the foundation of further future healthy relationships. There is no one correct approach to children's upbringing. So if you listen to your intuition and your inner voice and heart and your reason, you will surely support not only the principles of attachment parenting but also spread calm and balanced home atmosphere.
When asserting the principles of attachment parenting we need to keep in mind that people around us will sometimes unavoidably try to put their experience to good use for us or consider our methods weird or unwise and comment on them. When you have a child, you become a target of well-meant but separation advice. Non-respectful upbringing lead extremely (Let her cry, Make him obey your regime, Don't hold him too much or he'll become spoilt, etc.) result in loss of the child's trust in the adult and in his/her own ability to send signals. There is a divide forming between the parent and the child which is the very opposite of attachment parenting. Attachment parenting builds the bond between the adult and the child and some sort of a sixth sense.
Naturally, attachment parenting is not only about communication and bond between the child and the mother. Her partner, the father, has his place in the upbringing of children and in building of mutual relationships. The woman should give the father sufficient space and trust. Apart from a few exceptions, fathers spend less time with the baby and so they need more space to learn some things, whether it be changing the diaper, calming the baby down or other matters. When the father and the child manage to create a mutual bond, the father starts to enjoy the fatherhood experience. All family prospers if the father takes part in upbringing of its youngest. The presence of the father helps the mother in difficult situations and makes her days easier on her because if he's able to take care of the baby for a certain time, the mother can use this time to rest and regain energy. Sharing the care of the baby also enhances the relationship between the two partners.
Tips for Attachment Fatherhood
- Start already during the pregnancy: stroke the belly, communicate with the baby, accompany your partner to her pregnancy check-ups
- Form a bond with the newborn: fathers taking part in the birth feel more important in the life of their baby; they tend to take care of the baby more also later. The father may be equally competent, sensitive and loving parent as the mother.
- Touch is the way to get to know your child better. Do not be afraid to carry the child in your arms or in a baby sling, place the child on your chest.
- Using a baby sling: the partner will get some rest from carrying the child and you and your baby will have a chance to enhance your mutual bond. You will also react to respond better to your baby's needs.
- Support your partner in her motherhood and try to protect her against external influences that may act negatively on her and throw her off
- Get to know your child and give him/her the discipline he/she needs. If you want to become a successful father, you need to know your baby and respond to his/her needs sensitively. This will make the child's upbringing easier and it will also prevent many conflicts in the long run.
Hormonal changes during labour and after it and the physical contact between the parent and the baby - all that strongly supports attachment between the parent and the baby. Bonding serves to create an early contact attachment of the parents and the baby during the first hours and days after birth. This has significant influence on how the mother will take care of her baby in the future.
Bonding should include placing the newborn baby on the mothers belly or chest skin-to-skin; the baby lies on the mother's belly with his/her body, the head resting on the mother's breasts. This contact calms the newborn down and allows them to get to know their mother through all senses. During the first minutes after birth, the baby is in the condition of quiet wakefulness, when he/she is not crying, his/her attention fixed on the mother - making eye contact, touching her breasts and heading towards the first nursing session. It may take thirty minutes to an hour to make that happen. Then, the baby falls asleep. It is suitable to give the mother and the baby some privacy after birth and postpone routine procedures such as taking measurements and cleansing the baby for later. Another important element is touching the baby; stroking the baby is not only pleasant but it also motivates the baby to make his/her breathing more regular. During the first hour after birth, the newborn's eyes are wide open (if there is no sharp light shining in the room) and the baby can see from the mother's nipples to her eyes. It is also important to speak to the baby. The baby is able to recognize his/her parents' voices and it help him/her feel safe and at home. Full rooming is also recommended. That means that the baby does not get separated from the mother even after the birth and they sleep together.
Advantages of Bonding and Full Rooming
- You respond faster to the baby's needs, making the baby less weepy.
- The baby then learns to distinguish night and day and because the mother is close, the baby sleeps better at night as well.
- The mother has less trouble nursing her baby because she is able to nurse at any time during the day.
- The baby is happier and the mother is consequently calmer and rests better.
- There is a lower probability of postpartum depression hitting the mother, because her trust in her abilities to take care of the baby increases; the mother handles stressful situations better.