We get a lot of questions about our parenting style and how and why we have chosen it. My husband and I had many years to search, research, learn, observe and decide prior to having children at 33/34 years old. We still believe parenting is the hardest job on the planet, but we are truly enjoying it and hope to inspire others in our lives. Here is a wonderful quote on Attachment Parenting that we love to keep as the focus of our parenting philosophy-along with Christ's love being the center of our home, in general.
Diana West, IBCLC in There is No Doctrine for Attachment Parenting: Being AP is a Frame of Mind says:
"An AP parent is defined by how she interacts with her child. Does she make a long-term commitment to spending as much time with her children as she possibly can? Does she include her children in every appropriate aspect of her life? Are her children an integral part of her life, rather than an inconvenience that must be quickly taught to comply? Does she respect the individuality, feelings, and thoughts of her children? Is she in tune with her children’s needs and does she seek to meet those needs as a primary priority? Does she interact with her children in such a way that an ever-deepening bond is developed, rather than polarizing the respective positions of power between her and the children? Does she seek to be an emotional coach or is she a policeman?"
*All of the following is content of PhD in Parenting*
An AP parent is one who wholeheartedly believes that children are inherently good and that by fostering an atmosphere of complete trust and intimacy, a bond is created that provides those children with the foundation and security to become their best selves."
According to Jan Hunt’s article What is Attachment Parenting? on the Natural Child Project, “Attachment parenting, to put it most simply, is believing what we know in our heart to be true. And if we do that, we find that we trust the child“. She goes on to explain the ways that we trust that child and later says:
"Through attachment parenting, children learn to trust themselves, understand themselves, and eventually will be able to use their time as adults in a meaningful and creative way, rather than spending it in an attempt to deal with past childhood hurts, in a way that hurts themselves or others. If an adult has no need to deal with the past, he can live fully in the present."
As the Golden Rule suggests, attachment parenting is parenting the child the way we wish we had been treated in childhood, the way we wish we were treated by everyone now, and the way we want our grandchildren to be treated. With attachment parenting, we are giving an example of love and trust.
Our children deserve to learn what compassion is, and they learn that most of all by our example. If our children do not learn compassion from us, when will they learn it? The bottom line is that all children behave as well as they are treated – by their parents and by everyone else in their life."
These are but a few of the wonderful articles that attempt to define the philosophy behind attachment parenting. I really believe that it is parenting the way we would do it if we were free of societal influences.
Attachment Parenting Principles
Attachment Parenting International has 8 Principles of Attachment Parenting. I’ve provided a summary of them below and provided a link to the more detailed page on API’s Web site for each one:
1. Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting: Become emotionally and physically prepared for pregnancy and birth. Research available options for healthcare providers and birthing environments, and become informed about routine newborn care. Continuously educate yourself about developmental stages of childhood, setting realistic expectations and remaining flexible.
2. Feed with Love and Respect: Breastfeeding is the optimal way to satisfy an infant’s nutritional and emotional needs. “Bottle Nursing” adapts breastfeeding behaviors to bottle-feeding to help initiate a secure attachment. Follow the feeding cues for both infants and children, encouraging them to eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. Offer healthy food choices and model healthy eating behavior.
3. Respond with Sensitivity: Build the foundation of trust and empathy beginning in infancy. Tune in to what your child is communicating to you, then respond consistently and appropriately. Babies cannot be expected to self-soothe, they need calm, loving, empathetic parents to help them learn to regulate their emotions. Respond sensitively to a child who is hurting or expressing strong emotion, and share in their joy.
4. Use Nurturing Touch: Touch meets a baby’s needs for physical contact, affection, security, stimulation, and movement. Skin-to-skin contact is especially effective, such as during breastfeeding, bathing, or massage. Carrying or babywearing also meets this need while on the go. Hugs, snuggling, back rubs, massage, and physical play help meet this need in older children.
5. Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally: Babies and children have needs at night just as they do during the day; from hunger, loneliness, and fear, to feeling too hot or too cold. They rely on parents to soothe them and help them regulate their intense emotions. Sleep training techniques can have detrimental physiological and psychological effects. Safe co-sleeping has benefits to both babies and parents.
6. Provide Consistent and Loving Care: Babies and young children have an intense need for the physical presence of a consistent, loving, responsive caregiver: ideally a parent. If it becomes necessary, choose an alternate caregiver who has formed a bond with the child and who cares for him in a way that strengthens the attachment relationship. Keep schedules flexible, and minimize stress and fear during short separations.
7. Practice Positive Disipline: Positive discipline helps a child develop a conscience guided by his own internal discipline and compassion for others. Discipline that is empathetic, loving, and respectful strengthens the connection between parent and child. Rather than reacting to behavior, discover the needs leading to the behavior. Communicate and craft solutions together while keeping everyone’s dignity intact.
8. Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life: It is easier to be emotionally responsive when you feel in balance. Create a support network, set realistic goals, put people before things, and don’t be afraid to say “no”. Recognize individual needs within the family and meet them to the greatest extent possible without compromising your physical and emotional health. Be creative, have fun with parenting, and take time to care for yourself. (See also my post on achieving balance as a working mom).
Attachment Parenting Tools
When people think of Attachment Parenting, they often think of Dr. William Sears. He coined the term and came up with the 7 Baby B’s of Attachment Parenting. This list is essentially seven tools that can help parents to foster attachment with their babies. You do not have to do all seven of these to be an attached parent and you can do all seven of them and not be an attached parent. The seven B’s are a toolbox that can make attachment parenting easier. It is easier to use a drill than a screwdriver in many instances, but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible to do the same job with a screwdriver or that it isn’t preferable in some circumstances, but it probably will require more effort and more time.
Here are the 7 tools:
1. Birth bonding
4. Bedding Close to Baby
5. Belief in the Language Value of Your Baby’s Cry
6. Beware of Baby Trainers
I hear so many people say, I don’t babywear so I’m not an attached parent or breastfeeding didn’t work out, so I’m not an attached parent. That is not the way that it works. As explained above, it is the frame of mind and philosophy that you have that is important, not the specific tools that you choose or don’t choose along the way. Diana West, IBCLC has a great article explaining why these are not rules: AP is a Frame of Mind.
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