Do you question your parenting technique? Worry that you're being too strict with your children? Concerned that you're not strict enough and creating a spoiled monster? Do you need tips on slinging? Wondering how to make the transition from family bed to separate rooms respectfully? You've come to the right place! In the article, experts Katie Allison Granju and Betsy Babb Kennedy, RN, MSN, detail the general philosophy of AP.

Katie Allison Granju and Betsy Babb Kennedy, RN, MSN

 

You are the expert!

Attachment parenting (AP) is a highly adaptable nurturing style being adopted by modern families who are interested in growing a secure and healthy bond of trust and physical closeness with their children. Popularized by best-selling pediatrician and father of eight, Dr William Sears, attachment parenting embraces gentle, commonsensical, cross-cultural, and time-tested parenting practices. The attachment parenting philosophy is that you yourself -- in partnership with your child -- are the real "parenting experts" when it comes to your own family. While you will likely find that AP practices are in many ways quite different from much of the childcare guidance you may have read or heard previously, you will also discover that they are increasingly supported by a growing body of solid scientific research, as well as by recommendations from specialists in a wide variety of disciplines related to family life.

Although the precise way in which they are implemented can vary from family to family, the following concepts provide a brief introduction to the core nurturing tools for attachment parents

Bonding
Bond with your baby in the early days: The first hours and days that parents and baby spend together constitute a unique "sensitive period" during which both are exceptionally open to falling in love with one another. A gentle birth, followed by close, relaxed physical contact with your new baby provides the best context in which to get attachment parenting off to a great start.

Breastfeeding
Breastfeed your baby: Breastfeeding is a centerpiece of the attachment parenting style. For starters, it's one of the most important things you can do as a parent to safeguard your child's health. But breastfeeding is about much more than nutrition. In fact, the nursing relationship is like no other in the human experience. For both baby and mother, breastfeeding enhances their interaction with and enjoyment of one another. Attachment parenting encourages "cue-feeding" (sometimes called "breastfeeding on demand"), as opposed to parent-directed scheduled feeding. With cue-feeding, parents trust babies themselves to know when and how much they need to nurse. In addition, many attachment parents breastfeed far past the first year and respect their nursling's own unique timetable for weaning.

Responsiveness
Practice responsive caregiving: Parents who are in close physical contact with their babies and young children and who remain open to their cues find that they are better able to figure out the "how" of parenting. On the other hand, parents who have been convinced that they should let their babies "cry- it-out" or only nurse for nourishment (as opposed to comfort) often feel out of sync with their young children. When you allow yourself to get to know your own baby's special cues and routines you will feel more connected and comfortable with him. While it's true that this process of getting in tune with your child comes more easily for some parents than for others, consistently responsive caregiving eases the way for every parent-child pair.

Family bed
Sleep with or very near your baby or young child: Although "family bedding" is the cultural norm over much of the planet, it has misguidedly become something of a taboo in modern, western parenthood. However, parents who sleep with their babies and young children nestled nearby enjoy both restful nights and enhanced family closeness. Additionally, properly prepared family bedding is safer for babies than being left alone in a crib down the hall.

Wear your baby
Carry, hold or "wear" your baby: In many cultures all over the world, parents believe that it is beneficial to keep their little ones safe and healthy by carrying them close to their own body in some type of soft, cloth carrier. Of course, many other mammals also carry their "velcro" babies' close to the warmth of their bodies until their offspring are ready to venture forth on their own. Attachment parents utilize one or more of the various types of modern baby carriers--such as a cloth sling, frontpack or backpack-- in order to "wear" their children. This allows busy parents more freedom to get things done while still offering their little ones the physical closeness that they need. Research has confirmed that carried babies cry less and are more content than others.

Respectfulness
Respect your child as an individual right from the start: Although many parents today push their babies and very young children to become "independent" as quickly as possible, attachment parents respect each child's own special timetable for growing out of their early (and healthy) dependency needs. Children who are allowed to enter each new developmental stage as they become ready, as opposed to when parents deem it "time" to (choose one)wean, sleep through the night, or stay alone without parents, are ultimately more self-confident and independent as older children and adults. You can't force a flower to bloom before it's ready. Trying to do so will only damage the petals.

Initially, this parenting style may sound tiring or even overwhelming. The idea of spending so much time simply being with our children--in our arms, at our breasts, and in our beds--may seem daunting. This is because most of us come to parenthood steeped in the sterile, detached, hands-off, put-the-baby- down-with-a-propped-bottle parenting culture with which we were raised. But babies and young children thrive better -- and develop into healthier adults -- with the attachment parenting style.

 

The whole picture
Perhaps the most important thing to remember about attachment parenting is that it is more than the sum of its parts. It isn't just a simple list of parenting tools. Some women who breastfeed do not practice attachment parenting, while many parents who have never used a baby sling do.

Attachment parenting is a way of thinking about your child and your relationship with her. It is a belief that your child is to be trusted that she knows what she needs at each developmental stage. It is a willingness to be truly physically and emotionally present for your child. And it is a respect for the value of your role as her parent and for the sensitive bond that you share with her.

Experienced attachment parents who have seen their children through early childhood and beyond describe this gentle nurturing style as a truly fulfilling way of life.PregnancyAndBaby.com


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