All about attachment parenting

April 16, 2012, 12:25 pm Jan Murray, child-health consultant Practical Parenting

Forming a strong bond with bub from the get-go, responding to cues and cuddling up is what attachment parenting is all about. Intrigued? Keep reading…

All about attachment parenting

With a healthy bond between parent and child during the early years able to pave the way to a connected relationship later on, practising ‘attachment parenting’ with your sweetheart makes for a great beginning.

Attachment parenting involves being aware of and open to your bub’s requests and responding in a sensitive manner. Since all parents respond to the needs of their children in slightly different ways, it’s hard to offer a ‘textbook approach’ to this parenting style. At its core, though, attachment parenting focuses on the language of infant communication, which includes eye contact, skin-to-skin contact and playful interaction. It also has a general focus on…

* Infant cues. These are primitive cues exchanged between every mum and bub. You’ll both become instinctively aware of each other’s unique moves and noises. Awareness of and responses to cues are refined when external disturbances are kept to a minimum.

* Breastfeeding. When it’s possible, breastfeeding will satisfy your bub’s nutritional, immunological and emotional needs better than any other method of feeding. Life’s often frantic pace slows, skin-to-skin contact calms and eye contact strengthens your connection with every feed. Bub’s crying may also be decreased when you’re alert and responsive to his need for feeds before they’re demanded.

* Baby-wearing. Wearing your baby (particularly if he was born prematurely) in a sling or pouch meets his need for contact, affection, security, stimulation and movement. Wearing your bubba encourages neurological development too, but keep in mind that continually carrying your angel isn’t always practical or necessary and that it will also reduce the amount of time he spends on floor-time activities that facilitate physical freedom and gross motor development.

* Spending time playing together. Play needs to involve all five senses – sound, taste, touch, smell and sight. It’s important to understand bub’s emotions, intellectual ability and language development when playing. Interacting and communicating in appropriate playtime activities will encourage creative play and build connections that inspire your baby to learn.

* Sharing sleep. Sleep is vital and there’s no hard and fast rule for how you should get it, as long as both you and bub do! The more secure a baby feels, the better he’ll sleep and the happier everyone will be. Secure sleep requires a calm, age-appropriate bedtime routine and a safe and comfortable sleep environment. This may mean the parental bed for some bubs – if so, you should follow the recommended SIDS guidelines for co-sleeping such as using a firm mattress and not having bub share a bed with an adult who’s under the influence of drugs or alcohol, who’s obese, or who smokes.

* Following instincts. Attachment parenting requires parents to be empathetic, patient, good listeners, sensitive, strong and empowering. You need to see the world through your bub’s eyes and to have faith and confidence in your ability to be an aware and emotionally responsive parent. Listen to your instincts!

That loving feeling

At its core, attachment parenting is about creating a strong bond and a loving relationship so that bubba feels safe and you’re tuned in to what makes him feel heard and supported to grow.

Starting out with a connected relationship is said to be the foundation for forming healthy relationships later on in life, with respected US paediatric experts Dr William Sears and Martha Sears noting that “how we become who we are is rooted in the parent-child connection in the first few years of life.”

Other research has shown that forming close attachments with people rather than things early on also builds our ability to feel close to other people.

There are fantastic benefits for you when it comes to attachment as well. Attached mums and dads tend to feel connected and have a deep understanding and heartfelt reassurance that they know what their little ones need. And, as well as being fundamental in building a strong and secure relationship, knowing what promotes desirable and undesirable behaviour in bub is a very valuable parenting tool.

A little trust
When parents are open, available, predictable and consistent, bubs begin to develop a sense of trust.

Developing trust during the early years is the beginning of a child’s self-worth, self-confidence and self-esteem. Without trust, babies learn to turn away from the very people they need and love the most in life, making it crucial to work on these qualities early.

Built on a foundation of love and trust, secure mother-baby attachments allow the child to carry the mental image of Mum in his mind forever, giving him the confidence to explore the world independently as he grows.

While all little ones will let go of the apron strings and explore independently at different stages of development, they do adjust their degree of independence according to encouragement and feedback from Mum and Dad. As he grows up, then, be careful about holding onto him too tight for too long (as well as pushing him away before he’s really ready to loosen his grip). Both can have an effect on your littlie’s emotional development. You’ll always remain attached to your sweetie to some degree, though – we parents wouldn’t be parents if we didn’t!

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  1. ms03:01pm Wednesday 29th August 2012 ESTReport Abuse

    Isn't this just "parenting" with an emphasis on co-sleeping and breastfededing? Attachment parenting doesn't have a monopoly on bonding!

  2. 09:59am Tuesday 17th April 2012 ESTReport Abuse

    As a child psychologist and a mom, I must point out that the title attachment parenting is misleading. Attachment parenting is not the only theory of parenting which results in children developing a secure attachment with their parents or caregivers. Many other theories of parenting result in secure attachment relationships. The only reason attachment parenting is given this title is because it was based on the principles in attachment theory. There are multiple other theories available as well that are just as effective in developing well adjusted, loved, and happy children. I recently addressed some of the critiques of attachment parenting here if you are interested:


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