Birth bonding should be considered a head start rather than an essential element in the parent/child relationship. Because it does have a number of benefits, however, we should seek to encourage birth bonding as much as possible. This can be achieved through gentle birth choices and through an immediate postpartum opportunity to bond that takes advantage of the infant's "sensitive period" of quiet alertness.
This immediate bonding does not always happen, however. Extenuating circumstances may temporarily prohibit such an opportunity, in which case bonding should begin or resume as soon as circumstances allow. It is also within the range of normal for a parent to not feel an immediate attachment to the child, in which case actions that encourage bonding should be continued as the relationship slowly develops.
Birth bonding allows the natural attachment-promoting behaviors of the infant to join with the intuitive caregiving qualities of the parent. It allows the parent and child to get off to the right start at a time when the pair is most primed for such an attachment. Ultimately, however, we must remain mindful that early bonding with a newborn is only one factor in the complex relationship between parent and child.
Michelle at The Parent Vortex shared her post titled "Why Prepare for a Natural Childbirth?".
Breastfeeding is the most normative way of feeding a baby. It has numerous physical, emotional, and relational benefits for both the mother and child. It is a mother's first foray into learning to read, trust, and respond to her child's cues. As the mother and child learn to communicate through the giving and receiving of these cues, a strong connection grows between them. This connection and its resulting mutual trust and sensitivity will form the basis of the parent/child relationship and become the foundation upon which future discipline will rely.
It is important that the breastfeeding relationship get off to a good start. This can be accomplished through education, preparation, gentle birth choices, immediate postpartum bonding, and frequent nursing sessions. The baby should be fed on cue to ensure the mother builds a sufficient and well-established milk supply. Persevering through any early breastfeeding pain and difficulties will more often than not be rewarded with a long and satisfying breastfeeding relationship. Breastmilk should be the primary source of nutrition throughout the baby's first year, with any introduction of solids being considered play and exploration for the child. For the sake of the breastfeeding relationship, nursing manners should not be ignored.
Extended breastfeeding provides a growing toddler and young child with security and reassurance, allowing the child to grow into an emotionally secure, empathetic, and independent individual. While a child-led approach to weaning is ideal, many mothers choose to initiate weaning before the child is fully ready. This mother-led weaning should be gradual, gentle, and flexible. A good beginning may be partial weaning, in which some feedings are eliminated in order to allow the breastfeeding relationship as a whole to continue.
When direct breastfeeding is not an option, alternative feeding methods can be explored which support the attachment-related benefits of breastfeeding. These methods will depend on the particular circumstances, but may include the use of bottle alternatives, breastmilk alternatives, and/or bottle-nursing. Skin-to-skin contact is important in all cases. Regardless of the feeding method chosen, a mother must become adept at reading, trusting, and responding to her child's cues.
Michelle shared her review of Kellymom. Annie at PhD in Parenting shared her video about how covering up is a feminist issue.
Babywearing is the most natural way to keep your baby close while tending to the demands of daily life. It provides numerous physical, emotional, intellectual, relational, and practical benefits for both parent and child. It regulates the infant, provides emotional security, encourages learning, enhances parent/child communication, and brings with it many conveniences.
There are several styles of baby carriers, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Both use and comfort should be considered when purchasing a carrier.
When babywearing is not an option, the parent should place particular emphasis on physical closeness, verbal interaction, and eye contact. This will provide the baby with many of the benefits that would otherwise be gained through babywearing, including system regulation, brain development, language skills, responsiveness, and bonding. Ultimately, communication and connection must be encouraged in whatever form best suits the needs of the parent and child.
Candace shared her babywearing website Barefoot Buttercup. Genevieve at Uniquely Normal Mom described her different carriers in Yes! I do wear my baby!. Michelle shared her journey in babywearing as well.
Bedding close to baby
Sleeping with your baby during the night and carrying him throughout the day is the most natural way to meets the baby's physiological and psychological needs. It allows the parent to respond quickly to the baby's cues with minimal disruption to sleep.
Co-sleeping encourages frequent breastfeeding. It has numerous physiological benefits, including the regulation of infant breathing, heart rate, body temperature, and sleep patterns and a reduced risk of SIDS. It increases the ability of the parent to hear and intervene if the child is in distress. Both parent and child experience fewer sleep disruptions when co-sleeping. Co-sleeping has psychological benefits as well, allowing the parent to better meet the child's emotional and nighttime needs, resulting in the trust and security a child needs to grow into a confident independence. It promotes attachment between parent and child and allow reconnection for the working parent.
Despite warnings against placing a baby in an adult bed, statistics reveal that when common-sense safety guidelines are followed, co-sleeping is safer than placing a child to sleep in a crib in a separate room.
Nighttime sleep arrangements should remain flexible in order to meet the changing needs of both parent and child. Necessary transitions should be undertaken in a gentle and responsive manner. A gradual approach is often a good first step when moving a child out of the adult bed.
If parents are unable or unwilling to bed-share, they may wish to consider other forms of co-sleeping such as side-carring or room-sharing. If they do choose a solitary sleep arrangement for their baby, it remains important that they be available to meet the nighttime needs of their baby. Parents can emphasize a high-touch relationship with their baby during the day in order to make up for the decreased amount of touch a baby receives when sleeping alone.
Parents should be assured that choosing to welcome your baby into your bed is not spoiling him or allowing him to manipulate you. Rather, co-sleeping is the normative practice worldwide and throughout history, biologically intended for the baby's safety and security. Regardless of the chosen sleep arrangements, being aware of and responsive to the child's nighttime needs will help to promote connection and attachment between parent and child.
Young Mom at Permission to Live shared her guest post on sleep solutions.
Belief in the language value of your baby's cry
Belief in the language value of your baby's cry reflects an awareness that babies cry to communicate, not manipulate. As the parent promptly and calmly responds to the baby's cries, the baby learns to trust that his needs will be met while the parent learns to trust in their ability to meet those needs. This is the beginning of parent/child communication.
A mother is biologically designed to respond to her baby's cries. When a parent fails to sensitively respond to those cries, parent/child communication is inhibited. The baby experiences significant psychological and physiological distress, which can have lasting implications on the child's life. When the parent responds to the baby's cries without judgment, displeasure, or invalidation of his needs, yet showing no undue concern or anxiety, the child is able to grow into a secure and compassionate adult capable of forming healthy relationships.
While the parent cannot always stop the baby from crying, they can acknowledge the baby's cries and attempt to sooth, distract, or direct the expression of those emotions. If the parent is feeling overwhelmed by the baby's cries, leaving the baby to cry alone for a few minutes while the parent regroups is always preferable to staying and reaching the point of causing harm to the baby. A strong support system is invaluable in providing both encouragement and practical help.
You can spoil a child by giving him everything he wants, and you can spoil a child by ignoring him, but you cannot spoil a child by responding to his cries. Understanding the language value of a baby's cry is imperative in developing healthy parent/child communication and a strong, lasting attachment.
Chalise at Memphis Misfit Mama alerted us to her Why I'm Not Babywise Series. Michelle shared her thoughts on crying and attachment parenting.
Beware of baby trainers
Attachment parenting warns parents to be wary of baby-training advice that recommends adopting a rigid schedule-based style of parenting or changing a baby's behaviour for convenience purposes. This advise undermines the parent's own expertise in regards to their child, discouraging the parent from trusting their instincts or their baby's cues.
These one-size-fits-all rules fail to take into account the baby's feelings and individual needs. They are a threat to breastfeeding, leading to failure to thrive when taken to the extreme. The parent learns to watch the clock, missing opportunities to learn and respond to their baby's cues. Parents are often encouraged to leave their children to cry in order to establish the desired sleep patterns, despite the dangers associated with excessive crying. A hands-off style of parenting is often encouraged to the detriment of the child and the parent/child bond. Because the parent loses the ability to trust their intuition and the baby's cues, they become susceptible to taking the advice to a dangerous extreme.
When listening to or reading baby-training advice, the discerning parent will watch for red flags, such as advice that discourages them from comforting a crying baby, feeding a hungry baby, or keeping their baby close. When implementing a baby-training method, it becomes even more important to watch the baby closely both for cues that indicate an individual need as well as signs of physical danger such as slow weight gain or dehydration. Whatever the advice, the parent should always trust their instincts. When change is needed, gentler alternatives should be explored before harsh baby-training methods. For parents who have followed the advice of baby trainers at the expense of their instincts, expertise, and trust in their child's cues, it is important that the parent/child pair reestablish connection going forward.
Babyhood lasts only a short time, but the ramifications of this stage last a lifetime. Long-term health and attachment should not be exchanged for short-term convenience. Rather than undermining the parent's expertise and intuition, attachment parenting encourages the parent to know their individual child and respond to their child's cues, leading to confident parents and emotionally-secure children.
Rosemary Jones at Rosmarinus Officinalis shared her post on crying it out. Theresa at Confessions of a High-heel Wearing Hippie Mommy described her concerns with baby trainers. JoAnna at Pink Riot shared her thoughts on sleep training.
In order for attachment parenting to be sustainable in the long-term, there must be balance. This balance must be present with the child (attentiveness without indulgence), with the spouse (meeting the needs of the marriage without neglecting the needs of the child), and within the parent (meeting the needs of the individual). Failing to validate and meet, as far as possible, the needs of all members of the family will quickly lead to resentment, exhaustion, and burnout.
Imbalances may occur due to an over-focus on one area to the detriment of others, a lack of support, or a natural change in circumstances that necessitates finding a new balance. This new balance can be achieved by changing what needs to be changed in a way that continues to meet the child's needs, asking for help from others, breaking unhealthy cycles by meeting the child's needs first, and reevaluating and prioritizing.
The varying stages of childhood and the ever-shifting nature of family dynamics will create a regular cycle of balance and imbalance. It is important that a period of imbalance be quickly recognized and resolved in order to regain equilibrium. The parent's instincts and the child's needs should never be sacrificed in the name of forced attachment parenting ideals or expectations.
Michelle shared her post on balance, which she describes as the most important - and most often overlooked - attachment parenting principle.
Working through the Seven Baby B's in the Attachment Parenting Series proved to be immensely beneficial in my own life. I appreciated the opportunity to really examine and solidify my thoughts on each topic, as well as the renewed focus it gave me in my own parenting. I plan to continue the Attachment Parenting Series, taking a look at various other aspects of Attachment Parenting beyond the Baby B's. I will be posting a new installment every other week. The current lineup includes:
- Attachment Parenting: A father's role
- Attachment Parenting: A Christian perspective
- Attachment Parenting: Beyond the baby years
I look forward to continuing this series and hearing your thoughts on the various issues!
Is there a particular aspect of Attachment Parenting that you'd like to see explored in the series? Let me know in the comments and I'll be sure to include it!