What Can We Take From Attachment Parenting?
When becoming a parent for the first time, the baffling amount of advice from friends, experts, books, and the internet can be overwhelming; with a new buzzword flying about each year. But much like fashion trends, it’s best to pick the elements that suit you, rather than going for full catwalk extremes.
Despite being originally developed by Dr William Sears in the 1980s, the latest flavour of the moment is Attachment Parenting. But what exactly is it, and how can it be utilised by parents?
The foundation for ‘Attachment Parenting’ is the 7 B’s:
1. Birth Bonding. Educate yourself, and take an active role in the birth you want.
2. Belief in Understanding Baby’s Cries. Listen to your baby. Try things, and you will refine your intuitive understanding of baby’s signals and needs.
3. Breastfeeding. Breast is best, for as long as possible
4. Baby-wearing (carrying baby in a sling or carrier). ‘Carried babies fuss less and spend more time in a state of quiet alertness’
5. Bedding close to baby (co-sleeping). Sharing a room, though not necessarily a bed.
6. Balance and boundaries. Take care of yourself. Take a night off. You’ll be a better parent when (at least a few of) your own needs are met.
7. Beware of baby trainers. The multitude of advisors out there won’t necessarily know what will work best for you and your child.
At its most extreme, proponents of Attachment Parenting breastfeed for a number of years rather than just the first few months, co-sleep in family beds with their children, homeschool, and are stay at home parents who devote themselves entirely to their children (aka. Maggie Gyllenhall’s character in ‘Away We Go’, who is horrified of strollers: ‘I love my children: Why would I want to push them away from me?!’)
But this rigid attitude actually goes against other AP beliefs of avoiding strict rules and keeping balance in your life. It also brings the risk of judgement, both toward other parents; and toward oneself, if a bad back prevents baby-wearing; or circumstances make long-term breastfeeding impractical.
Why has Attachment Parenting been criticised?
One of the major concerns is that those who decide to bed-share rather than just having baby’s cot near the bed, are raising the risks of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and suffocation; though there are guidelines for the best co-sleeping practices which combat this. AP’s suspicion of sleep training can also lead to sleep problems later on if mother and baby fail to fall into a healthy routine. Plus Attachment Parenting sometimes causes parents to ‘baby’ their children as they grow; rather than encouraging independence.
But the main criticisms often stem from the views of individual Attachment Parenting advocates, who can be highly judgemental of other parents (accusing them of neglect), and critical of childhood vaccinations; and whose more extreme views claim that Attachment Parenting prevents ADHD and criminal behaviour (suggesting that other parenting styles can cause it).
What are the best features of Attachment Parenting?
An important feature that is all too often overshadowed; is the promotion of Balance, and Intuition: Feel free to try things out, listen to advice and read baby books; but you don’t have to stick rigidly to one thing. If it doesn’t suit, don’t worry, and certainly don’t blame yourself.
Breastfeeding and skin-on-skin contact (which ties into babywearing) are common recommendations; but the precise methods you use or term you continue for is something that only you will be able to decide, with the guidance of professionals.
Even if you choose not to apply all the guidelines of AP, there are still interesting options for how you can relate to your child, and which approaches to discipline will work. Attachment isn’t allowing children to rule, and letting them do whatever they want; instead, it attempts to use positive reinforcement to teach good behaviour. So though you might approach discipline or sleep differently, there is still space to try to view the situation from your child’s point of view, while not necessarily practising ‘baby-led’ parenting.