I reference Attachment Parenting (AP) a lot in my posts. I’ve written about some of the myths of AP, but I’ve never written about some of the basics of AP. I typically assume that most people are familiar with the characteristics that make up AP, but after hearing from a few of you, I realize this is not always true. So after being asked several times about the practices that generally make up Attachment Parenting, I decided I would write out a simple guide to the basic tenets of AP. We practice all of these in our household, as well as many Natural Family Living techniques. I’m not writing this post to tell you how to parent your own children, only to create a comprehensive list for those of our readers to whom this may help.
The Seven Bs of Attachment Parenting:
1.) Birth Bonding: Attachment Parenting begins at birth. However, if something keeps you from immediately snuggling your new baby skin-to-skin and beginning your breastfeeding bond, don’t worry. Birth bonding happens over time. While the period after birth is very important, with skin-to-skin contact creating an instant bond for both of you, you can practice skin-to-skin anytime. It is beneficial anytime, not just immediately after birth. If you have a c-section, just make sure you snuggle your baby and initiate breastfeeding as soon as you are able. Keep your baby in your room if you have a hospital birth, rather than sending him or her to the nursery to be cared for by the nurses, so that you can have as much time as possible with your new little one.
2.) Breastfeeding: Breastfeeding is a great way to continue the bonding process. Snuggling your baby close and making eye contact encourage bonding. When you breastfeed, your body releases the hormones prolactin and oxytocin, which promote bonding and make you feel more attached to your baby (and your baby is more attached to you). These hormones encourage a natural chemistry between mama and her new baby, which helps fight off postpartum depression. (Of course, if you have ANY signs of PPD, contact your doctor immediately. PPD is a serious medical condition that is quite common for new mothers, and if you feel like you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it.) Of course, breastmilk also has the perfect nutrients to meet your baby’s needs.
3.) Babywearing: This essential aspect of AP is such a practical one. Babywearing not only allows you to have your arms free so you can accomplish tasks, it keeps your baby close. You can kiss him, snuggle her, and nurse all while babywearing. Your baby remains in a quiet, alert state, taking in the world around him. Babies are able to be up high where they can see what is going on, which allows them to learn new things about their environment. They actually even build muscle when babywearing, since being in the upright position mimics tummy-time, but in a way that is much more enjoyable for most babies. Best of all, babywearing promotes a bond by keeping your baby close to you as much of the time as possible.
4.) Bedding Close to Baby: While bedsharing is what works best for our family, it doesn’t work best for all families. Whether you are simply uncomfortable with bedsharing or you like to have your own space, you can still practice this B without bedsharing. Co-sleeping is the act of bedding near baby. This means you can have baby in a co-sleeper next to your bed, a crib side-carred next to your mattress (a crib with one side removed and pushed snugly against your bed) or as your baby grows, on a mattress next to yours. Either way, bedding near baby is so important for attachment parenting. Nighttime is a scary place for babies. Being near mama in the dark not only makes for easy nursing, especially in the early months when nighttime nutrition is still so important, but it allows baby to know that mama is nearby and there is nothing to fear. This allows for baby to learn that he or she can be secure in his/her attachment to you.
5.) Belief in Baby’s Cry: I know we’ve written about our views on the Cry It Out method before, and many disagree with us. However, one of the key foundation point of Attachment Parenting is believing that babies cry for a reason. The only way a baby can communicate with his or her world is by crying when he or she is upset, disturbed, scared, uncomfortable, and so forth. Your response to your baby’s cry builds trust in your baby that his or her needs will be met, which over time, will build his/her security as a little human but also his/her relationship with you. Learning your baby’s different cries and responding appropriately in the first year will not spoil a baby, as so many love to claim, but help him or her to become a secure, attached individual who will be confident enough to handle his/her emotions later on in life. “Babies cry to communicate, not manipulate.” (This is a common AP saying.)
6.) Beware of Baby-Trainers: This is simply cautioning AP parents against the advice of the crown that wants to “train” or “schedule” babies. Having a rhythm to life is one thing, but setting a strict schedule is another. When you try to adhere to a strict schedule, such as only feeding your baby every so many hours when he or she is still tiny, you create distance between you and your baby. This may seem like a convenient idea right now, but it isn’t what is best for your baby in the long run.
7.) Balance: This last “B” in Attachment Parenting is so important. You need to know when to make sure that you as a parent are getting what you need. If you are neglecting yourself, you won’t be able to parent your child/children the way you want. Attachment Parenting is all about balance. Make sure you are taking time for yourself and the other relationships in your life that help refresh you.
Attachment Parenting is all about learning to read your child’s cues. As I’ve mentioned before, responding to your child’s cues, especially as a young infant, builds his or her confidence and trust. When children are fully attached to their parents and fully secure in their relationships with them, they are able to be independent when the time is right. This will vary from child to child, but trust me, it’s well worth the extra effort.
One last point I want to make is that these seven Bs are not a set of rules, but a basic guideline. You can follow them all and build upon them, if that is what suits your family best, or you can choose which works for your family’s unique situation. Practicing a few of the Attachment Parenting Bs would be better than practicing none at all. Most importantly, AP is learning to follow your instincts when parenting. My instincts are probably not exactly the same as yours, and what works for my family may not work best for your family. Learning to follow your parenting instincts will help you to develop the parenting style that best suits your individual family’s needs.