William Sears was the pediatrician who is known for recommending attachment parenting for babies and kids in general, but this kind of parenting has been around forever! Often referred to as Natural or Instinctive Parenting, most indigenous cultures raise their babies this way.
To put it simple, it is all about staying close as much as possible.
Babies need attachment to develop into normal healthy children. Heartbreaking studies done in orphanages in war-torn countries have shown the terrible effects of babies who have not had a significant adult to cuddle and make eye contact and connect with them.
There is a lot more to raising a baby than just feeding and changing a diaper.
Most would agree that bonding with mom is incredibly important. Dad’s role has not been researched as deeply until in recent years.
How Does It Work?
Attachment Parenting works on the basis that babies need constant physical contact; preferably skin to skin with very young or premature babies. Babies who have been raised this way are calmer, happier, and it is believed grow up to be more sensitive and empathetic as adults. Families that raise their children using many of the ideals, report far less conflict in the family and more co-operative behavior.
When you think about it, your little baby has been tucked up inside Mom’s tummy for nine months, listening to her heartbeat, hearing her tummy gurgles, talking, Dad’s voice, music, etc. Then out she pops which in itself can be a bit traumatic – and is suddenly expected to be perfectly happy on her own with just feeding and cuddling every few hours. Wouldn’t you miss the safety and comfort?
So the idea behind attachment parenting is that as much as possible the parents re-create the close body contact for baby. In Australia and several other countries, many hospitals are now using kangaroo care for premature babies – so Mom or Dad tuck baby under their t-shirt on their skin. Baby can still be monitored but in most cases, these babies do far better than babies stuck in a humi-crib on their own. Babies cared for in this way maintain body temperature better, and have fewer infections, and gain body weight quicker.
An effective way to keep your baby close is to use a baby sling or carrier. That does not mean skin contact, but certainly a lot more mom or dad contact than if placed in a cot or baby bouncer.
Trust Your Instincts
Many of the problems I see with young Moms and Dads, is often caused because they are not trusting in themselves and tuning into their baby. Well-meaning parents and friends bombard new parents with advice and questions – the most common being, is your baby sleeping through the night yet? Babies are not designed to sleep through the night! Their little tummies need topping up, they need cuddles and comfort to build a secure base to grow from.
The First Five Years
My experience with many many babies and children has shown that babies who thrive and are happy and contented, are most often with parents that are very connected and chilled out. They are often choosing to put their baby first, rather than expecting baby to just fit in. Of course, pretty much all parents love their children and want them to thrive and grow to be successful happy adults. But many parents totally underestimate the importance of the early years.
The first 5 years of a child’s life have more impact than any other stage. If you can gently tell well-meaning friends to keep their advice to themselves and tune in to your little one, I guarantee you will have a happier more settled baby. Relaxing and learning to trust your own instincts is really important.
Every family has to find what works for you, and for some parents, it is too hard to do the 24-hour total body contact. However, as a general guide, the younger the baby, the more close contact they need. Every baby is different and has different needs so being tuned in to your baby will make it easier all around.
In the first few weeks, it is easier for Mom or Dad, or maybe Grandma to be cuddling baby all the time. Once Dad goes back to work it may be a bit harder for Mom to manage, but mostly babies are more settled in a sling anyway, so you can still get on and do chores etc with your little one tucked up in a baby wrap or sling.
Many parents are wary of co-sleeping with their infants but you can pop them up at the head of the bed with a pillow barrier and could sleep with a hand resting on baby ready to do a little comfort pat when necessary. There are special 3 sided cribs that connect to the bed, so Baby is very close but in her own section. If you are not happy having your baby in bed then for the first few months maybe have her close by the bed so she can feel your presence.
Our western ideas that we sleep apart and alone, and putting babies in cots is a fairly recent notion. It wasn’t all that long ago that whole families slept in the same bed! Babies were carried by older siblings or elderly parents lived in the same house so there was always an extra pair of arms to cuddle baby. Our way of life now, means Mom and Dad are often the only caregivers for a new baby.
Find Your Own Ways
The degree to which you use attachment parenting has to work for your family, but I would highly recommend you find out more about it, and follow the ideas as much as is practical. If you are a working Mom, you will need to find ways to maximize close contact with your little one when you are together. Many working parents hire a nanny who is happy to be a baby wearer! The key is being flexible and going with the flow. If you are caught up in “shoulds” and “ought tos” you are going to make life more stressful for both you and your little one.