New parents are always receiving advice, some of it is valuable and some of it is completely out there. Sometimes we need it, but sometimes it is unsolicited. With all the advice, suggestions and methods of parenting, it might be confusing for a new parent to decide what kind of relationship they want with their child. When I was pregnant with my first, I went looking for some baby books in the library. Mainly, I wanted to be prepared for the unknown world of having a newborn, but I did find a book that really shaped and influenced my parenting views; The Baby Book, by Dr. William Sears and Martha Sears. They advocate a relational parenting style called attachment parenting.
Attachment parenting or AP is an instinctual, almost primitive style of parenting. Parents form a bond with the baby early on and develop that bond throughout the child’s life. AP goes against the “baby trainers” that teach you to put your baby on a feeding and sleeping schedule and let them cry and learn to soothe themselves. I happened to like this view and when my husband and I put it into practice with our own baby, I found that the attachment parenting style felt right and natural with us. For those of you who have never heard of AP, here are the details, called the 7 Baby B’s:
- Birth bonding – This includes holding and breastfeeding your baby immediately or a soon as possible after birth. It also includes having your baby room in with you while at the hospital. I know this isn’t always possible for everyone. In fact, both of my boys spent time in the NICU after birth and we didn’t get the immediate birth bonding, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still do AP. I didn’t get to hold my firstborn until he was over 12 hours old. And held my second one for about 30 seconds, before they whisked him away to the NICU. My first born spent 2 days in the NICU and then roomed in with us until we left the hospital. My second spent 8 days in the NICU and when he left the NICU, I was already at home. But birth bonding is not a now or never thing, and as soon as I could, I spent plenty of time holding and bonding with my boys.
- Breastfeeding allows you to get that close bond with baby. Not only does breastfeeding provide nutrition for babies, but it is also a source of comfort for the baby. Breast milk has brain-building nutrients that cannot be found in any formulas that you can buy. Mom also learns to read her baby’s cues through breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is also beneficial to moms. It promotes the production of prolactin and oxytocin, hormones that help moms feel more nurturing.
- Baby wearing – By wearing your baby in a carrier, sling or wrap, you are promoting closeness with your baby. Babies feel safe and calmer when they are carried. I carried my older son in a carrier around the house all the time. He did not like to be by himself, so that is the only way I could get stuff done. When he got too heavy for the front carrier, I switched to a backpack type carrier.
- Bedding close to baby – Babies crave touch even when they are sleeping. Most babies cannot make it through the night without breastfeeding or taking a bottle, and I have found that co-sleeping or sleep sharing is the best for my family. It allows me to get the most rest and allows my baby to sleep well through the night without even fully wakening. Bedding close to baby allows babies to learn that sleep is a good and pleasant thing, instead of something to fear. If you do decide to co-sleep with your baby, make sure you follow the safe guidelines for co-sleeping.
- Belief in the language value of baby’s cry – Babies cry to communicate their needs. When the parent responds to the baby’s cry and answers that need, the baby learns trust. Babies don’t cry to manipulate parents. I could never let my baby “cry it out”. It just went against my nature to ignore my child’s cries.
- Beware of baby trainers – AP sometimes contradicts some of the parenting advice you may get from friends, parenting websites or books. Beware of advice that keeps you on a schedule or the “cry it out” type. Remember that sometimes babies’ needs are not exactly the same from day to day. They may need to nurse an extra time or two when they are feeling anxious or teething or for some other unknown reason. Remember to trust your relationship with your baby and your own instincts.
- Balance – AP can be very time-consuming and self-sacrificing style of parenting. When practicing this approach to parenting, it is also important to remember to take time for your self and your relationship with your spouse. Make sure that you do what works for your family. That may mean that you practice all of these aspects of AP or only some. Because I am a SAHM, I am able to follow these without much adapting, but for moms that work outside the home, you may not be able to do all of these things.
Attachment parenting promotes the relationship between mother and baby that continues as the child grows. AP tends to make discipline easier as the child gets older. Children that benefit from AP usually feel more secure, have confidence in themselves, are less likely to be involved in deviant behaviors and are smarter. “Many studies now show that the most powerful enhancers of brain development are: the quality of the parent-infant attachment (such as skin-to-skin contact) and; the response of the care giving environment to the infant’s cues” (Dr. William Sears)
A little bit more on co-sleeping or sleep-sharing – The benefits:
- Babies sleep better – When babies pass from deep sleep into light sleep they are vulnerable to waking. This can occur as often as every hour. Babies have a hard time resettling on their own, so when mom is close by this allows them to fall back to sleep more easily.
- Mothers sleep better – Most of the time mothers are able to get more sleep when baby sleeps with them. If baby is asleep in another room and wakes up at night, mom has to wake up (disrupting their sleep cycle) and go to baby. It can be hard for mom to go back to sleep. When this happens a couple of times during the night, the mom is not getting enough sleep. When baby sleeps near mom, she can settle baby back to sleep without fully waking.
- Makes breastfeeding easier – Baby can breastfeed without even fully waking.
- More connected between baby and parents – Baby and parents spend more time connected to each other and the hormones that are released when nursing at night help mom relax and unwind from the busy day.
- Babies thrive better – The extra touch and extra feedings during the night allow babies that sleep-share to fulfill their potential.
- Can reduce the risk of SIDS– Studies have shown that correctly practiced sleep-sharing can reduce the risk of SIDS.