Getting Attached: What It Means - Part One
This article is about attachment parenting and covers such topics as: Parenting Your Baby, The Seven Baby B's of Attachment Parenting, Birth Bonding -- Connect with Your Baby Early, Belief in Your baby's Cries -- Read and Respond to Your Baby's Cues, Breastfeed Your Baby, Baby wearing -- Carry Your Baby a Lot, Bedding Close to Baby, Balance and Boundaries, Beware of Baby Trainers, Attachment Parenting Includes Fathers. There will be two more parts to follow on this article so keep an eye out for them.
Some believe that the best way to achieve the proper fit between parents and child is to practice a parenting style called attachment parenting. This style is a way of caring that brings out the best in parents and their babies. It is, in fact, only recently that this style of parenting has needed a name at all, for it is basically the commonsense parenting we all would do if left to our own healthy resources.
Parenting Your Baby
A few of the ideas shared here may initially sound strange and different from advice you have heard elsewhere. But please do not close your mind. Enter your parenting career with an open mind, or you may set yourselves up for a lot of frustration. The easy baby you are expecting may not be the baby you get. Stay open to new ideas, and then select what best fits your family. In return be assured that everything discussed here has been well researched.
The Seven Baby B's Of Attachment Parenting
There are three goals that are seen as important for beginning parents:
* to know your child
The style of parenting discussed here helps you achieve these goals. Here are the seven concepts that make up attachment parenting.
1. Birth Bonding -- Connect with Your Baby Early
The way baby and parents get started with one another often sets the tone of how this early attachment unfolds. Take an active role in orchestrating the birth you want. Take responsibility for your birth, educate yourself, and work out a birthing philosophy with your obstetrician or birth attendant. A traumatic birth or an unnecessary surgical birth resulting in the separation of mother and baby is not the ideal way to begin parenting. In this case, part of the energy that would be directed toward getting to know your baby is temporarily diverted toward healing yourself. Feeling good about your baby's birth carries over into feeling good about your baby.
The early weeks and months are a sensitive period when mother and baby need to be together. Early closeness allows the natural attachment-promoting behaviors of a baby and the intuitive, biological care giving of a mother to unfold. Early closeness gets the pair off to the right start at a time when the baby is most needs and the mother is most eager to nurture. Of course the process of falling in love with your baby, feeling attached or bonded, begins long before the day of birth and continues long afterward.
2. Belief in Your Baby's Cries -- Read and Respond to Your Baby's Cues
One of your earliest challenges is to figure out what your baby wants and needs from moment to moment. This can be very frustrating and lead to "I'm not a good parent" attacks.
Relax! Your baby will help you learn to be a good cue reading. Researchers used to believe that babies were only passive players in the caretaking game. Now we know that babies actively shape their parents' responses. Here's how: Babies come wired with attachment-promoting behaviors (APB,s), magnet like behaviors so irresistible they draw the parent to the baby, in language so penetrating it must be heard. Some APBs are hard to miss -- for example, your baby's cries, smiles, and clinging gestures; others are subtle cues, like eye contact and body language. All parents, especially mothers, have a built-in intuitive system with which they listen and respond to the cues of their baby. Like a transmitter-receive network, mother and baby, through practice, fine-tune their communication until the reception is clear. How quickly this communication network develops varies among mother-baby pairs. Some babies give clearer cues; some parents are more intuitive cue readings. But good connections will happen. They will happen more easily if you remember to be open and response. Even an occasional "incorrect" response (for example, offering to feed a baby who wants only to be held) is better than no response, because it encourages your baby to keep working with you.
Pick up your baby when he cries. As simple as this sounds, there are many parents who have been told to let their babies cry it out, for the reason that they must not reward "bad" behavior. But newborns don't misbehave; they just communicate the only way nature allows them to. Imagine how you would feel if you were completely uncoordinated -- unable to do anything for yourself -- and your cries for help went unheeded. A baby whose cries are not answered does not become a "good" baby (though he may become quiet); he does become a discouraged baby. He learns the one thing you don't want him to: that he can't communicate or trust his needs will be met.
It's easy for someone else to advise you to let your baby cry. Unless he or she is a very sensitive person, nothing happens to his or her body chemistry when your baby cries. Let's get a bit technical for a minute. Your baby's cry will bother you; it's supposed to. This is especially true for mothers. If we were to put a mother and baby together in a laboratory and attach blood-flow-measuring instruments to the mother's breasts, here's what would happen: When mother heard her baby cry, the blood flow to her breasts would increase, accompanied by an overwhelming urge to pick up and comfort her baby. Your baby's cry is powerful language designed for the survival and development of the baby and the responsiveness of the parents. Respond to it.
Meeting your baby's needs in the early months means solid communication patterns will develop. With time you can gradually delay your response and gradually your baby will learn to accept waiting a little bit as she learns noncrying language and develops self-help mechanisms. If nothing else, consider responding to your baby's needs an investment in the future; you'll be glad for good communication when she gets older and her problems are bigger than being fed or getting off to sleep.
The Seven Baby B';s of Attachment Parenting
1. birth bonding
3. Breastfeed Your Baby
Fathers often say, "We're going to breastfeed." Breastfeeding is indeed a family affair. The most successful breastfeeding mothers and babies are those that have a supportive husband and father. The benefits of breastfeeding in enhancing baby's health and development are enormous, but what is not fully appreciated are the magnificent effects of breastfeeding on the mother. Here's what's in it for you: Every time your baby feeds, hormones (prolactin and Oxytocin) enter your system. These "mothering hormones" help form the chemical basis for what is called mother's intuition. As you will learn the same hormones that help make milk make mothering easier. And, as you will learn (see my articles on Breastfeeding: Why and How), new studies show that breastfed babies turn out to be smarter children.
4 Baby wearing -- Carry Your Baby a Lot
This is the most exciting parenting concept to his the Western world in years. It has been noted that mothers in other cultures wear their babies in sling like carriers as part of their native dress. Impressed by how content the babies were and how attentive their mothers, were; these mothers were asked why they carried their babies. They volunteered two simple but profound reasons: It's good for the baby, and it makes life easier for the mother. That's it! That's what all parents want: to do something good for their babies and make life easier for themselves.
A baby carrier will be one of your most indispensable infant-care items. You won't want to leave home without it. This is not to say you must carry your baby all the time, but it may mean changing your mind-set about babies. Most people imagine babies lying quietly in their cribs, gazing at dangling mobiles and being pickup only long enough to e fed, changed, played with briefly, and then put down again "where they belong:' that holding periods are just dutiful intervals to calm and cuddle babies so they can be put down again. Baby wearing reverses this view. Young babies are carried, or worn, most of the time by parents or substitute caregivers and put down only when sound asleep or when caregivers must attend to their own needs.
Good things happen to carried babies and their parents. Most noticeably, carried babies cry less, as if they forget to fuss. Besides being happier, carried babies develop better, possibly because the energy they would have wasted on crying is diverted into growth. Also, a baby learns much in the arms of a busy parent. Baby wearing benefits you because it fits in nicely with busy life-styles. It allows you to take your baby with you wherever you go. You don't have to feel house-bound; home to your baby is where you are. (For your personal course on baby wearing and how it does good things for babies and makes life easier for parents, see my articles on "baby wearing: The Art and Science of Carrying Your Baby.")
5. Bedding Close to Baby
Very early in your parenting career you will learn that the only babies who always sleep through the night are in books or belong to other people. Be prepared for some nighttime juggling until you find where baby and you sleep best. Some babies sleep best in their own room, some in the parents' room, and some sleep best snuggled right next to mother. Wherever you and your baby sleep best is the right arrangement for you, and it's a very personal decision. Be open to trying various sleeping arrangement, including welcoming your baby into your bed -- a nighttime parenting style called sharing sleep.
Sharing sleep seems to evoke more controversy than any other feature of attachment parenting, and it's hard to understand why. It's amazing that such a beautiful custom, so natural for ages, is suddenly "wrong" for modern society. Most babies the world over sleep with their parents. Even in our own culture more and more parents enjoy this sleeping arrangement -- they just don't tell their doctors or their relatives about it. Try this experiment: Next time you're around a lot of new parents, mention one-on-one that you are considering sleeping with your baby. You'll be surprised how many of these people are doing just that, at least some of the time. Don't worry about your child never leaving your bed. He will. For the child who needs nighttime closeness, the time in your bed is relatively short -- and the benefits last a lifetime.
6. Balance and Boundaries
In your zeal to give your baby everything she needs it's tempting to try to give baby everything she wants. This can result in mother burnout. Since a new baby in your home can absolutely turn previously predictable schedules and couple time upside down, it's easy to neglect your own needs and those of your marriage while meeting the needs of your baby. This will try to show you how to be appropriately responsive to your baby, which means knowing when to say yes and when to say no, and also having the wisdom to say yes to your own needs. When mom and dad are doing well, baby will also do well. You may become exasperated and feel, "I don't have time to take a shower, my baby needs me so much!" You need to remember, "What your baby needs is a happy, rested mother." Remember, while attachment parenting is not the easiest style of parenting, if practiced properly it should be the most joyful one.
7. Beware of Baby Trainers
Because you love your baby so much and want to do the best, you are vulnerable to all kinds of advice. Be prepared to be the target of well-meaning advisers who will shower you with detachment advice, such as; "Let her cry it out," "Get her on a schedule," "You shouldn't still be nursing her!," and "Don't pick her up so much you're spoiling her!" If carried to the extreme, baby training is a lose-lose situation: Baby loses trust in the signal value of her cues, and parents lose trust in their ability to read and respond to baby's cues. As a result, a distance can develop between baby and parent, which is just the opposite of the closeness that develops with attachment parenting. Whereas attachment parenting is based on sensitivity, baby training requires insensitivity. Attachment parenting helps you get to know and read your baby better. Baby training interferes with this. The basis of baby training is to help babies become more "convenient." It is based upon the misguided assumption that babies cry to manipulate, not to communicate. Baby-training books and classes teach mothers to go against their basic drive to respond to the cues of their baby. Eventually they will lose sensitivity and their trust in their own intuition. Before trying any of these baby-training methods, compare them with your intuitive feelings.
Attachment parenting is an ideal. Because of medical situations, life-style differences, or just plain rough times, you may not be able to practice all of these attachment tips all the time. Parenting is too individual and baby is too complex for there to be only one way. But these seven attachment concepts provide the basic tools from which you can develop a parenting style that works best for you. Some of the Bay B's, especially baby wearing and belief in your baby's cries, can be practiced not only by parents but by substitute caregivers. Teaching your subs these two important Baby B's increases the likelihood that your baby will get attachment - cared for during your absence.
The important point is to get connected to your baby. Take advantage of all the valuable things that attachment parenting does for parents and babies. Once connected, stick with what is working and modify what is not. You will ultimately arrive at your own style. This is how you and your baby bring out the best in one another.
Attachment Parenting Includes Fathers
The seven Baby B's work best with an involved and nurturing dad. While a preference for mother is natural for babies in the early years, fathers are indispensable. Father creates a supportive environment that allows mother to devote her energy to the baby. Attachment mothers are prone to the "My baby needs me so much, I don't have time to take a shower" mind-set. It's the father's job to nurture the mother so that she can nurture the baby. A mother of a particularly energy-draining baby once confided, "I couldn't have survived without the help of my husband." Take breastfeeding, for example, which is the only infant care fathers can't do. Fathers can indirectly feed their baby by supporting and encouraging the mother. As one involved husband boasted, "I can't breastfeed, but I can create an environment that helps my wife breastfeed better." A happier mom makes for a happier baby.
Fathers have more than a supporting role in baby tending. They are more than substitute mothers, pinch-hitting while mom is away. Dads make their own unique contribution to the development of their baby. Your baby will not love you less than he does his mother, or more. He or she will love you differently. Nothing matures a man like becoming an involved father.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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