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Getting Attached: What It Means - Part Two

This article is about attachment parenting and covers such topics as: Some Questions You May Have, Attachment parenting sounds exhausting. Is it one big give-a-thon?,  What does attachment parenting do for my relationship with my child?, Ok, so the attachment style helps the parent-infant relationship. What specifically does it do for the baby?, Attachment parenting improves behavior, Attachment parenting improves development, Attachment parenting improves intelligence.  There will be one more part to follow on this article so keep an eye out for it..


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.

Some Questions You May Have

When parents-to-be are told about attachment parenting, they react pretty strongly -- often with relief. Attachment parenting is, after all, commonsense parenting. But even parents enthusiastic about attachment parenting are often a bit leery, probably because this style of parenting is rather foreign to the fear-of-spoiling mind-set we've all been exposed to. Here are answers to some of the questions asked most often.

Attachment parenting sounds exhausting. Is it one big give-a-thon?
Attachment parenting may sound difficult, but in the long run it's actually the easiest parenting style. Initially, there is a lot of giving. this is a fact of new parent life. Babies are takers, and parents are givers. But a concept you should appreciate, and one that is emphasized, is mutual giving -- the more you give to your baby, the more baby gives back to you. This is how you grow to enjoy your child and feel more competent as a parent. Remember, your baby is not just a passive player in the parenting game. Your infant takes an active part in shaping your attitudes, helping you make wise decisions as you become an astute baby reader.

There is a biological angle to mutual giving, as well. When a mother breastfeeds her baby, she given nourishment and comfort. The baby's sucking, in turn, stimulates the release of hormones that further enhance mothering behavior, as mentioned previously. The reason that you can breastfeed your baby to sleep is that your milk contains a sleep-inducing substance. Meanwhile, as you suckle your baby you produce more of the hormone prolactin, which has a tranquilizing effect on you. It's as if the mommy puts the baby to sleep, and the baby puts the mommy to sleep.

What is "hard" about parenting is the feeling "I don't know what he wants" or "I just can't seem to get through to her." If you feel you really know your baby and have a handle on the relationship, parenting is easier and more relaxed. There is great comfort in feeling connected to your baby. Attachment parenting is the best way to get connected. True, this style of parenting takes tremendous amounts of patience and stamina, but it's worth it! Attachment parenting early on makes later parenting easier, not only in infancy but in childhood and in your child's teenage years. The ability to read and respond to your baby carries over to the ability to get inside your growing child and see things from his or her point of view. When you truly know your child, parenting is easier at all ages.

Early Attachment -- Livelong Memories

There may be occasions when you wonder if your baby's high-need stage will ever end. It will! The time in your arms, at your breasts, and in your bed is such a relatively short while, but your message of love and availability lasts a lifetime.

Won't holding our baby a lot, responding to cries, breastfeeding on cue, and even sleeping with baby create a spoiled and overly dependent child?

No! Both experience and research have shown the opposite to be true. Attachment fosters independence. Attachment parenting implies responding appropriately to your baby; spoiling suggests responding inappropriately. The spoiling theory began in the 1920's when experts invaded the realm of child rearing. They scoffed at parental intuition and advocated restraint and detachment. They felt that holding a baby a lot, feeding on cue, and responding to cries would create a clingly, dependent child. There was no scientific basis for this spoiling theory, just unwarranted fears and opinions.

Let's put the spoiling theory on the shelf -- to spoil. Studies have proved it wrong. In one study, researchers observed two sets of parents and their children. Group A was securely attached, the product of responsive parenting. Troup B babies were parented in a more restrained way: put on schedules and given less intuitive and nurturing responses to their cues. These babies were followed for at least a year. Which group do you think eventually turned out to be more independent? Answer: Group A, the securely attached babies. Researchers who have studied the effects of parenting styles on behavior in older children have all concluded that the spoiling theory is utter nonsense. A child must go through a stage of healthy dependence in order to become securely independent later.

How does attachment foster independence?
Studies have shown that infants who develop a secure attachment with their mothers during the first year are better able to tolerate separation from them when they are older. When going from oneness with the mother (which started in the womb) to separateness (an independent child), a growing baby has both a desire to explore and encounter new situations and a continued need for the safety and contentment provided by a parent. In an unfamiliar situation, the securely attached baby looks to mother for a go-ahead message which provides the confidence to explore and handle the strange situation. The next time the toddler encounters a similar situation, he will have that much more confidence to handle it by himself without enlisting the mother. The consistent availability of the mother or an attached caregiver provides confidence and helps the child learn to trust himself, culminating in the child's developing independence. In essence, the attachment-parented baby learns to trust, and trust fosters healthy independence.

Doesn't attachment parenting put the baby in the driver's seat?
The issue is that of parents' being responsive, not of baby's being in control. When a hungry or an upset baby cries, he cries to be fed or comforted, not to control. This concern is a carryover from the old spoiling and fear-of-manipulation mind-sets that didn't understand what babies are like. For example, the feeding practice of rigid scheduling (which we now know can be harmful to a baby's nutrition and self-esteem) resulted from this misunderstanding. The baby who has a need signals to the person he trusts will meet that need. The person responds. That's communication, not control. By responding, the parents are teaching their baby to trust them, which ultimately makes it easier for the parents to be in charge. When your baby cries, respond from your heart. Forget the mental gymnastics: Should I pick her up? Will I spoil her? Has she manipulated me? Just pick her up! With time you will better perceive why your baby is crying and how immediate your response should be.

This style should not develop into "martyr mothering": Baby pulls mommy's string, and she jumps. Because of the mutual sensitivity that develops between attached parents and their attached children, parents' response time can gradually lengthen as mother enables the older baby to discover that he does not need instant gratification. Nor does attachment parenting mean overindulgence or possessiveness. The possessive parent or "hover mother" keeps the child from doing what he needs to do because of her own insecurities. Attachment differs from dependency. Attachment enhances development; inappropriate dependency hinders it. There is a beautiful balance to attachment parenting.

What does attachment parenting do for my relationship with my child?
Attachment mothers speak of a flow between themselves and their babies, a flow of thought and feelings that helps them pull from their many options the right choice at the right time when confronted with the daily "What do I do now?" baby-care decisions. The flexibility of this style helps you adjust your parenting to the changing moods and maturity of your baby. It's important to make gradual adjustments. For example, the eight-month-old doesn't need the quick cry response that the eight-day-old baby does (unless, of course, he has hurt himself or is frightened). The connected pair mirrors each other's feelings. Baby learns about himself thought mother's eyes. The mother reflects the baby's value to her, and therefore to himself. The flow of attachment parenting helps you read our child's feelings.

The other dividend to expect is mutual sensitivity. As you become more sensitive to your baby, your baby becomes more sensitive to you.

Ok, so the attachment style helps the parent-infant relationship. What specifically does it do for the baby?
Attachment parenting improves behavior, development, and intelligence. Here is why:

Attachment parenting improves behavior. Attached babies cry less. They are less bored, colicky, fussy, whiny, and clingy. A very simple reason lies at the root of this observation: A baby who feels right, acts right. An attached baby whose cues are read and responded to feels connected. She feels valued, She trusts. Because of this inner feeling of rightness, baby has less need to fuss.

Attachment parenting improves development. If attached babies cry less, they have more time to grow and learn. Watching mother-infant pairs in action and interaction, you will be impressed with how content babies are who are worn in a sling, breastfed on cue, and responded to sensitively. They seem to feel better, behave better, and grow better. It is believed this is because attachment parenting promotes a state of quiet alertness (also called interactive quiet or attentive stillness). A baby in the quiet alert stage is more receptive to interaction with and learning from his environment. He is not bored. The quiet alert state also promotes an inner organization that allows the physiological system of the body to work better. Baby diverts the energy that he would have spent on fussing into growing, developing, and interacting with his environment.

In essence, attached babies thrive, meaning that your baby grows to her full potential. Researchers have long realized the association between good growth and good parenting.

Attachment parenting improved intelligence. Attachment parenting is good food for the brain. Many studies now show that the most powerful enhances of brain development are the quality of he parent-infant attachment and the response of the care giving environment to the cues of the infant. It is believed that attachment parenting promotes brain development by feeding the brain the right kind of information at a time in the child's life when the brain needs the most nourishment. By encouraging the behavior state of quiet alertness, attachment parenting creates the conditions that help baby learn.

If you are beginning to feel very important, you are! What parents do with babies makes them smarter. In the keynote address at the 1986 annual meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics, infant development specialist Dr. Michael Lewis reviewed studies of factors that enhance infant development. This presentation was in response to the overselling of the superbaby phenomenon that emphasized the use of programs and kits rather than the parents' being playful companions and sensitive nurturers. Lewis concluded that the single more important influence on a child's intellectual development was the responsiveness of the mother to the cues of her baby. In caring for your baby, keep in mind that relationships, not things make better babies.

Benefits of Attachment Parenting:
Baby
* is more trusting
* feels more competent
* grows better
* feels right, acts right
* is better organized
* learns language more easily
* establishes healthy independence
* learns intimacy
* learns to give and receive love

Parents
* become more confident
* are more sensitive
* can read baby's cues
* respond intuitively
* flow with baby's temperament
* find discipline easier
* become keen observers
* know baby's competencies and preferences
* know which advice to take and which to disregard

Relationship
Parents and baby experience:
* mutual sensitivity
* mutual giving
* mutual shaping of behavior
* mutual trust
* feelings of connectedness
* more flexibility
* more lively interactions
* bringing out the best in one another

Help! How are we ever going to get our baby on a schedule this way?
I idea here is to replace the rigid idea of a schedule with the more flexible concept of a routine or even with the more flowing experience described by the word "harmony." The more you listen and respond to your baby, the simpler it will be to ease him into a routine that suits both of you.

Won't a mother feel tied down by constant baby tending?
Mothers do need baby breaks. This is why shared parenting by the father and other trusted caregivers is important. But with attachment parenting, instead of feeling tied down, mothers feel tied together with their babies. Attachment mothers interviewed described their feelings:
"I feel so connected with my baby."
"I feel right when with her, and not right when we're apart."
"I feel fulfilled."

Remember, too, that attachment parenting, by mellowing a child's behavior, makes it easier to go places with your child. You don't have to feel tied down to your house or apartment and a life-style that includes only babies.


There will be more articles on infantsFree Articles, breast or bottle feeding and other related topics to follow. So please keep an eye out for more of my articles.

Article Tags: Attachment Parenting, Mutual Giving, Spoiling Theory, Securely Attached, Attached Babies, Does Attachment, Mutual Sensitivity, More Sensitive, Parenting Improves, Feel Tied, Tied Down

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