Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Attachment Parenting

Since learning that I was pregnant I have been exploring many different philosophies of parenting. I've been around children all of my life, and feel pretty comfortable in my ability to care for my child, but am the sort of person who likes to have information on a variety of ideas about any given subject.

One parenting philosophy which I find intriguing, though I am unsure if I will subscribe to it, is that of "Attachment Parenting." Attachment Parenting (AP) is a philosophy of caring for, and raising, your child in a sensitive and nurturing way (As, hopefully, all parenting methods are). The difference between AP and more mainstream styles of child-rearing lies, it seems, in the intensity of care and also several non-mainstream ideologies.

There are 8 fundamental ideas which seem to define AP.
  1. Prepare for pregnancy, birth and parenting: This seems to be a commonsense thing to do, if possible, for any new parents. By having clear ideas of what to expect, the whole process should be calmer and easier to flow through. Many AP adherents also choose to experience natural childbirth, home-birthing, and other somewhat uncommon practices in childbirth. What I can tell you, personally, is that I am definitely not going for the "natural" childbirth thing ;)
  2. Feed with Love and Respect: AP very strongly supports the idea of breastfeeding as the best choice for all parents who are able to do so. As all medical professionals agree that "the breast is best" I think this is a difficult position to argue with and probably one of the best things a parent can do for their infant. That said, there are times when it is impossible for a woman to Breastfeed their baby. In those cases AP experts advise parents to make feeding time as similar to breastfeeding as possible; to hold the infant at approximately the same level, thus giving them the visual and emotional bonds that breastfeeding encourages. I do plan to breastfeed, if I am able, but I think that by occasionally supplementing with bottle feedings (of breast milk) we will be able to maintain flexibility of feeding and also give Eric (and other family members) the opportunity to share in this bonding experience with Lily. Many AP adherents also extend breastfeeding for much longer than is normal among parents (at least in the US). I've read several who are breastfeeding well past the age of three, and even occasionally until their children are 7 or older. I personally cannot imagine doing this. In my experience, children are normally off the bottle by the age of two and drinking out of sippi cups and regular table food. I don't think I can imagine any scenario that would convince me to breastfeed past 2 years (and likely not past 1).
  3. Respond with Sympathy: This principle is largely about responding to your child within the framework of what they are capable of at their developmental level, rather than imposing your own expectations (which may be unrealistic) upon them. And also includes the ideal of nonviolence when dealing with children (No physical punishment). I think this seems to be a largely sensible philosophy of dealing with children and that it is a good idea to be knowledgeable of what developmental capabilities your child has at any given stage of development. That said, I think that parents must also remain flexible about their expectations of how to interact with their children and be open to whatever is effective in correcting and guiding their children's behavior.
  4. Use Nurturing Touch: AP recommends giving the child a lot of physical contact in order to promote secure attachment and bonding. This includes skin-to-skin contact, as in during breastfeeding and holding, and baby-wearing. This is perhaps one of my favorite principles of AP. Studies have shown that skin to skin contact promoted healthy development and also leads to calmer babies. The idea of baby-wearing is a concept which has been popular in many natural child-rearing ideologies and seems to be the best method of keeping a baby calm and happy. Also, baby wearing would seem to remind small babies of the time in the womb and thus also seem to be a great choice for engendering security and contentment within them.
  5. co-sleeping: AP recommends sleeping with babies, or at least near them, and this practice has actually been proven to be effective in reducing SIDS when safely undertaken. The government guidelines currently do not recommend co-sleeping, though, and any parent considering it should thoroughly research the many variables surrounding it. I personally plan to sleep with Lily in the room, at my bedside, until she is old enough to be put in her own bed (and the risk of SIDS has passed). I considered co-sleeping but decided that since my cat sleeps with us, it would not be the ideal situation.
  6. Provide Consistent and Loving Care: AP suggests that parents should not rely too heavily on childcare and if their is a childcare giver that they are stable parts of the child's world to reduce anxiety. This is another ideal I hope to adhere to. I plan to not work (outside of the home) and enjoy Lily as her primary caregiver for as long as I am able to.
  7. Practice positive Discipline: Use empathetic, loving and respectful means of discipline and try to discover the root causes of bad behavior. I agree with this in word, but I'm not sure if I always agree with it in the definitions supplied by AP proponents. I think that empathetic, loving and respectful discipline is whatever method is effective for your child (who needs to have discipline methods which work for them) and that some children may require methods of discipline which do not seem empathetic, loving or respectful to some parents. I guess, in the end, I think parents should do what works for them and their child instead of continuing to use methods that are ineffective because someone else tells them that those methods are "correct."
  8. Strive for Balance in Family and Personal Life: Here, here! Just remember that part of striving for balance is to acknowledge that balanced for you may be very different than it is for someone else :)
If you'd like to learn more about Attachment parenting:
Atachment parenting International
Attachment Parenting on Wiki
Ask Dr. Sears

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