I’ve been meaning to talk about attachment parenting for awhile. The essence of Attachment Parenting (AP) is about “forming and nurturing strong connections between parents and their children.”
According to the AP International website, there are eight principles of Attachment Parenting.
Eight Principles of Attachment Parenting
1. Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting
Become emotionally and physically prepared for pregnancy and birth. Research available options for healthcare providers and birthing environments, and become informed about routine newborn care. Continuously educate yourself about developmental stages of childhood, setting realistic expectations and remaining flexible.
2. Feed with Love and Respect
Breastfeeding is the optimal way to satisfy an infant’s nutritional and emotional needs. “Bottle Nursing” adapts breastfeeding behaviors to bottle-feeding to help initiate a secure attachment. Follow the feeding cues for both infants and children, encouraging them to eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. Offer healthy food choices and model healthy eating behavior.
3. Respond with Sensitivity
Build the foundation of trust and empathy beginning in infancy. Tune in to what your child is communicating to you, then respond consistently and appropriately. Babies cannot be expected to self-soothe, they need calm, loving, empathetic parents to help them learn to regulate their emotions. Respond sensitively to a child who is hurting or expressing strong emotion, and share in their joy.
4. Use Nurturing Touch
Touch meets a baby’s needs for physical contact, affection, security, stimulation, and movement. Skin-to-skin contact is especially effective, such as during breastfeeding, bathing, or massage. Carrying or babywearing also meets this need while on the go. Hugs, snuggling, back rubs, massage, and physical play help meet this need in older children.
5. Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally
Babies and children have needs at night just as they do during the day; from hunger, loneliness, and fear, to feeling too hot or too cold. They rely on parents to soothe them and help them regulate their intense emotions. Sleep training techniques can have detrimental physiological and psychological effects. Safe co-sleeping has benefits to both babies and parents.
6. Provide Consistent and Loving Care
Babies and young children have an intense need for the physical presence of a consistent, loving, responsive caregiver: ideally a parent. If it becomes necessary, choose an alternate caregiver who has formed a bond with the child and who cares for him in a way that strengthens the attachment relationship. Keep schedules flexible, and minimize stress and fear during short separations.
7. Practice Positive Discipline
Positive discipline helps a child develop a conscience guided by his own internal discipline and compassion for others. Discipline that is empathetic, loving, and respectful strengthens the connection between parent and child. Rather than reacting to behavior, discover the needs leading to the behavior. Communicate and craft solutions together while keeping everyone’s dignity intact.
8. Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life
It is easier to be emotionally responsive when you feel in balance. Create a support network, set realistic goals, put people before things, and don’t be afraid to say “no”. Recognize individual needs within the family and meet them to the greatest extent possible without compromising your physical and emotional health. Be creative, have fun with parenting, and take time to care for yourself.
We (especially me) generally followed these principles while raising A., esp. when he was a baby, and I belonged to an AP community where I was living at the time. I wore him in a sling as much as possible and breastfed until he was 18 months old. He called breastfeeding “nonny” (because his best toddler friend called it “nonny”), and to this day, he still calls cuddles “nonny”. We co-slept on and off during the first month and after that, he adjusted to sleeping in his own room just fine. In fact, he seemed to be at ease in his own room (I think more at ease in his own energy field).
Basically, we (esp. me) did a lot of “baby lead” parenting. Now that A. is 3 years old, we are trying to find more of a middle ground in parenting him since we are realizing that it’s not realistic to have the preschooler be in charge.
We also found that he really thrived on having a set routine for bed time rituals and also bed time itself. He thrives on naps (and at 3 years old, still does better when he can have an afternoon nap).
I guess the best thing really is finding what works for your child. You know best.