What It Is
The term "attachment parenting" was conceived by pediatrician William Sears and his wife Martha, to describe a highly responsive, attentive style of caring for a child. Attachment parenting promotes physical and emotional closeness between parent and child through what the Sears refer to as the "Baby Bs." The Baby Bs are bonding, breastfeeding, babywearing, bedsharing and boundary building.
Attachment parenting advocates encourage parents to hold their baby often in the early sensitive weeks of life to foster bonding. Breastfeeding is promoted because it enhances the mother's natural instincts to respond to her baby through physical closeness, hormonal influences, and promotion of attentiveness. Both babywearing, the practice of carrying the baby on the parents' body with an infant carrier or sling, and bedsharing, parents and babies sleeping in the same bed, provide additional opportunities for closeness. Boundary building is a discipline philosophy that entails responding to the genuine, age appropriate needs of the child and using gentle guidance. All of the Baby Bs are aimed at promoting a trusting, intuitive relationship between parents and baby through the physical and emotional closeness that makes it easier to know and appropriately respond to the baby's needs. While some people might see the Baby B's as a set of rules they must follow, they are just recommended tools that can and should be individualized for each family and parenting situation. (Kathy Kuhn)
What It Isn’t
Attachment parenting is not a new style of parenting. Attachment parenting is one of the oldest ways of caring for babies. In fact, it's the way that parents for centuries have taken care of babies, until childcare advisors came on the scene and led parents to follow books instead of their babies. Picture your family on a deserted island and you've just delivered a baby. There are no books, advisors, or in-laws around to shower you with child baby-tending advice. The baby B's of attachment parenting would come naturally to you as they have other cultures who have centuries more child-rearing experience and tradition than all of us have.
Attachment parenting is not indulgent parenting. You may hear or worry that being nurturing and responsive to your baby's needs might spoil your baby and set you up for being manipulated by your baby. This is why we stress that attachment parenting is responding appropriately to your baby's needs, which means knowing when to say "yes" and when to say "no." Sometimes in their zeal to give children everything they need, it's easy for parents to give their children everything they want.
Attachment parenting is not permissive parenting, nor control of a child. Attachment parents become like gardeners: you can't control the color of the flower or the time of the year it blooms, but you can pick the weeds and prune the plant so that the flower blooms more beautifully. That's shaping. Attachment parents become behavior-shapers.
Attachment mothering is not martyr mothering. Don't think that AP means 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. Yes, you give a lot of yourself in those early months, but you get back a lot more in return. Attachment parenting is the best investment you'll ever make -- the best long-term investment you'll ever make, in your child, and yourselves. 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 lifestyle that includes only babies.
Attachment parenting is not hard. Attachment parenting may sound like one big give-a-thon. Initially, there is a lot of giving. This is a fact of new parent life. Babies are takers, and parents are givers. One of the payoffs you will soon experience of attachment parenting is one we call 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. The infant takes an active part in shaping your attitudes, helping you make wise decisions as you become an astute baby-reader. Attachment parenting may sound difficult, but in the long run it's actually the easiest parenting style. What is "hard" about parenting is the feeling "I just don't know what my baby 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 we know to get connected. True, this style of parenting takes a tremendous amount 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 teenage years. The ability to read and respond to your baby carries over into the ability to get behind the eyes of your growing child and see things from her point of view. When you truly know your child, parenting is easier at all ages.
Attachment parenting is not rigid. On the contrary, it has options and is very flexible. Attachment mothers speak of a flow between themselves and their baby; a flow of thoughts and feelings that help a mother pull from her many options the right choice at the right time when confronted with the daily "what do I do now?" baby-care decisions. The connected pair mirror each other's feelings. The baby perceives himself by how the mother reflects his value. This insight is most noticeable in the mother's ability to get behind the eyes of her child and read her child's feelings during discipline decisions.
Attachment parenting is not spoiling a child. New parents ask, "Won't holding our baby a lot, responding to cries, nursing our baby on cue, and even sleeping with our baby create an overly dependent manipulative child?" Our answer is an emphatic no. In fact, both experience and research have shown the opposite. Attachment fosters independence. Attachment parenting implies responding appropriately to your baby; spoiling suggests responding inappropriately. The spoiling theory began in the early part of this century when parents turned over their intuitive childrearing to "experts"; unfortunately, the childcare thinkers at the time advocated restraint and detachment (i.e., formulas for childcare), along with scientifically produced artificial baby milk – "formula" for feeding babies. They felt that if you held your baby a lot, fed on cue, and responded to cries, you would spoil and create a clingy, dependent baby. There was no scientific basis to this spoiling theory, just unwarranted fears and opinions. We would like to put the spoiling theory on the shelf – to spoil forever. Research has finally proven what mothers have long suspected: You cannot spoil a baby by attachment. Spoiling means leaving something alone, such as putting food on the shelf to spoil. The attachment style of parenting does not mean overindulgence or inappropriate dependency. The possessive parent, or "hover mother," is one who keeps an infant from doing what he needs to do because of her own insecure needs. This has a detrimental effect on both the infants and the parents. Attachment differs from prolonged dependency. Attachment enhances development; prolonged dependency will hinder development. (excerpted from Dr. William Sears at www.askdrsears.com) www.parentsplace.com/expert/lactation
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