By Doula Jen
Although October is almost over, there’s still time to recognize Attachment Parenting Month!
AP, as those in the know call it, is a style of parenting that emphasizes a deep and steadfast bond between infant and parent.
For some, the details sound pretty intense. For others, they make life easier. As always, we encourage you to use your instincts and make decisions that are best for your family. Some parents will instinctively lean toward some AP practices, which I favor over running through the list of 8 principles and adopting them as dogma. That, in the end, leaves instinct out of the picture and responds to a child as if by instruction manual.
In presenting the 8 principles here, it is my aim to give definition to this movement, not to provide a list of “shoulds.” Many parents—myself included—practice some of these concepts, but not all of them.
As far as establishing a solid bond with your baby, I believe that the desired result comes from responsiveness, not a compulsive and cognitive decision to baby wear constantly. Co-sleeping is only as good as it allows you to be as parents. If that practice exhausts and frustrates you, it is my opinion that those feelings might interrupt the parent-child bond rather than support it. If sleeping near your baby gets you more sleep and brings deeper connection, wonderful.
To me, considering attachment also means figuring how to get there with the tools that you as an individual are equipped with. As with doula care and birth plans, the art of bonding is best tailor-made.
Without further ado…
The Eight Principles of Attachment Parenting:
- Prepare for pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting by eliminating negative thoughts about the experience.
- Feed with love and respect. Supporters of AP feel that breastfeeding is ideal for attachment.
- Respond with sensitivity. Strict AP interpretation would say that all emotional outbursts are valid forms of communication and that even repeated tantrums should be thoughtfully understood rather than dismissed or punished.
- Use nurturing touch through baby wearing and skin on skin contact.
- Engage in nighttime parenting. For AP families, this will often include co-sleeping or bed-sharing, so that the parents may better respond to a child’s needs and early feeding cues.
- Provide constant, loving care. Nearly constant presence of a parent, and little to no childcare for children under 30 months.
- Practice positive discipline through distraction, redirection, and guidance rather than merely imposing a parent’s will or punishing.
- Strive for personal balance for the parent through support and health-maintenance, so that the parent will not suffer burn-out.
We do not, as Welcome Baby Care doulas, suggest that AP is the only way, or even the right way. While the idea is golden, the “rules” can seem a little inflexible and extreme.
I have a hard time with “rules for parenting” because children and mothers and fathers come with their own sets of needs and characteristics. In working with many, many families you quickly learn that what works for one will not work for everyone! I also firmly believe that “rules” and “shoulds” and “right ways” lead to more Mommy Guilt (which is such a big thing that I felt the need to capitalize it). More Mommy Guilt leads to sick mommies and wonderful, giving people breaking themselves by trying to achieve impossible perfection.
I posted the principles not to wholeheartedly promote them, but to clear up some of the mystique surrounding this segment of the parenting population and to perhaps start a little discussion. Where do you fall on the AP spectrum? Do you wear your baby? Breastfeed your toddler? Do you love and practice every AP principle? What do you think about other “parenting methods” such as Ferber, Happiest Baby on the Block, or the controversial work of Ezzo and BabyWise? What do you think of the idea of “parenting methods” in the first place? Let’s talk.
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