Thursday, July 29, 2010

Attachment Parenting – it’s not all or nothing

Here's another article I wrote a couple years ago.

Attachment Parenting (AP) – it’s not all or nothing

Attachment parenting, coined by Dr. Sears, is defined as:  a style of caring for your infant that brings out the best in the baby and the best in the parents (  Dr. Sears talks about the seven Bs: Birth bonding, Breastfeeding, Babywearing, Bedding close to baby (co-sleeping), Belief in the language value of your baby's cry, Beware of baby trainers and Balance.
Can you still be AP and not co-sleep?  Do you have to wear your baby all day long?  Can you never supplement with formula?  The answers are yes and no.

Attachment parenting is a tool you can use, not a strict set of rules. Many parents use AP and don’t even know it.  I didn’t know I was AP until I met up with a group of parents who labeled themselves AP.  I did many of the same things they did, but I figured I was just your average everyday mom.
Being AP is building attachments that actually reduce issues in the long run.  Responding to your child's needs as they are expressed teaches you and the baby how to relate.  The child doesn't end up learning the only way to get a need met is the bloodcurdling scream.  As parents, you will learn to trust your instincts and your child's.

But, back to our question: is it all or nothing?  Let’s take the 7 Bs one at a time.

Birth bonding – this is when you get the baby immediately after birth and put him to your breast for his first (attempted) latch.  You are skin to skin.  The baby can smell you and hear your heartbeat. What if you can’t bond immediately?  What if you have a C section or there are complications and the baby needs to be whisked away to the NICU?  That’s OK.  You will have time to bond.  Yes, that first bonding is important, but so is the rest of the bonding period.

Breastfeeding – part of the AP philosophy is the importance of breastfeeding.  Not only is it the best nourishment for your baby, but it creates a stronger bond.  Some moms can’t breastfeed for varying reasons.  Maybe the baby just never learned how to latch or mom didn’t produce enough (or any) milk.  If you bottle feed, you can still bond by holding your baby for each and every feed and look into his eyes, play with his hands and feet and do everything you would have done if he were nursing.

Babywearing – honestly, holding your baby a lot is the key here; baby carriers, like slings and wraps, make it easier on you.  You could hold your baby to your chest all day, but your arms would get tired and you would be limited to what you could do.  With a sling or wrap you can do it all while bonding with your baby. 

Bedding close to baby (co-sleeping) – having your baby close to you at all times, including at night while in bed, increases the bond plus gives mom more sleep.  But, as convenient as co-sleeping is, it can still be a nerve wracking experience at first.  I attempted co-sleeping with my daughter when she was a baby.  We slept together for just a couple nights and I had terrible nightmares for MONTHS afterwards.  I would wake up a couple times a night searching for her, thinking I or my husband rolled over on top of her.  I would frantically rip off the covers of our bed and look between the wall and bed.  It would take several seconds to realize I was dreaming and she was asleep in her crib in her room.  When my son was born I needed that extra sleep, so I tried co-sleeping again.  This time I had no problem with it.  He slept on my arm all night long and would nurse whenever he needed to.  And I didn’t have to get up to nurse him in his room.  Aside from stirring just enough to make sure he latched on, we slept all night long.  The moral?  My daughter is just as attached as my son, even though she and I didn’t co-sleep.

Belief in the language value of your baby's cry – This is an important one.  Your baby is crying for a reason.  He’s hungry, wet or dirty, uncomfortable, too hot, too cold or just needs to be held.  This isn’t one of those “all or nothing” things.  Your baby is too young to manipulate you.  He needs you and you need to respond to him. When you practice AP, you start to learn what each cry means.  I know the difference between the “I’m super tired” cry, the “I’m hungry” cry, the “something hurts” cry and the “I’m pissed off” cry. No matter how AP and bonded you are to your baby, there will always be those times when you just can’t figure out what’s wrong. But at least those times are less than if you didn’t take the time to bond and learn.

Beware of baby trainers – Another part of being AP is knowing that your baby knows what he wants and needs.  He knows when he’s hungry, even if he just ate ½ hour ago.  He knows he just wants to be held, even though he’s been fed, changed and is comfortable.  Now, does this mean you jump at every single cry?  Maybe not.  For instance, sleep training.  Newborns should not be sleep trained. They might need to eat 6 times that night.  You need to feed him 6 times that night.  However, once he turns about 6 months old, you can let him cry for 10 minutes.  That might be all he needs to fall asleep, or back asleep. 

Balance – No, it’s not all about baby.  It’s mostly about baby, but not all.  Don’t neglect yourself or your marriage.  If your partner really is uncomfortable co-sleeping, then consider moving the baby to a side sleeper or his own crib.  If your partner really doesn’t want to babywear, then let him/her hold the baby.  Be willing to compromise, but don’t give up your parenting style. 

The bottom line is bond with your baby the best you can.  Take these seven Bs, follow them the best you can, but know that they’re not set in stone and there is wiggle room.  Enjoy the attachment you create with your baby.


  1. Love it.

    I have to admit, I saw you posted about AP and almost clicked out of your blog without further investigation.

    I have a bit of a bad taste in my mouth about folks who claim to be AP because the several that I've met since becoming a Mom myself last year have been extremely pushy. I'm with you - they're good guidelines, but you still have the right and the need to figure out what's best for YOU and YOUR baby.

  2. Exactly, Becki. I'm glad you read on. :) I'm pretty easy going as AP goes. The only thing I stand firm on is being anti-Babywise.