Attachment parenting tends to be one of those terms that parents either cringe at or they show a strong interest in learning more about. For myself and my husband we kind of just ‘fell’ into an attachment parenting kind of life.
Don’t get me wrong, we had always envisioned parenting to be about creating a trusting relationship with our children, developing a relationship that was built upon trust and that no doubt would start with connection and attachment; Because breastfeeding your baby and cuddling them is attachment parenting yea?!
What we learnt though as new parents, was that attachment parenting is more about an intuitive approach to parenting. It is about listening to your baby’s cues and allowing them to tell you what it is that they need. When I started doing that rather than me trying to ‘control’ the situation whether that was controlling sleep, timing feeds because my breasts were sore or even thinking to myself ‘ah I’m so spent I honestly can’t pick you up anymore!’ When I started to trust my baby my approach to parenting shifted.
I started babywearing because our baby had severe oesophageal reflux, so she liked to be held and upright, this took the pressure off me needing to ‘always pick her up,’ because she was already there and happy too! As a new mama I went with my babies breastfeeding needs which weren’t timed and breastfed on demand for as long as our baby wanted to. I started to develop an intuitive parenting muscle that I didn’t even know existed by listening to what our new baby needed, which meant I wasn’t fighting the ebbs and the flows anymore. Days were still long, as were the nights, but I felt like I was ok, that our baby was ok.
I want to share with you a part of my story that ultimately led me to here. After a very long and traumatic labour, an extremely sick, unhappy baby and being a very new mum with little support I was experiencing post-natal depression, I didn’t know this until at least ten months later. As mothers our bodies alone are an amazing source of strength, we develop an incredible flood of natural hormones that help to create attachment and connection at and post birth! These hormones are designed to help both parents to more easily attune to their new baby by flexing their intuitive parenting muscles, and creating connection, this being, the beginning of an attachment parenting relationship.
Without these magical hormones I feel that it would be difficult to create a strong attachment and connection post birth dependent on the circumstances, for that alone I am incredibly grateful that as women we already possess not only all that our babies need but all that we need as new mothers too.
Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D. stated in her article ‘The 4 Principles of attachment parenting and why they work. A sensible guide to make attachment parenting work for you.’
‘Attachment theory emphasizes the nature of the relationship between children and their caregivers (usually their parents). It has its roots in observations made by psychiatrists in World War II who noted the impaired physical, psychological, and social development of infants in hospitals and orphanages who were separated from their parents. After recognizing that these children needed not just food but physical contact, the caregivers noticed vast improvements in their development.’
Parenting from an attachment perspective is responding to your baby’s cries; breastfeeding on ‘demand’ for an extended period or when it feels right for you and your baby; wearing your babies in a carrier or a sling; as well as using gentle ways to help your baby off to sleep. These are all ways in which you can intuitively feel your way into your own unique parenting journey, but also with an attachment parenting perspective in mind (and heart!).
To be clear, you do not need to incorporate all these approaches either, it is about being open to your babies needs and listening to what it is that they want. A quick and relatable example for you, our eldest daughter loved all of the cuddles, so she loved to co-sleep, our middle daughter though, wasn’t a super cuddly baby and she loved her space when she slept (she still does!) so co-sleeping as much as we loved it, wasn’t going to work for her.
We accidently ‘tripped’ into attachment parenting and safe co-sleeping due to life with our then 3-month-old baby girl being quite a challenge due to her oesophageal reflux. We resorted to soul crushing sleep training, crying it out, midwives visiting constantly only to finally start pushing all the noise aside and listening to her, to what she needed. Our life as new parents changed for the better. I finally started to feel like the mother I envisioned myself to be, also knowing that it felt intuitively right for me.
It was that kind of sleep deprivation and post-natal depletion, the actual ‘breakdown’ that brought me to my ‘breakthrough’ and to a topic that is now very close to my heart, safe co-sleeping.
Co-sleeping is a subject at times opposed by Western society. As quoted by Jan Hunt author of ; The natural child, parenting from the heart,
‘We are moving toward an artificial, mistrustful, and distant approach, especially in the Western world.’
When a mother sleeps next to or near her baby (I would suggest a side cart bassinette that you can attach to your bed), she is more able to use her instinctive responses that a new mother has to her baby’s first cry. This also prevents the need for hard crying that can be so stressful to the baby and the entire family. Dr William Sears a renowned American Paediatrician has quoted, ‘often times I felt ridiculous giving my seal of approval to what was in reality such a natural thing to do, sort of like reinventing the wheel and extolling its viruses. Had parent’s intuition sunk so low that some strange man had to tell modern women that it was ok to sleep with their babies?’
When babies sleep near their parents you are creating a sense of trust and security for them, acceptance and love. Co-sleeping with your baby safely and minimising the separation from your baby during the first few months is an absolute lifesaver in fact 50 to 80% of parents bed share in countries like Australia, US and the UK.
‘With increased maternal contact and feeding, crying is significantly reduced, and contrary to conventional thinking, maternal and infant sleep can be increased.’ As quoted by James J Mckenna pHd.
When we put our new baby into their cot in another room, isolated and alone, it felt completely wrong to us, for us a bassinette in our room and bed sharing made for much easier breastfeeding during the night and far more sleep!
Being with our daughter all the time and always closely connected allowed us to really get to know her needs. With an increased knowledge base, life with our new baby evolved into being an easier journey and we felt far more confident in the decisions that we were making.
Attachment parenting is not a set of ‘rules,’ it is about creating secure attachments simply, such as responding to your babies distress in a sensitive, loving way, for example picking them up when they are upset and reassuring them that you are all there for them, your baby will feel nothing short of secure in the knowledge that you are present and connected to them.
When we are responsive to their needs, they will then feel that they can freely express their negative emotions knowing that it will only elicit comfort and love from you.
Attachment parenting can no doubt be demanding due to all of the ‘holding,’ therefore It is really important to understand that YOUR wellbeing as a parent is also SO essential to your baby’s emotional adjustment, and secure attachment.
Self-care is an important part of that. You need to make time for you too, a cup of tea with a good book, face toward the sunshine, maybe a long walk on the beach with your little one bundled up in a carrier.
Earthing yourself daily is an important ritual too, take your shoes off, head off into the grass and really feel the grass between your toes, the grounding feeling keeps you present and allows you to get out of your head for a little bit.
Meditating daily then journaling afterwards is a beautiful way that I start my day, it grounds me and sets me up with clear intentions. I use a guided meditation app called ‘Insight timer,’ (I am in no way affiliated with this app!) the words always speak right to me heart, but it also keeps my monkey mind at bay!
Another way to incorporate some time for you is bringing some gentle yoga stretches into your mornings to stretch out the knots and kinks in your shoulders and chest after a long night!
Another significant note to remember and one I discuss within the Beyond Birth Workshops is that real self-care takes time. You need to consciously create the space so that you can also connect with you.
The human that was, before becoming the parent.
Attachment parenting to me is when we lead with love, but also when we have love for ourselves too, then we always have room to lead with love and attachment for our babies- we then also exceed ALL of our baby’s expectations from the very start.
As it was, it still took us a good few months with our first daughter to realise that all we really had to do was to follow her lead, and to trust our own instincts as parents, when we did do that parenting for us became less stressful, our expectations dropped completely, and we felt far more confident in our very new role, a raw and heart expanding journey called ‘parenting.’
Peace begins at birth, yes. But I do strongly believe that it starts more so within the initial post- partum period. Your babies expected place is within your arms, if your baby is always brought to your chest in upset as well as in happy times, they know attachment, they know security and safety, they will always know love.