What is attachment parenting and why is it so important?
To be honest, before I became a foster parent attachment parenting was not going to be my go-to method to follow when raising my children. I thought it was a bit too kid-focused and would turn my kids into whiny creatures demanding their way. I felt like I would be at their every beck and call.
When introduced more to the concept of attachment parenting through our foster care training. I realized I was already practicing a lot of the techniques. The more I learned the more I agreed with the basis of Attachment Parenting!
Basically, Attachment Parenting is a very nurturing way to respond to your child, which in turn creates a strong emotional bond and a secure attachment to the caregiver.
Attachment parenting techniques instil security, empathy, peacefulness and connections that last into adulthood.
Where the parent is attuned to the child’s needs before they even realize they need it.
Being in close personal space as often as possible, ie. baby wearing and co-sleeping. Responding readily, and quickly to the child.
Not allowing the child to “cry it out” or learn patience by letting them cry a bit before attending to them.
Now my goal, in a nutshell, is to raise strong, confident children who love others and do good in the world. Can I still do this with attachment parenting? Yes.
Now that I have been exposed to the world or foster care and see all the attachment disorders and attachment problems, the evidence is only stronger to support that attachment parenting is the way to go with your foster children, adoptive children, and biological children.
(this post contains affiliate links if interested in the full policy read here)
If you want more information please check out Attachment Parenting International. This is an incredible resource for learning all you can about attachment parenting.
They have 8 main principles that I will cover
Prepare for Pregnancy, birth and parenting.
Before the little one is even here, DO RESEARCH! I am a strong believer in following your gut, but following your gut when you have researched vs following your gut because something feels right are two different things. Be thankful you have a life growing inside of you (or coming to you through adoption or foster care) Make it your mission to learn all you can so provide the child with the best life possible.
Emotionally prepare for how having a child will change your life. Get rid of any negative feelings about your body (You are growing a BABY!!)
Physically prepare, eat healthy foods, exercise, get enough sleep. Prepare for your physical needs once baby arrives. Arrange help, talk about expectations with your partner.
Recommit to a strong and healthy relationship between parents.
Talk about parenting philosophies, birth plan, medical care for the birth and baby.
Feed with Love and Respect
Nurture your baby through breastfeeding, or emotional based bottle feeding. Hold the baby, position the bottle near your breast, talk gently and slowly to your baby. Make eye contact.
Once the child is ready for solids introduce then slowly. When they are ready, not just at a certain age.
Don’t force foods, or use food as a reward or punishment. (Which is harder than you think, when you just want your toddler to eat their broccoli and you bribe them with some ice cream for dessert)
This is still something I struggle with as I don’t fully believe in not having the child eat something because it’s new or unfamiliar.
Our rules about food, and how we adapt to attachment parenting methods surrounding food are as follows;
They have to try one bite, chew and swallow it. IF they do not like it then they don’t have to eat it.
I will reintroduce these foods several times and at each meal, they have to try it. If after a few meals of being served a certain food and they still don’t like it then I do not make them try it anymore. They are allowed to say “it’s not my favourite” and “no thank you” they are not allowed to say “I don’t like it, this is disgusting, this is gross” etc. or cause a big fuss about it.
We do not use dessert as a reward or bribe but we let them know before dinner that there is dessert and we can only eat our dessert if we have finished our first meal.
Finishing a meal is eating at least 3/4 of everything.
When giving them treats it is always a just because, not about good behaviour.
Overall you just want them to have a healthy relationship with food, this will serve them well into their adult years. It will help with self-control, healthy eating habits and proper nourishment.
Responding with Sensitivity
With an infant, this means consistent response to cries. Learning what your baby’s movements, facial expressions and cries mean. Baby’s don’t cry just to cry. This is there only way of communicating. They might be hungry, tired, hot, cold, gassy, overstimulated, under stimulated. Learn and respond quickly. Babies CANNOT be spoiled, their brains are not developed enough to be able to soothe themselves on their own.
As the child grows into a toddler and you start seeing tantrums. You don’t simply ignore the tantrum but respond lovingly, realizing that they have very powerful emotions that their brains are not able to handle yet. Helping them through and not responding with anger is key. Your role is to comfort them not to punish them.
Trust me, mamas, I know it is hard. Keep your emotions in check.
As the child grows up, stay close and allow them to explore and discover, giving them independence but always watching for their connection needs. A preschool or daycare program can be beneficial but it does not mean it is necessary, assess your child’s readiness and don’t push it.
Use Nurturing Touch
Touch is so essential, it helps your baby in so many ways. Intellectual growth, regulation of temperature, heart rate, and sleeping and awake patterns. It helps your baby with motor skills. In cultures that promote this it is actually proven that as they grow into adults, there is less physical violence in their lives.
Wear, or carry your baby as often as possible. Skin to skin contact is essential, especially in the early years. Bathe with your baby. Sleep in the same room for the first year of life. Massage and as much contact as possible are so important.
Do not use strollers, seats, swings and jumpers to replace your hands. It is not bad to use these and they are important for development in other areas but carry or wear as much as you can in the first year.
Ensure Safe and Healthy Sleep
Making sure your child sleeps is so important. Noticing their natural sleep rhythms, and signs of tiredness.
This is just as essential as making sure they eat healthily!
Getting your child on to a routine is important BUT do not keep them awake when they are tired, or force them to sleep when they are not tired for the sake of routine.
Establish a Routine to unwind for bedtime, as well as for naps. Be consistent, allow your baby to expect whats next and help them to unwind and prepare for sleep.
Co-sleeping does not necessarily mean sharing a bed but being in close proximity when sleeping. Our agency requires the baby to be in the same room for the first year. Currently our 3 month old sleeps in her rock ‘n play (recommended elevated sleeping by Doctor because of severe reflux- she chokes on her spit up and is uncomfortable straight on her back) right beside me in bed, or in her doc-a tot in our bed.
Older children can share a room to continue this practice. Sleeping alone is a pretty new concept in the Western world.
My daughters (4 and 5) have shared a room since they were 2 and 3 and often they like to sleep in the same bed! Do not discourage this unless they really disrupt each other.
Provide Consistent Loving Care
The more a child can attach to one or two caregivers the better. Try to limit the number of people giving long periods of time of care for the child. This day in age many families have 2 working parents. Assure that the daycare provider follows attachment parenting principles and try to limit any change as much as possible.
If a child is having a hard time separating from the parent, please allow time and nurture this emotion. Forcing the child to separate can be very hard for them and for the parent when the child is having a negative response. Some children are more sensitive about this then others but when a strong and secure attachment has formed children usually will separate easier because they are secure in the fact that their parent or caregiver is coming back for them.
For us this meant me giving up a career I loved to stay home full time with my kids. Especially once we started fostering did I see the importance of having me home as their constant caregiver.
Practice Positive Discipline
This one I have a bit of a harder time with. Essentially positive discipline allows children to develop their conscious by their own internal discipline (natural consequences) and allows them to develop empathy and compassion for others. Treating your children as you would like to be treated.
I think this is very hard to do right. Too much compassion and I truly feel you will raise a spoiled brat. The world is not all about you, and you learn that quickly as an adult. However traditional discipline methods lead to shame and humiliation. Having your child fear you is not the goal. Having the child respect you is.
We incorporate Attachment Parenting into our discipline methods, however, we are a bit stronger in the sense that a child if a child is having big emotions and after trying to talk them through it and balance their emotions they are still having a fit, we will use time outs or take away a toy or activity.
My reasoning in this is, I do not believe we are meant to be our child’s best friend. We are meant to be their parent. Spoiled, entitled behaviour that they may see from other friends does not fly in our house and our children learn that quickly.
Some natural consequences for us are
- you leave your toys out, they get taken away
- you hit a sibling, you are removed from the activity
- you throw a fit, and you cannot calm down to talk you are sent to your room and when you calm down we talk through it
The huge benefit I have seen from attachment parenting is that in general, our kids have very good behaviour, because I can sense their needs and be proactive, instead of reactive. I know when they are hungry, tired, need some alone time, need individual time with a parent, need to feel special. So because of this, we don’t see a lot of bad behaviour in our family.
I have had family members comment that my kids are just so easy and low key so they are easy to parent. Well part of that may be true, but I am proud of the fact that I am very attuned to them and with one daughter, who is more of an introvert I need to make sure she has her alone time to unwind, and I need to praise her about her artwork because she sees that as very important. Where my other daughter needs more physical contact and wants me to get on the ground and play horse or build houses out of lego. She has a large appetite so making sure she has snacks more often. Those are the types of things she needs.
Being attuned to their needs is so valuable in preventing negative behaviours. Try and be one step ahead of them and anticipate things that will throw them off.
When I was pregnant I didn’t see anything wrong with spanking, I was spanked and yelled at, as was my husband and we turned out fine (for the most part haha) but it only took one spanking for me to know that that was not the way I wanted to parent. The look on her face just about killed me. Physical discipline is never the answer.
With our foster loves, we come to the area of discipline with an even more gentle approach. Their attachment is so disorganized that we have to work at building trust, and their negative behaviours are outcries for all the emotions they are feeling. Not to mention we have to get to know them first, so they get away with a lot. Once trust is established and they know us they get disciplined just like our biological children.
A rule in our home in the common areas you must have a happy heart, share, be kind, don’t whine, or hit. If not we go to our room, and a parent helps them through it, or they have alone time.
I always guide them but they do need to learn self-regulation, so I don’t baby them.
Thats my take on it!
Strive for balance in your Personal and Family Life
Does all of this sound like your child is going to rule the roost? That was my first judgement on Attachment Parenting but the more I learn and practice it the more I see it differently. As adults, as parents, as married couples, we have needs as well. Making sure you have balance in life will set you up for success. I advise you to take a look at what takes up the majority of your time. Is it work? Kids activities? Social time with friends. If one area gets more time and focus then another I challenge you to adjust that. Burnt out happens. Resentment happens. Balance is so key!
Well, friends, I hope that helped you to see the importance of attachment parenting, and if you are a foster or adoptive parent how crucial that attachment parenting is to work on the trauma your child has faced in their life. For me, it all relates to what my creator does for me every day. Give Grace.