There would scarcely be a new parent these days who hasn’t heard of the term “attachment parenting”.
For those that aren’t in the know, attachment parenting is a parenting style that promotes practices such as birth bonding; breastfeeding; baby wearing; co-sleeping (or close sleeping) amongst others.Although attachment parenting is based on the attachment theory; it focuses on forming both physical and emotional parent-infant bonds.Proponents of attachment parenting believe that this style builds confidence between both parent and child because the parent learns to identify and respond to the child’s needs, and the child is assured that their needs will be met.
It seems reasonable that if we breastfeed; always wear our babies; view their cries as communication of a need which we then meet; and sleep with them; that we would easily be able to instil in them a secure attachment style. If we are able to successfully do all these things, there is certainly a good chance that we will. However, what happens if we can’t maintain an attachment parenting style? Often new parents will research attachment parenting and its principles, and vow to adhere to it, only to be racked with guilt if they are unable to maintain its standards. Typically parents will then try to “overcompensate” in other areas, causing a significant level of anxiety for both parents and infants. Then, such is the cycle of parent guilt, we begin to wonder if we are setting our baby up for a life of anxiety and insecurity.
Where attachment parenting promotes physical and emotional closeness, a secure attachment provides a sense of security; helps to regulate emotions by calming distress and creating joy; and offering a safe, secure base from which the infant can explore. Therefore, while elements of attachment parenting might help achieve these functions, they are not an exclusive “how-to” list. Take breastfeeding for example. A mother who continues to breastfeed through inadequate supply; latching issues; frequent mastitis; or who simply does not want to breastfeed is likely to become highly stressed and overwhelmed, which is likely to be identifiable to the infant. This experience may actually contribute to an anxious attachment style. However if the same mother switches to interactive, warm and engaging bottle feeding, she is likely able to develop a feeling of trust, safety and calm with her infant, helping to develop that secure attachment.
At the end of the day there is nothing inherently wrong with subscribing, or not subscribing, to any particular parenting style.If we want to foster a secure attachment with our children then we need to provide a sense of safety and security, support them in regulating their emotions, and offer a secure base from which they can explore.They way in which we do that is far less important.
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