Attachment Parenting

By Emma Atkinson, Midwife

asian woman and child and a gentle parenting quote

Attachment parenting sounded to me like a nightmare, as a parent who struggled with the new skills I was learning and felt “touched out” and overwhelmed a lot of the time. It seemed like an idea that was telling me to always be holding my child and never having the space which I was craving. However, this is not the philosophy of attachment style parenting. It is a non-judgemental approach that simply encourages a gentle caring approach, which would have helped me see the person in my child when I was feeling frustrated.

Feeding was fraught for me, as breastfeeding didn’t go to plan, and I felt huge guilt about this. It became a chore and was not a time I used to bond and enjoy my new baby. Attachment parenting encourages being present with your baby during feeds, using eye contact and gentle communication, which sounds so much more joyful. As my child grew, I was recreating food habits I learned as a child which didn’t serve me well. As this philosophy encourages, I needed to follow my child’s cues and work on my own thought patterns to give us all a more satisfying and less confrontational mealtime experience. Letting go of mess being a bad thing will change the whole game of parenting.

One enormous myth that needs to be banished in my opinion is that of “spoiling a newborn” or creating “a rod for your own back” in habits with your new baby. Attachment parenting reminds us that to create a healthy attachment, children need a safe place and a person that consistently meets their needs. They are not capable of self-soothing, that is the parents’ role. We need to respond to their communication (crying) and work to their schedule if possible. When a child has big emotions, they need love not punishment.

Babies do not and should not sleep through the night. They need to feed and often require comfort, to know that their safe person is still available. Gentle, loving routines and working at your child’s pace will make bedtimes much more peaceful. It really isn’t a long time before it is you wanting one more cuddle and not your child, believe me my rare hugs from my teenagers are so precious.

Physical contact is a human need, babies thrive on skin-to-skin contact, massage, being carried. Consider a way you could manage baby wearing that gives that contact but doesn’t overwhelm you or have snuggle and reading time on the couch on a regular basis.

Children can have separation anxiety; it is a normal stage in development. Attachment parenting encourages us to be aware of this and have, if possible, consistent people and routines in a child’s life that recognise their emotions and give them a secure basis. Reconnecting after a separation is important and can be an amazing time for all of you to build your bonds and show love.

Being aware of children’s developmental abilities and guiding them in trial and error for learning new skills. Is a hard philosophy to embrace in our crazily busy lives. Also, our first responses in discipline will be shaped by our own experiences. As a community, we now have more information about how children’s brains work and so we can approach teaching them and guiding them in a better way than we have seen previously. Attachment parenting encourages us to be educated and prioritise our child, not the “to do list”. Whilst difficult, this seems to me like an amazing goal to aim for. We are not aiming for perfection in this, or any components of parenting, that is not realistic, but holding it in our minds as we respond will change our perspective.

My biggest take away from attachment parenting is the acknowledgement that parenting is hard, and parents need to nurture themselves by having time away from parenting and support from others to achieve it without sacrificing themselves.

Bring in your support network and use them for practical and emotional assistance with this huge and important job you are doing. I know my experience of parenting would have been very different if I had utilised the ideas in attachment parenting.

Also, keep a look out on our social media and make sure you subscribe to our mailing list because we are launching an attachment parenting course in 2023!


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