Thursday, March 24, 2011

Guide to Understanding Attachment Parenting Style for People Who Don't AP - Part One

This was/is intended to be something you can provide to nay-sayers in your life if you are an Attachment Parent who is struggling with judgement and unsolicited advise.

Guide to Understanding Attachment Parenting Style for People Who Don't AP - Part One

You have been given this booklet in the hopes to enlighten you on a parenting style that ___________________________________________________________ have chosen. First off let us clarify that there are many types of parenting styles and that no one is wrong or right. Every family has the right to choose how their offspring will be raised, so long as it does not violate any governing state or federal laws. The intended purpose of this booklet is to have you better understand attachment-parenting (AP) principles, give situational examples and helpful responses, and help maintain a strong relationship between you and the attachment parents. The choice to follow attachment-parenting style is in no way a judgment on how you chose to raise your children. You did what worked best for you and your family; we are just trying to do the same for ours.

Not all attachment parents follow all these principles, but I wanted to cover all the basics and I suggest that the AP’s highlight ones that they intend to follow. There are Eight Principles of Parenting as outlined by API (Attachment Parenting International). I'm going over the principles that I most strongly believe in and ones that are often questioned by others.

Co-Sleeping

Breastfeeding & Extended Breastfeeding

Baby Wearing

Responding with sensitivity

Positive Discipline

Nurturing Touch

Co-Sleeping:

Co-sleeping has been done since the dawn of time, yet for many people it seems like a foreign concept. Often media reports of infant deaths due to co-sleeping, but typically there are extreme circumstances when really the co-sleeping factor was not the cause of the death. Also, these stories tend to fail to compare just now shockingly many children die in cribs. As with any parenting choice, we could all go find some experts that sight our side of things, countless studies & books to support our side – but really it is up to the parents of that child to live with the decisions they’ve made.

Aside from safety, the other issue that arises with co-sleeping is dependence. Often people question how a child could possible learn to sleep on their own if they are being raised in a family bed. There is actually a paradoxical effect from co-sleeping in that children feel so secure that their independence is inevitable. We believe that a child who feels secure 24-hours a day is going to grow into a strong independent individual.

When done appropriately there is nothing physically dangerous or mentally damaging about co-sleeping with a child of any age.

A time will come with the AP’s will complain about being tired. Before jumping in with advice about how they should just put the baby in a separate room and let him/her just “cry it out,” think of this; #1 have you ever come across parents of an infant who are not tired? And, #2 Would you ever give the advice to non-co-sleeping parents who complain about being tired that they should bring the baby in bed with them? Advising someone to do the opposite of their parenting style will end up leading to resentment and frustration. If you are unable to think up solutions that parallel the parenting style, suggest that they find like-minded families in person or online who will be able to off up advice. All babies eventually find their way to sleeping through the night. It is an epic journey/battle that all parents go through, and being judged or ridiculed doesn’t help anyone.

Breastfeeding & Extended Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is a personal choice. For some women it comes easily, and for others it is a struggle. The best thing you can do is support whatever the mother wants to do. Pushing the AP’s to do the opposite of their wishes will only alienate your relationship with them, especially if your advice is repeated and unsolicited. For a mother who is having difficulty with breastfeeding, the best advice you can give is that she connects with other mothers who have successfully breastfed. Just to name a few, such mothers can be found at the Le Leche League, online, hospital support groups, friends, etc. It is very easy to create doubt in a first time mother who is trying to figure out breastfeeding. They have enough to worry about, and sometimes something that is seemingly “natural” does not always happen without a lot of practice and support. Suggesting that she give up and switch to formula should be a last resort. There is one sure fact, and that is that breast is best.

For those who are successfully able to breastfeed, there comes a time shortly after that monumental first birthday that the general public tends to think that it is time for the baby to get off that boob. There are just as many studies/books out there claiming it is harmful as there are studies/books that will say it is beneficial. That being said, making judgmental comments will only damage your relationship with the parents. Breastmilk does not expire at 12 months of age, nor does it suddenly become void of nutrients. When to end breastfeeding is a choice for baby and parents to make together. Women all over the world allow the child to self-wean, if the AP family you know have chosen to do this negative comments from anyone are not going to stop them.

Baby Wearing

Baby wearing is used as a gateway between womb and the outside world. Babies are used to being confined, and they are actually generally more comfortable being in such an environment. Transitioning them to a sling where they can get a glimpse of the outside world in small doses just feels like the right thing to do.

When done with an appropriate sling there is no pain for parent or baby, and they are less complicated than you think. It is often recommended that the baby always be facing inward so as to maintain eye contact with parent at all times. For extended use it is not recommended that any device be used where the child is dangling with their full body weight on their hips (this being forward facing slings, Johnny jumpers, entertainment saucers, swings, etc).

Babies will fuss in a sling, just as they will in a carseat or stroller. Often times it is just those few precious moments when they are fighting the sandman. They will squirm and fuss and in the blink of an eye they are sound asleep.

Responding with Sensitivity

The art of responding with sensitivity is learning to read your child's cues and acting quickly and appropriately to answer their needs. By responding to the child's needs a trust is being built. AP’s do not believe that responding to requests from the child will lead them to be spoiled or co-dependent. Instead, by consistently responding to the needs of the baby they feel that a bond is being created, which leads the children to become confident in themselves and therefore able to operate independently.

So, truth be told... I wrote this about 18 months ago in defense of my girlfriend who was constantly being harassed by her in-laws and then I had major writers block so I never really finished. I've looked back on it several times... but just can't seem to find the words to finish off the last few principles. Have any ideas for me? Want to help out? Email to: thegoodletdown [at] gmail [dot] com - Part Two just might show up someday with your help.

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