Tuesday, November 9, 2010

WHY Attachment Parenting?


Welcome to the November Carnival of Natural Parenting: What is natural parenting?

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our Carnival coincides with the launch of Natural Parents Network, a community of parents and parents-to-be who practice or are interested in attachment parenting and natural family living. Join us at Natural Parents Network to be informed, empowered, and inspired!

Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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Obviously Attachment Parenting (AP) isn't for everyone. It doesn't seem to necessarily be the "norm" (except, perhaps, among us hippie types). So why did I choose AP? The short answer: it feels right. Lets break it down into parts for the long version. For convenience, I'm going to reference the awesome new Natural Parents Network:

  1. Prepare for pregnancy, birth, and parenting - I have been through an uneducated <teen> pregnancy. I still managed to learn a little about breastfeeding and chose to go that route! However, doesn't it make sense to research any and every major life change or experience? I guess I've never really been a "just go with the flow" kind of person anyway, but I want to know what to expect. I want to know that I'm choosing the best options for me (& mine). I can not imagine going about it any other way and I encourage others to research their choices. Often times you learn that there are a lot more options than you even knew existed!
  2. Feed with love and respect - Why would you offer anything less than love and respect to your little one? First, it just seems natural to me to breastfeed my children. It is what nature intended and while science has made lots of helpful advances, I don't think science can trump nature on this one. Then when it comes to introducing foods, I choose to introduce healthy foods because I want to instill healthy eating habits in my children. Do you know anyone that doesn't want their children to be healthy?

    Alright, this would be easy if I already ate really healthy, but honestly... I don't focus much on my eating habits until I'm pregnant. Then I make all sorts of lifestyle changes because it is no longer just my own body I'm affecting, it is a whole 'nother person. I hope my children will grow up and have an easier time of making healthy choices than I do, just from experience! And then there are servings! I have lived and seen many disturbing mealtime battles and poor choices made. I have never felt "clean your plate" was a good policy. In fact, it bothers me to share lunch with a friend who complains about their weight, but then won't stop eating when they are full. There, I said it. When your body says stop eating, stop eating! So... before our children can clearly communicate with us, it is important to watch for their cues and not overfeed (or underfeed). This doesn't lose importance as they get older, it is just (I hope) easier to "hear" them.
  3. Respond with sensitivity - I think "crying it out" is the hard way. Choosing to "spoil" my child is definitely the easy way! I know some people choose the CIO method, but honestly my heart breaks for the children as well as for the parents! Hearing my child cry hurts me and I want to make it all better. That said, I have a bit of a mothering complex in that regard. I can't read / watch the news because I want to fix the problems of every child. It makes me ill and haunts me when I see news of ill will toward children.

    In the early months, you kind of have to be sensitive to your baby's cries to learn when to fulfill what need. Why does this change when they get older? It does take some effort, but I'm learning to pause before reacting and try to see things from Sasha's perspective. I think if people would do this more in all human contact situations the world could be a more peaceful place!
  4. Use nurturing touch - If you need research to back this one up, I strongly recommend Googling / reading about how "Kangaroo Care" has saved preemies! I also recall hearing (folklore?) about a study done (by Nazis perhaps?) on infants. Some were held often and cooed over like normal babies are. Then another study group only had their basic physical needs (food, diaper change) met. The infants in that group failed to thrive and some even died. This is an extreme example and I do not know if it is true, but consider it a moment. (Go ahead, I'll wait.) Touch is a basic emotional need, even in adults.

    Aside from all the science of it, I think babies draw people to them. How many times have you had a stranger try to touch your baby at the supermarket? People just want to touch babies. They are amazing creatures! Why fight nature? I also recall reading (during a previous pregnancy) that an infant doesn't realize they are a separate entity from mother until about 9 months old. So how jarring it must be to not have her attached to you? (Again, trying to see things from the infant's perspective here.)
  5. Ensure safe sleep - My ex-husband was actually the first person to impress upon me the importance of co-sleeping. He heard on NPR that it is a great way to prevent SIDS because if the baby does stop breathing, having the mother's rhythmic breathing right there helps kick start them back into their own breathing. I like the poetry of that and it makes sense to me. Also, I strongly feel that we, as mothers, are keenly in tune with our babies, if we just let ourselves be.
    cosleeping on the couch
    Sasha & Mommy, sleeping together on the couch in November 2009
    I also choose the easy way out here. Even if I am walking, singing, rocking, and nursing my baby to sleep every night, it still seems a lot less stressful than sticking her into a crib and listening to her CIO! Plus it is SO much easier to roll over (actually, I sleep facing Sasha) and offer a breast than to get up, all groggy, to fetch the baby from another bed, possibly even in another room. I understand some people can't sleep with a baby next to them or feel they sleep too heavy for an infant's safety. Remember, this post is about why I chose AP.
  6. Provide consistent and loving care - This sounds simple and logical enough, but this principle is actually about not forcing schedules (eating or sleeping) on your child. I have heard parents talk about forcing their little ones into a particular sleep schedule specifically so they'll be ready for school. and real life. Why? Don't you let your schedule slack on the weekend? But you have to go back to your regular schedule on Monday. (Besides, we plan to homeschool.) I'm not one to force a crappy grown up life on my baby while she is just still a baby. I'm also paranoid about giving my children unhealthy attitudes about food. So I don't force my child to eat - ever. I share my own food with my 1yo daughter and also offer her healthy choices of her own in between my meals. This helps me keep my own food choices in check.

    The only reason I eat on any type of schedule is because of my work schedule. When I'm not at work, I let my own sleep and eating schedule relax into whatever comes naturally. This is what I want for my children as well.

    In general, I try to remember to "choose my battles." Sleep and meals just shouldn't be battles. (Really, why should much of anything be a "battle"? It shouldn't be "Us vs. Them.") Yes, I sometimes wind up staying up late myself because Sasha isn't asleep, but this is only one small sacrifice I chose to make when I became a parent.
  7. Practice gentle/positive discipline - I do not believe in harsh punishment. I don't think a child should fear their parent (the one or two people in the world they should completely trust). This one is a struggle for us because of how we were both raised. I don't even like to speak harshly to my daughter, but it sometimes slips when she is doing something "bad." When I stop to really put myself in her shoes, whatever she is doing is never malicious. How could a 1 year old possibly be malicious?? She doesn't even understand mischief and likely won't until we expose her to it ourselves. She is simply exploring her world. Why wouldn't she want to play with the DVD remote - it has colorful buttons, much like toys!

    It can also be very difficult for me to refrain from manipulating her into what I want. My mother was very good at manipulation and I think I gained a bit of that from her. It has proven handy in life. However, I don't think it is a healthy relationship to encourage with my child.
  8. Strive for balance in personal and family life - It is important for every human to find balance in their lives. I recently wrote about my own balance as it relates to parenting (and everything else in my life) as a part of the October Carnival of Natural Parenting. I feel that finding (and hopefully keeping) some balance in our lives helps us to avoid those emotional breakdowns and burnouts. Without balance it is easy to become overwhelmed by life.

    I personally have an obsessive personality so I feel it is somehow extra important that I find balance in my life. I need to remember this when I'm regretting not being at home with our daughter. When I was home with my now-12-year-old daughter, she was my LIFE. She was everything. I didn't have balance. It was not a healthy place to be. I recognize that now. So I do what I can to avoid being completely obsessed with any one thing. That means creating balance in my life.
All of these ideals just come naturally to me, though occasionally they take a little effort to put into practice. I can't imagine why anyone would do things any other way, but sure enough, just last night I saw a woman leaning into a car yelling and hitting her child who was still young enough to be in a car seat at the supermarket. Scenes such as this make my physically ill. They don't effect my husband so strongly because that is how he was raised. I don't think that sort of behavior / relationship encourages closeness or trust between a child and their parent.

And who knows, maybe there are some other ways of parenting that I haven't even discovered yet! I try to keep an open mind, but I won't go against what feels right to me, as a parent and as a human being.


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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaStop by Natural Parents Network today to see excerpts from everyone's posts, and please visit a few to read more! Visit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants. Three of the participants below will instead be featured on Natural Parents Network throughout the month, so check back at NPN!

This list will be updated by afternoon November 9 with all the carnival links. We've arranged it this month according to the categories of our NPN resource pages on "What Is Natural Parenting?"

Attachment/Responsive Parenting

Attachment/responsive parenting is generally considered to include the following (descriptions/lists are not exhaustive; please follow each link to learn more):
  1. PREPARE FOR PREGNANCY, BIRTH, AND PARENTING:
  2. FEED WITH LOVE AND RESPECT:
  3. RESPOND WITH SENSITIVITY:
    • "Attachment Parenting Chose Us" — For a child who is born "sensitive," attachment parenting is more a way of life than a parenting "choice." Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares her experiences. (@CodeNameMama)
    • "Parenting in the Present" — Acacia at Be Present Mama parents naturally by being fully present.
    • "Parenting With Heart" — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment parents naturally because healthy attachments early in life help our little ones grow into healthy, functioning adults.
  4. USE NURTURING TOUCH:
  5. ENSURE SAFE SLEEP:
    • "Sometimes I Wish We Coslept" — Sheila at A Gift Universe has started to add cosleeping into her sleep routines and has found frequently unspoken benefits. Watch for her post, which will be featured on Natural Parents Network on Tuesday, November 30. (@agiftuniverse)
  6. PROVIDE CONSISTENT AND LOVING CARE:
  7. PRACTICE GENTLE/POSITIVE DISCIPLINE:
    • "Unconditional Parenting" — The philosophy of Alfie Kohn resonates with Erin at Multiple Musings, who does not want to parent (or teach) using rewards and punishment. (@ErinLittle)
  8. STRIVE FOR BALANCE IN PERSONAL AND FAMILY LIFE:

Ecological Responsibility and Love of Nature

Holistic Health Practices

  • "Supporting Natural Immunity" — If you have decided against the traditional vaccination schedule, Starr at Earth Mama has some helpful tips for strengthening your children's immune systems naturally.

Natural Learning

  • "Acceptance as a Key to Natural Parenting" — Because Mrs. Green at Little Green Blog values accepting and responding to her daughter's needs, she was able to unravel the mystery of her daughter's learning "challenges." (@myzerowaste)
  • "Let Them Look" — Betsy at Honest 2 Betsy makes time to look at, to touch, and to drool on the pinecones.
  • "Why I Love Unschooling" — Unschooling isn't just about learning for Darcel at The Mahogany Way — it is a way of life. (@MahoganyWayMama)
  • "Is He Already Behind?"Ever worry that your baby or toddler is behind the curve? Danielle at born.in.japan will reassure you about the many ways your little one is learning — naturally — every day. Watch for her post, which will be featured on Natural Parents Network on Tuesday, November 16. (@borninjp)
  • "How to Help Your Child through Natural Learning" — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now offers tips on how to understand and nurture your child's natural learning style. (@DebChitwood)

Healthy Living

Parenting Philosophies

Political and Social Activism

7 comments:

  1. So much good stuff here! I love how you've given such a comprehensive overview of AP & why you chose what you did.

    1. Prepare: I'm really impressed you ended up breastfeeding with your first, teen pregnancy. That's really cool that you were already that informed and, well, powerful in your own beliefs.

    2. Feed: I keep hoping Mikko will learn better than I do to eat when hungry and stop when full. I also try not to force him either way, so he can listen to his own body (better than I do mine!).

    3. Respond: It totally is easier to respond, isn't it?

    4. Touch: I also heard about a study with humans, although then when I was googling, I realized it might be this one I was thinking of, with monkeys: Monkey Love Experiments. VERY interesting read, and just as you said — not having love and connection affected the monkeys critically. I know there are reports out there, too, about how damaging it was to orphans in Romanian (Soviet) orphanages who weren't picked up or stimulated as babies. But I seriously thought I heard of some human experiment like that they had to call a halt to because it was killing the babies; maybe that is folklore? Love the reminder that babies don't even know they're separate from the mother, so you're right — how jarring to be separated!

    6. Consistent care: I keep hearing from people we know that kids NEED to be on a schedule, blah blah. I think some kids probably do better on a schedule, and some don't care. I don't feel like the schedulers need to force the issue on me and my family. (This has come up quite recently, as we're visiting my in-laws!!)

    Love your post, sorry for the novel! :)

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  2. The study you're thinking of is the one with the Romanian orphans. It wasn't done for the sake of science; there simply weren't enough nurses to hold all the babies. But they had to figure out a way later on, because a high percentage of the babies were dying.

    About feeding -- I was always fed according to my own cues, and I've grown up eating when I'm hungry. My husband thinks it's crazy because I sometimes skip lunch and snack later on, or eat two breakfasts, but I have a healthy weight and I tend to crave whatever my body needs. (Also cookies. But who doesn't?)

    And about schedules -- my son has set his own, quite strict schedule. If it's eight o'clock, no matter where we are or what we're doing, he crashes out. Cracks me up. I never pushed this at all ... which goes to show that a baby who needs a schedule, will find one that works for them if only we listen.

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  3. I am right there with you mama - AP principles feel very natural for me. And even though gentle discipline is a struggle for me too(because of how I was parented), it is such a natural follow-up to responding sensitively when they are babies. There's just no reason to flip the AP switch off when babies turn into toddlers! Thanks for sharing your experiences :)

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  4. Thanks for sharing your experiences-- in our family, we also focus on what feels right to us (AP!) regardless of the sometimes conflicting cultural climate.

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  5. Great post! So much of natural parenting just feels right. I found co-sleeping the easiest way to breastfeed, keep my babies happy, and get enough sleep myself. And the other concepts you mention are the same way – simply natural and effective.
    http://LivingMontessoriNow.com

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  6. To me, the most important part of my natural parenting journey has been learning new ways of being that is truly free from domination (however subtle).

    You talk a little bit about it here, "This one is a struggle for us because of how we were both raised. I don't even like to speak harshly to my daughter, but it sometimes slips when she is doing something "bad.""

    I never really knew my patterns and how ill-equipped I was to work in partnership and kindness until I had a kid (well, it was really when I had my second child that I became overwhelmed). Developing the ability to be gracious and kind and empathic has really been possibly only because I have been able to heal from my past. It has been a really difficult journey at times, but very, very worth it!

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  7. I love how you say, How can she be malicous? She's one. So true and important to remember as they grow, their curiosity expands and they learn about the world.

    Like you, attachment parenting came very naturally to our family.

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