I am finding my Developmental Psychology course very interesting and it is often a springboard for me to have interesting conversations with friends and family, or even just to contemplate things on my own.
Today we discussed infant attachment. Attachment is defined as the emotional connection/bond that exists between a baby and its caregivers. It gives the baby a sense of security and trust to know she will be taken care of and to be connected to a specific person. Attachment is created through taking care of the baby's physical needs but almost more importantly, his emotional needs. Babies with secure attachments are shown to be more successful and have better relationships later in life.
What exactly creates a secure attachment? According to my professor it is being responsive to your baby and his or her needs. This sounded very much connected to the concept of Attachment Parenting. So I checked Wikipedia and lo and behold:
Attachment parenting, a phrase coined by pediatrician William Sears, is a parenting philosophy based on the principles of the attachment theory in developmental psychology. According to attachment theory, the child forms a strong emotional bond with caregivers during childhood with lifelong consequences. Sensitive and emotionally available parenting helps the child to form a secure attachment style which fosters a child's socio-emotional development and well being..... Principles of attachment parenting aim to increase development of child's secure attachment and decrease insecure attachment.
The rest of the wikipedia entry is interesting as well, because it discusses the different studies that I learned about in class and how the are connected to Attachment Parenting (AP). Attachment Parenting has a few principles, which are sometimes knows as The 7 B's of Attachment Parenting, among them breastfeeding, babywearing, bedding (ie sleeping) close to your baby and balance. Dr. Sears is also a big proponent of positive discipline, a post for another time.
There is no one rigid set of rules, rather what is important is to be close to your baby and to be responsive to him or her. Dr. Sears claims that the more responsive you are to your baby's cried and cues, the better you will become at understanding her needs and decoding her cries. Being responsive will also help your baby feel secure and loved and create a secure attachment.
This theory has always appealed to me and I try to use some of these principles in my parenting. I breastfeed exclusively for the first six months and feed on demand, I sleep with my babies next to me and generally do not like to let my babies cry. But I also know myself so I make sure to take breaks, make date nights with my husband and try to find outlets for myself that do not involve my kids whether it is knitting or yoga (which I have not been to in ages). Being an attached parent does not mean you have to be physically attached to your child 24/7.
People often criticize AP for being too focused on the child and that the parent loses himself in the quest to satisfy baby. What people may not realize though is that part of AP is also the concept of balance, meaning a parent needs to take their own needs into account too, not just the baby's needs. The baby's needs are often more immediate but being responsive to your children should not come at the expense of your sanity or your spouse. Everyone needs to find what works for them but should not lose sight of the goal- a happy, secure baby but also a happy, thriving mother, marriage and family unit.
Interestingly enough, MamaBirth discusses this very topic in her blog today and offers the same conclusion- we all need to balance our own needs with the needs of our family and need to make sure that we as individuals do not suffer. That does not mean that we can expect a 2 month old to sleep 10 hours straight, but it does mean that we can try to inject a little bit of routine into our days.
Ultimately, no matter what we call it, we are all trying to do what is good for our children. For more info on Attachment Parenting you can check Dr. Sears's website.