Parenting

Ten months: Do we do attachment parenting?

A parent cuddles a baby in a baby sling, which Is one of the principles of attachment parenting.

As our daughter comes up to eleven months old, lots of new things have happened, and I’ve been reading about parenting and parenting styles. It’s been really interesting.

Our approach to parenting so far has been based on our gut intuition and instincts. This seems to align most with gentle or attachment parenting.

Attachment Parenting International (API) identifies eight principles of attachment parenting:

  1. Prepare for pregnancy, birth, and parenting

Proponents of attachment parenting believe it is important to eliminate negative thoughts and feelings about pregnancy. Doing so, they say, readies a parent for the emotionally demanding work of being a parent.

I was surprised by this principle, as it begins before birth. Before our daughter was born, I took care of my body by:

Overall, I do not identify with this principle – I found being pregnant a negative and difficult experience. I was frightened to think in a concrete way, and found it difficult to feel anything toward the baby. I hated people commenting on my body and choices, and asking probing questions about my body. I was also pregnant in the COVID-19 pandemic, and found pregnancy very frightening and lonely.

2. Feed with love and respect

Breastfeeding, proponents say, is the ideal way to create a secure attachment. It also teaches infants that parents will listen to their cues and fulfill their needs.

I don’t completely identify with this principle. I have breastfed our daughter on demand for 11 months, at first exclusively, and then alongside solid foods from six months old. Breastfeeding has been a learning curve, but we have both really enjoyed it. I plan to continue breastfeeding to a year and beyond, whilst it still works for both of us. We love the convenience and responsiveness of it.

Although I have breastfed, it has not always been with love or respect. We have had several episodes of our daughter biting me, sometimes once, and sometimes for a week at a time. I found it impossible to do anything except get through these weeks. Furthermore, I often read over our daughter’s shoulder whilst she is feeding.

3. Respond with sensitivity

With attachment parenting, parents consider all expressions of emotions, including repeated tantrums, as real efforts at communication. Those efforts are to be taken seriously and understood rather than punished or dismissed.

I identify with this principle. We do always try to consider why our daughter is crying, and what she is trying to communicate. This feels like it comes naturally to us.

However, we find it really hard to respond consistently and sensitively if our daughter is crying a lot. For example, she recently had a temperature of over 40°C for eight days, and cried non-stop around the clock. By the end of the eight days, my tether felt very short, and I was exhausted.

4. Use nurturing touch

Attachment parenting proponents advise maximum skin-to-skin touching. Ways to achieve that include joint baths and “baby-wearing” — carrying babies during the day in a front-facing sling.

I identify with this principle. We’ve been carrying our baby since she was born: at first in a Freerider sling, and more recently in a Tula sling, which means we are able to carry her on our backs. We cuddle our daughter a lot.

However, we have done less skin to skin cuddling and touch with our daughter than I expected, because she was born in a 37°C heat wave.

5. Ensure safe sleep, physically and emotionally

Attachment parenting experts advise making “co-sleeping” arrangements. With co-sleeping, an infant sleeps in the same room with parents so they can feed and emotionally soothe the child during the night. Some parents practice “bed-sharing” or sleeping in the same bed with babies. But be aware that currently the American Academy of Pediatrics advises against this as it may increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS.

I largely identify with this principle. We respond to our daughter in the night, and aim to get everyone back to sleep as quickly as possible. We pick her up, we cuddle her, we feed her and we sing to her. We have not sleep trained with her.

At first, our daughter slept in a Snuzpod bassinet, which she was really happy in. When she was around six months old, we transferred her into a bigger cot. It’s fairly safe to say she hates this cot, and wakes up from the deepest of sleeps to tell us so. Therefore, more recently, our daughter often sleeps for some of the night in our bed. I am very happy with this in theory, and have read all the safe cosleeping advice. However, it really frightens me: I am scared of her falling out of our bed, or suffocating on a duvet or pillow. Therefore, we always offer her the opportunity to sleep in her cot.

6. Provide consistent and loving care

Proponents of attachment parenting advise the nearly constant presence of a parent. That includes during walks, parents’ night out, and work. They advocate against childcare for more than 20 hours a week for babies younger than 30 months old.

I identify with this principle. We’ve been very physically close to our daughter at all times since she was born. The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that we have spent a lot of time at home and as a family, with just the two or three of us. I’m not going back to work, to spend more time looking after her. I hate the idea of leaving her in childcare: she seems too little.

7. Practice positive discipline

Parents are advised to distract, redirect, and guide even the youngest of babies, and to model positive behavior. Attachment parenting aims at understanding what a child’s negative behavior is communicating. And parents are encouraged to work out a solution together with a child, rather than spanking or simply imposing their will on children.

I identify with this principle, and we try our hardest to do this. However, it’s bizarre how easy it is to say ‘no’ or ‘don’t’. We found that this wasn’t very effective, and also upset our daughter and us. Currently, distraction and redirection are most effective at managing our daughter’s behaviour.

8. Strive for balance in personal and family life

Parents are encouraged to create a support network, live a healthy lifestyle, and prevent parenting burn-out.

This principle is a work-in-progress for me: I’ve prioritised eating healthy food and exercise this last year, and have pursued hobbies, with cooking and writing this blog. However, I’ve written before about trying my hardest to make a circle of mum-friends, and how difficult this can be. I’ve found this challenging because it is a challenging thing to do, and also due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At times, I’ve also struggled in this first year of parenting to find time for my relationship, and carve out time for myself in a day and a week.


So, overall in summary: our parenting style does largely fall in the ‘attachment parenting’ camp, with caveats specific to our family.


I’d love to hear about you, in the comments or on @wholemealmum or #wholemealmum!

How would you describe your parenting style?


wholemealmum

Mother of a baby girl, born in July 2021. Finding my way with it all. Recipes, parenting, and walking.

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