Monday, July 7, 2014

Attachment Parenting - A guest post by OVERTHEMOONFORJUDE

feel honored to have been asked to write about attachment parenting for Rad & Rebellious. Before you read this post, I would like to let you know that I am simply a 19 year old mother to my one and only 15 month old son, Jude. I am currently studying to become a birth doula so my passion and knowledge for attachment parenting comes from research along with personal experience. This is not a post to instruct parents on how to parent. I am simply allowing you to see the parenting style that I am passionate about through my lens. My journey into becoming a mother has been far from picture perfect. But I think we all need to remember that every parent and every parenting style has imperfections. In the end what matters most is that even with our imperfections, we have an amazing perfect connection with our child that no one can take away from us.


Attachment parenting is the belief that we must create a “secure attachment” with our children to give them the strength to become strong adults. Although Dr. Sears coined the term “attachment parenting,” the father of attachment theory ispsychoanalyst, John Bowlby. His research showed that our early attachment styles are established through our relationship with our caregiver as an infant. Development and behavior later in life are strongly influenced by experiences from our early childhood. Bowlby stated, "The propensity to make strong emotional bonds to particular individuals [is] a basic component of human nature."


Bowlby’s Characteristics of Attachment


1. Proximity Maintenance - This is when the child explores his world while staying close to his caregiver. For example, a toddler may explore into another room but will usually “rubber band” back to be back with his mother within a minute or so.  
2. Safe Haven - The child’s desire to rely on the caregiver he is attached to for comfort when he is afraid, threatened or in danger. For example, after months of being in mama’s warm, dark,and tight womb, the newborn baby cries because he needs comfort after being introduced into a new scary environment.
3. Secure Base - When the attachment figure acts as a base of security from which the child can explore the surrounding environment. For example, the child might ask the mother questions while still trying to learn and sort things out on his own.
4. Separation Distress - This is when the child becomes emotionally upset when separated from the caregiver. For example, you know those times when you have to hold your child while you pee because if you put him down he will scream. I’m sure we’ve all had those moments!


Bowlby’s Three Key Propositions


First, Bowlby suggested a child is less likely to experience fear when the caregiver responds to his needs which then fosters confidence.


Second, during the developmental periods of infancy, childhood, and adolescence, confidence and expectations are formed that tend to remain relatively unchanged for the rest of that person’s life.


Finally, he suggested a child will develop the expectation that his caregiver will be responsive to his needs based on the child’s experiences when the caregiver had been responsive to him in the past.


The following are different attachment styles theorized by Mary Ainsworth.

1. Secure Attachment.

• These children are able to separate from the parent, although they are very upset, and they are then happy when the parent comes back. When they are scared, they seek comfort from the parent.
• Parents of securely attached children react quickly to their children's needs and are generally more responsive to their children than the parents of insecurely attached children. 
• Studies have shown that securely attached children are more empathetic during the later stages of childhood.
• These children are also described as less disruptive, less aggressive, and more mature than children with ambivalent or avoidant attachment styles.


2. Ambivalent Attachment.

• These children are very suspicious of strangers.
• They are very stressed when separated from a parent and do not feel safe even after reunited with a parent.
• Sometimes, the child rejects parent by showing aggression towards him.
• Later in their childhood these kids might be described as clingy and over-dependent.


3. Avoidant Attachment.

• These children avoid parents. It is especially noticeable when parent was absent for some time. 
• Children with an avoidant attachment show no preference between a parent and a complete stranger.


4. Disorganized-Insecure Attachment.

• Children with this style show a lack of clear attachment behavior.
• Their actions and responses to parents are often a mix of behaviors, including avoidance or resistance.
• These children are described as displaying dazed behavior, sometimes seeming either confused or apprehensive in the presence of a parent.



Now lets talks about the famous American pediatrician who coined the term “attachment parenting” and wrote one of my personal favorite parenting books, The Baby Book. Whenever anyone asks me for parenting advice, well first I laugh because I’m a nineteen year old first time mom who is barely hanging on, but I tell them to readThe Baby Book and The Breastfeeding Book by William and Martha Sears. I would have never gotten through 15 months of breastfeeding {and still going} if I hadn’t read The Breastfeeding Book from front to back. I own The Baby Book hard copy in two versions as well as have it downloaded on my phone so wherever I go I have it. It has been my “go to book” for any dilemma I have had. It explains postpartum adjustments, newborn care, caring for a sick baby, breastfeeding, formula feeding, nutrition for baby, being a working parent while practicing attachment parenting, developmental stages, high needs babies, and he even talks about attachment parenting as an adoptive parent, etc. Basically, for any situation you are in this is the perfect parenting manual. In the very beginning of The Baby Book Dr. Sear’s explains three goals a new parent would want to achieve:

1.1. To know your child.
1.2. To help your child feel right.
1.3. To enjoy parenting.


To better achieve those goals, he created the Seven B’s of Attachment Parenting:


1. Birth Bonding- Connect with your Baby Early.

“Whenever and however you intend to givebirth, your experience will impact your emotions, your mind, your body, and your spirit for the rest of your life.” – Ina May Gaskin

Dr. Sear’s empathizes how important it is to educate yourself to better come up with a birthing philosophy with your birth attendant. A traumatic or unnecessary surgical birth can result in a separation after birth which can delay attachment and bonding between baby and mother. I personally had a natural hospital birth with my midwife and a doula as an amazing birth support. I created a birth preference plan after researching the benefits of water birth, moving throughout birth and squatting birth. Unfortunately, I had a few complications that lead to rushing me into a hospital bed so an episiotomy could be performed. I was still able to birth without pain medications or an IV, but the trauma from having so many people rushing in the room for back up and then having Jude taken away right after birth has had an affect on me to this day. I’m so glad I had an attachment parenting lifestyle to help me connect with my tiny human after a not so ideal birth.


2. Belief in Your Babies Cries - Read and Respond to your Baby’s Cues

He explains how challenging it is at first to understand what your baby needs when he cries. Through attachment parenting you are better able to read and understand your babies cues and crying. Attachment parents are typically against the cry it out method because they believe babies cry because they have a need that should be met.


3. Breastfeed Your Baby

Breastfeeding has amazing health, attachment and bonding benefits for both mama and baby. Mothering hormones called prolactin and oxytocin are released while nurturing your little one. This is a mother’s intuition. Breastfeeding for me has been a lifesaver, literally. As I mentioned before I had struggled bonding with Jude after birth and throughout postpartum because of my intense postpartum mood disorder. Breastfeeding helped us connect and brought us a closeness similar to him still being in my womb. I really struggled with the intensity of the journey into motherhood. I hated even calling myself a mom because I felt so unworthy. The overwhelming amount of love from Jude as I nourished his mind and growing body through breastfeeding connected me in a way no one else could with Jude. Not all mothers struggle with bonding to their babies or even need breastfeeding to bond, but I am so thankful the universe allowed my breastfeeding journey with Jude. I hope to continue nursing Jude until he is ready to stop.


4. Babywearing- Carry Your Baby a Lot

There are so many benefits to baby wearing.

• Babies who are worn are happier babies.In a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, researchers found that babywearing for three hours a day reduced infant crying by 43 percent overall and 54 percent during evening hours.
• Babywearing has tons of health benefits. Babies born premature or born with special needs often have a fragile nervous system. Babies who ride in a baby carrier close to their mother become attuned to their mother’s breathing rhythm which can prevent SIDS. Feeling their mother’s breath helps regulate their own breath. When babies are close to their mother’s heart they find comfort in the familiar beating sound from the womb. Movements that mothers make while wearing their baby, like walking, bending, and reaching, stimulate the child’s brain. A blind child cannot learn to walk from seeing and imitating others, but will benefit from babywearing by learning walking rhythms. Babies that have vision are able to learn about walking while watching inside their baby carrier.
• Babywearing helps create a secure attachment and bonding between caregiver and baby. Babies connect with their parent’s voice and heart rhythms while being worn. This is especially beneficial to mothers with postpartum mood disorders who struggle bonding with their baby.
• Babywearing helps a caregiver to successfully read their baby’s cues. Babies are born with attachment like behaviors (APBs) which draw the parent in like a magnet. This helps the parent understand when their baby needs comfort, feeding, diaper change, etc. Fulfilling your baby’s needs promotes a life long trusting relationship between parent and child.
• Babywearing is comfortable and convenient. It is so much easier to carry around a ring sling in your diaper bag  and take it out when you need it, compared to lugging around a huge stroller. In addition, you can breastfeed, run errands, do housework, or even do at home workouts while wearing your baby. Babywearing is an amazing multitasking tool.


When I was 13 years old I traveled to Kenya and saw mamas wearing their babies. I knew then that I wanted to incorporate the African tradition of babywearing into my parenting style after I had a baby. Jude was the kind of baby who would literally nurse nonstop so being able to put him in a ring sling so I could walk while nursing was a miracle for me. I was able to nurse while washing and hanging to dry his cloth diapers which I needed to wash regularly because disposable diapers weren’t on our budget. Jude also hated being put down, so I was able to carry more things when I had free hands while wearing Jude. I also don’t have a driver’s license so I was better able to take the bus while wearing Jude rather than having to carry around a huge stroller with me. I just love being able to cuddle and snuggle like a mama kangaroo with her baby.


5. Bedding Close to Baby

This is also known as bed-sharing, share sleeping or co-sleeping. This is a tradition used all around the world. Many babies find comfort sleeping close to their mother’s warmth, breath, and heartbeat. Some babies do better when sleeping in their own room while others may prefer sleeping in their own crib in their parent’s room or in bed with their parents. You really have to find what works best for your family. Sleeping with your baby can help prevent SIDS because your breath helps regulate your baby’s breath similar to when babywearing. Studies have shown a baby who stops breathing can start breathing again from feeling their mother’s breathing rhythm. A mother’s strong instinct can also better detect when their baby is in danger when the baby sleeps close to mom. As a single mom, I personally loved co-sleeping because I didn’t have to get out of bed. It was so painful to walk right after Jude was born so being able to have diapers and boobs right there in bed made my life so much easier. The oxytocin and prolactin released while nursing in bed helped Jude and I relax into sleep. In addition, you don’t have to buy an expensive crib because you use your own bed. Jude and I sleep on a mattress on the floor which I felt was safer than a high bed. It’s a Montessori method for the child to sleep close to the ground in a safe room to promote independence. Jude was able to independently crawl off my mattress to find a toy to play with instead of crying for me to get him out of the crib so he can get the toy he wanted in our room. I just love seeing him find independence and confidence to explore through his trust and secure attachment to me.


6. Beware of Baby Trainers

When you practice attachment parenting you will become attuned to your child’s cues and needs. I truly believe mothers and fathers know what their child needs best, although others still seem to bombard new parents with tips and tricks that are sometimes far from what the baby needs or wants. I think it’s important to find confidence in your parenting to help you better defend your baby against the baby trainers. Apparently letting babies cry it out, not responding to their cues, getting babies on a schedule, or earning weaning, worked for others and I guess that is great for them. You just need to remind these baby trainers that their children are completely different human beings. You are able to learn your child’s cues to create a secure attachment if you allow nature to take control. Just allow mother nature, your child, and your heart take control and not baby trainers.


7. Balance and Boundaries

This is the idea that to be the best mom you can be you need to first take care of your needs. Babies need happy and well rested mothers. It’s like when you get on a plane and they tell you that in an emergency you should put on your oxygen mask and then put a mask on your child. This was definitely the “B” that I threw out the window, yet it’s probably the most important one. As a single mom I wanted to be the best I could be for Jude because I didn’t want him to feel like anything was missing. I didn’t get a break and even when people offered to give me a break I refused. I wanted to do it all because of the guilt I felt being a young and single mom. If it meant not showering for a few weeks or not eating most of the day, I was willing to put Jude before me. Please learn from my mistakes. YOU NEED AND DESERVE A BREAK. Finding balance is so hard, but once you find it parenting becomes much smoother.


Being a parent is a wonderful and rewarding journey. Each day is new and full of experiences that no parent can ever be fully prepare for. We can read and research and talk with other parents, and yet as I said earlier, each child is a different human being. Each child should be loved and respected for the unique individual that they are. I feel that attachment parenting has allowed me to bond with my son, to learn how to read his cues, and to help me to respond to his needs and desires in a loving and sensitive way.

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  1. Didn't she lose custody of her child? With no idea when or even if she might get custody back? How is she qualified to give any parenting advise, much less attachment parenting. Wouldn't you want to do the OPPOSITE of whatever she did?

    1. Who are you to put her on blast like she said it has nothing to do with this post. The justice system isn't always reliable. Anyone who wants to be heard is open to do so. You're ignorant .

  2. You are absolutely right. I have no authority to tell any person how to parent or give parenting advice. I created this post to be informative and to show parenting through my lens. Through having my son taken in to state custody I have learned a lot which I incorporated into this post. My knowledge on attachment theory is actually based on parenting classes I was required to take in order for reunification. I also made a point to tell people my imperfections in the post such as not setting balance in hopes others will really work hard on self care in order to be the best parent they can be for their child. In other words I want others to learn from my mistakes. I will say attachment parenting has nothing to do with why my son was taken away and only benefited him after being taken away. Because of the secure attachment we had from attachment parenting he has been so much stronger though our hardship. I really appreciate you pointing out what I was afraid to tell others because it is a perfect example of using attachment parenting lifestyle through special situations. Thank you for your input!

    1. I apologies for the nerve of some people who want to bring you down. Some people forget that you need to use your manners. You handled it very well .