Attachment Parenting. It sounds like parents hovering hysterically over their kids, hopelessly attached and never wanting them to experience a moment of distress in their lives. But contrary to popular belief (I actually saw a published article in Parents magazine referring to it this way), it's NOT the same thing as "helicopter" parenting. Quite the opposite, actually. Based on Attachment Theory, Attachment Parenting (let's just call it AP for simplicity) is a style of parenting that promotes strong parent-child bonds and has been proven to result in greater independence and less anxiety as children grow into adulthood. Babycenter.com actually has a really good article explaining it here if you're interested.
I first learned about AP in undergrad when I was studying human development and child psychology as part of my teaching certification. It has been a topic near and dear to my heart ever since. My love was further reinforced during grad school when I was studying psychology and counseling. Attachment Parenting is all about being attentive and responsive to babies' needs and keeping babies and children in close proximity to their parents or primary caregivers. Think practices like baby-wearing, exclusive/extended breastfeeding on-demand, co-sleeping or room-sharing at night, gentle or alternative forms of discipline (vs. spanking, punishment, time-out, etc), and definitely no "crying-it-out." The rationale behind being so attentive is an effort to build strong and secure bonds between babies and parents. Such a bond helps babies feel safe and cared for. They know that their basic needs are being met (and vigilantly), they know that their lifeline- mom & dad- are close by, so they feel comfortable and confident exploring their world independently. Logic, not to mention our human instinct, tells us that since mom & dad are baby's lifeline, when they are present and attentive baby's stress level is going to be low. When mom & dad are absent or inattentive, baby will feel anxious and fearful. They're uncertain about their basic needs being met, much less any risk-taking or exploration of the world around them. Ever wonder why parents agonize so much about leaving their babies for the first time at daycare, or leaving them to cry-it-out for sleep training? It's because it goes against our instincts as parents to leave our children and not respond to them. This is not to say that parents who sleep train or utilize daycare are bad parents or are psychologically damaging their kids. People do what they have to do. The overall key factor is making sure babies know their needs will be met, either by parents or other caregivers if they're at daycare.
For me personally, this style of parenting makes the most sense. I love and use AP because I believe in parenting by my instincts and the way God/nature intended. When my baby cries, there's a need, and it's my job to address her needs. Naturally children who are too young to care for themselves are going to want to be in close proximity to those who provide for their needs and will feel fear and anxiety when they're separated. I also believe in the research that indicates this style of parenting results in less stress and anxiety for both babies and parents and the long-term positive impact it has on development. Yes, research has proven that the way we respond to babies affects the way their nervous system develops, and therefore affects them for life. They may not remember crying it out, but that experience could be something that sticks with them into adulthood. Nurturing that part of my kids' development is just as much a priority to me as feeding them nourishing food and keeping them safe and warm. AP also just works really well for me as a stay-at-home mom. We don't have to separate for daycare in the morning, I don't have to sleep train so I can get up on time for work, etc. This isn't the case for every family, and I believe just as strongly that families should do what works for them.
So as a mom, counselor, and practitioner of AP, you can imagine my joy when I was browsing Facebook one day and came upon The Badass Breastfeeder: a mom, former social worker and huge proponent of AP. As a former Social Worker, our professional backgrounds are very similar and we happen have a lot in common philosophically. She's an awesome resource, very smart, very practical, and totally inspiring. If those things weren't enough, my respect for her maxed out when I read this story about how she still struggles not to lose her shit sometimes. I'm all about being real and putting the real stories out there. We all struggle! Sometimes reading blogs and Facebook pages and other such resources out there in the Mommy-sphere can be so discouraging because all we see are glowing, shining moments of perfect parenting. I don't care how many great moments you have, no one's parenting experience is sparkling all the time. We give it our best, and that is the most important thing. Some days that looks like Cheerios and Disney Jr., some days it looks like gourmet organic lunches and making crafts for charity. Currently the girls and I all have colds, so we're closer to the Cheerios and Disney Jr. end of the spectrum. It happens!
Here's to giving it our best!
PS- If you have a favorite parenting resource or parenting style, share it in a comment!