Midwife Tracy Donegan says that ‘attachment parenting’ is an instinctive way in which parents attend to their children and believes it to be beneficial for both parents and infants.
“Although ‘attachment parenting’ seems to be a new trend, it’s actually a return to a more instinctual style of parenting. Long before books were in print, parents were ‘reading’ their babies and responding to their cues and trusting their instincts. As a midwife it is wonderful to see parents trusting themselves rather than the self-acclaimed baby experts – after all, they are the experts on their individual baby.”
“The concept of a parent-led style means parents set the schedule for feeding and sleeping rather than adapting to the individual baby’s needs. This style of parenting advises against cosleeping and attempts to encourage independence at an early age by moving baby into his own room soon after birth for ‘sleep training’. The style of parenting advocated by experts such as Gina Ford suggests that showing your baby ‘who is boss’ from birth will result in a contented baby.
Child-led attachment parenting focuses on a more flexible style where parents adjust their lifestyle to the new baby. Unlike a parent-led approach, babies are not left to ‘cry-it-out’ at bedtime, which has been shown to impact brain development due to the stress response. Instead they attempt to meet baby’s needs consistently, which builds trust, security and independence.
There are challenges to both approaches – so by all means read the books and then take what works for you and your family and remember that it doesn’t have to be ‘all or nothing’.”
Tracy, who provides private in-home postnatal care for new parents, says attachment parenting can be altered to suit each individual family.
“You can adapt the main recommendations of this parenting style to suit your family’s individual needs,” she says. “And as with everything there are pros and cons.”
PROS of attachment parenting:
- Apart from the obvious health benefits for your baby through breastfeeding, attachment parenting promotes security and independence.
- It gives parents an opportunity to parent with a flexible attitude and less stress and more sensitivity to your baby’s needs.
- It’s very much about throwing out the rule book and the clock and going with the flow.
CONS of attachment parenting:
- Being immediately available to respond to your baby’s needs almost always means keeping him in continuous close proximity especially in the first year.
- Baby wearing, sleeping with your baby and exclusive breastfeeding can be very intense for some mothers especially if there are frequent nightwakings’.
Helen O’Connor is married to Martin and together they have three children – all of whom have been brought up in the attachment philosophy without her even realising it was happening.
“I didn’t make a conscious decision to practice attachment parenting as I knew nothing of the theory; I just wanted my babies to be happy, healthy and secure in the knowledge that they were loved,” she explains.
“It made sense to me to cuddle and breastfeed. But although co-sleeping wasn’t something I had considered, I had a Moses basket beside the bed and more often than not the babies slept in our bed – I got more sleep and I found they slept better too.”
“We always knew I was going to breastfeed and with all of my babies, I had them close to me from the moment they were born. Martin has been with me every step of the way and has been just as close to the children as I was, taking them for cuddles after every feed and ensuring that while they were little, they were always attached to one of us.
“Having a baby in bed with us during the first year did make things a little awkward when it came to finding time for ourselves, and our love life wasn’t quite as active, as it was previously but seeing as we went on to have other children, we managed somehow.”
Although the Galway woman has many friends who also practice attachment parenting, she has others who don’t and feels that everyone should be allowed to make their own decisions without feeling guilty.
“Most of my friends have the same philosophy as me when it comes to parenting but I do know others who follow a very routine method with their babies,” she says.
“I know they find it very effective but when I read Gina Ford’s book, I found it to be very controlling and not at all what a parent/child relationship should be about. “Women have been having babies since time began and mothers have traditionally carried their babies close to their bodies and responded to their every need, just like it is in the animal kingdom. So I think that to have rigid routines for every child regardless of their individuality seems so wrong.
“And it certainly doesn’t work if you are breastfeeding as the best way to build supply is to feed on demand. “Being an attachment parent is being aware of each of child’s individual needs and tending to them in the best way I can. We all have our own individual styles – so parents shouldn’t push their ideals on others. I would like to see parents being supportive of one another rather than being judgemental, maybe that’s being a little idealistic, but it’s not always easy being a parent and I think mothers need all the support they can get.”
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