Parenting

What is attachment parenting and how can you implement it?


Could attachment parenting be right for your family? (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

In a world where everyone else seems to know what’s best for your child or every book seems to be telling you what to do and how to do it, it’s little wonder that parents often find themselves questioning their approach to childcare.

As a nanny who has worked with many families and in many school and nursery settings, the first thing I would always say, is to listen to your instincts as a parent and know that no book, person or, even article like this, can give you a definitive answer on what is right for your individual child.

However, a common parenting theory that’s been talked about for a while now, and one that I have adapted most commonly and favourably in my work, is the attachment care method.

Based on forming unbreakable connections with a child from an early age and forming a respecting a loving relationship, studies show that this form of relationship with children can reduce stress and form healthier and happier adults in the future.

The eight basic principles of attachment parenting

Attachment (often also known as gentle parenting) isn’t a necessarily a set of rules or must dos and don’ts – it’s about using a framework of non punitive discipline and the formation of a loving bond to the level that works within your family.

The basis of it is unconditional love and a safe place for children where judgment is never passed. You can tailor the eight basic principles to fit within your family and how it works.

Mentally preparing for pregnancy and birth

Get to know yourself and your body, talk to other parents but don’t be ruled by what that say. The best piece of advice is you as a parent know best.

In attachment parenting, it’s thought the path to loving your child starts with loving and caring for yourself as a mother.

Feeding

For those who are able to, breastfeeding is a good way to form a strong bond with a newborn, and helps the baby develop their own feeding cues.

Something to note here is that sometimes new mums struggle with breastfeeding. Don’t stress about it. Seek help and guidance. A good service is La Lechia League breastfeeding support or simply talk to your GP or midwife.

Most importantly, don’t beat yourself up if you are unable to breastfeed – many women can’t and it doesn’t mean you can’t be an attachment parent. There are many ways to bond with your baby through feeding.

Responding sensitively

Respond to behaviour with care and understanding. Listening to your child’s cues is imperative in attachment parenting – it’s not about telling them off for being wrong, but understanding what has triggered the behaviour and working through it together.

With crying babies, the principles are firmly about showing love and care, rather than leaving the baby to cry.

Nurturing touch

Direct skin-to-skin contact and lots of cuddles encourages a strong bond from birth. It also creates a sense of safety. This can include joint baths, for example, and baby wearing (carrying your baby in a sling).

Night-time parenting

Attachment parenting encourages co-sleeping (safely, for example using pods or side cots), rocking baby to sleep and following their natural sleep patterns, rather than enforcing a strict sleep time.

Once someone naturally learns how to drift safely off to sleep, parents should find that it becomes easier to do it on their own. Not only that, but the sleep the child is getting is when their body is telling them that they need it, and so the rest is much more beneficial.

Provide constant, loving care

Constant presence of caregiver encouraging and praising is vital for a child’s confidence and happiness, but also their for security. Studies have shown this style of parenting can mean the child is less likely to feel isolation or loneliness.

Practise positive discipline

Treating children as your equal is central to the non-punitive approach – no raised voices, but a diplomatic solution that involves very limited penalties, if any, and certainly no physical punishment.

Cool down together, talk about what they are feeling inside. Make a plan of how we can do it better next time. This builds respect and trust – and also shows the child they won’t be punished for being wrong but they will be helped to learn from it. This is how we all want to be treated, regardless of our age, so attachment parenting thrives on the basis that children feel this from the earliest of ages and then pass it on as they grow up themselves.

Strive for balance in personal and family life

Your mental heath is just as important as your child’s. They learn from you. They see your stress and your happiness. Find a work/life balance the works for your family. Don’t compare yourself to other or criticise yourself and take time for yourself when you need it.

Happy parent equals happy child and vice versa and children are extremely susceptible to the environment and the atmosphere around them.

In our ever changing world. Especially in the western society, we are led to believe that we need to train our children to follow the system and do exactly what it says and children that don’t fit that system – for example not testing well or socially interacting at different speeds – are ‘failing’ or ‘behind’.

The attachment theory invites us to treat our children as individuals and encourage them to find a their own path in the world.

Putting labels on children such as ‘badly behaved’ or ‘spoilt’ or ‘naughty’ can be a result of a child simply not fitting in to stereotypical society norms – and this can damage confidence. Rather than dismissing a child as badly behaved, we can strive to work with them – because there is always a reason or a root cause. It might not always be easily evident – and we won’t always get it right – but simply having a sympathetic understanding and approach is believed to make a child feel safer to open up to you and adults they trust.

You may think some of this doesn’t quite fit with your family and that’s completely fine – every family is different and you have the power to mould the attachment approach so you make it your own. The key is the mental health and wellbeing of everyone within your household. If you place that as your priority and take steps to create a non-judgemental and happy environment then you are an attachment parent.

Listen to what your children are interested in and take your lead from them. Even if it’s endless Peppa Pig, encourage your child’s passions by taking a personal interest with them. Don’t compare the development of your child to other children. We all learn at our own pace and we all become our own adults – which is why the world is such a varied and wonderful place.

Attachment parenting is all about expressing comfort and support (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

The attachment theory can continue with any childcare providers you decide to use – it’s not just for mums or dads. It’s teaching your children that other people do things differently but reassuring them that home will always be the safe place for them, no matter age they are.

It builds trust between adults and children. Children soak up everything they see. It’s not just about your relationship with your child. It’s about everything you do and how you treat yourself and how you let others treat you.

For example, as an attachment nanny I have never really need to discipline a child in my care. We have a bond that dismisses hierarchy. We have conversations about what we are doing and why we are doing it and adjust our behaviour depending on where we are.

I teach the children under my care on playdates that some of our friends’ mummies and daddies have different rules so they need to be able to adapt to other environments too; another form of instilling empathy and non judgement.

Attachment parenting is for everyone but it is completely adaptable. Rather than being a set of rules, it is an ethos for the household which embraces not just the children but the parents too.

Routine is still a possibility and important but it is about moving away from stringent rules, punishment and making the child fear being wrong and about bonding, loving and explaining how they can grow and develop – while also showing them that you are still learning as a parent too.

After all, no matter what age we are, we are all still developing, making our way through a changing world – and all we ask for is respect and understanding while we do so. Our children deserve the same.

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Get in touch by emailing MetroLifestyleTeam@Metro.co.uk.

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