How much does a baby need his mother? To what they say, “Don’t hug it all the time; you will spoil him” or “Let it cry a little; it won’t hurt.” How “bad” are hugs for the baby and the immediate satisfaction of their needs? Some parents worry that they will “spoil” their child if they show him that he is the center of their attention. However, it is different to focus your attention and another to revolve your life around your child.
More and more research highlights the long-term benefits of so-called Attachment Parenting for raising children, mainly during the first three years of life. Its goal is to develop the child’s secure attachment to the primary caregiver, who is usually the mother. This secure attachment contributes to balanced and healthy psycho-emotional development and the development of children’s emotional intelligence. The important thing is for parents to analyze what their child is communicating and respond accordingly. Babies can’t calm down on their own, which is why they need calm and loving parents to teach them how to regulate their emotions. The caring touch responds to the child’s needs for physical contact, love, safety, stimulation, and movement. In the same way, tight hugs, caresses, massage, and body play are factors that help establish the attachment between the parent and the baby.
Infants with secure attachment tend to be healthier, exhibit fewer outbursts of anger, and develop “consciousness” earlier. As they get older, they become more cooperative with their parents, get along better with peers, learn faster at school, have greater self-esteem, and are more flexible and resilient under pressure.
Dr. Sears, a pediatrician, a staunch supporter of Attachment Parenting and author of several related books, refers to the 7 B’s, which can help develop secure attachment:
· Birth bonding: The days and weeks after birth are a sensitive period during which mothers and babies are always together. Close attachment immediately after birth allows the child’s physical, biological, and attachment behaviors and the intuitive and natural qualities of care of the mother to come together. Unless there are health reasons for the caregiver or the mother’s need to return to work, we do not separate the child for the first three years. We start our life together from birth and not from the day we return home from the maternity hospital.
· Breastfeeding: We breastfeed the child according to his own needs and requirements during the first two years. Breastfeeding helps the mother read her baby’s marks, body language and, thus, know it better.
· Babywearing: A baby learns a lot in the hands of a busy caregiver. Children in the sling are less anxious and spend a lot of time in a state of quiet alertness, a situation in which they learn a lot about their environment. The “carrying” of the baby also improves the sensitivity of the parents. Because the baby is so close to the mother, she learns it better. Proximity promotes intimacy.
· Bedding close to baby: Parents share their bed with the child or have the crib close to their mattress to be near the baby during sleep. Since the night hours can be scary for little people, sleeping together minimizes the stress of a night out and helps the baby learn that rest is a pleasant and fearless activity.
· Believe in the language value of your baby’s cry: Baby’s crying is a sign for his survival and the parents’ development. The sensitized response to the baby’s crying builds confidence. Babies trust that carers will meet their needs. Parents gradually learn to trust their ability to respond appropriately to their baby’s needs. This increases the level of communication between children and parents. Tiny babies cry to communicate, not to manipulate.
· Beware of baby trainers: Attachment Parenting rejects the child’s varied methods of “education” (indifference to crying, punishments, thought-chairs, warnings, reward systems). This “convenience” in raising children has short-term benefits but long-term losses and is not a wise investment. These more restrained parenting standards create a distance between parents and their baby and prevent them from becoming their child experts.
· Balance: If you want to offer everything to your baby, it is easy to neglect your own needs and your marriage. But the key to balancing parenthood is to respond appropriately to your baby – knowing when to say “yes” and when to say “no” and having the wisdom to say “yes” to yourself when you need help.
By responding immediately to the child’s signs and relieving discomfort in childhood, parents provide a warm and receptive environment for children. In particular, both the friendly and positive complexion of the interactions and the relief of discomfort enhance the search for contact with parents and secure attachment. Alternatively, when the parents leave the child alone, mostly when the child is distressed, they can not rely on the parent to comfort him.
There was confusion in behavioral research into the response to crying, with some arguing that responding to a child’s crying would strengthen it and increase the likelihood of it appearing (e.g., Gewirtz & Boyd, 1977). Attachment Parenting’s answer has two parts. Initially, crying is the only way they have to communicate when they need something for younger children. This crying is caused by internal states of the body, such as hunger, and does not occur otherwise. Since strong stimuli cause crying, the parent’s response is only related to these conditions. That doesn’t mean he’s spoiling the kid. Secondly, parents are still learning their infant and the best ways to intervene at this point in the child’s development. As they become more familiar with the child, they can begin to understand and predict the child’s signs better to respond to messages that promote crying. If crying needs to manifest itself in rare cases, it is unlikely to be strengthened. Thus, Attachment Parenting, for both infants and older children, reduces discomfort, and mostly, in a preventive way.
Another benefit of Attachment Parenting is that it helps the child become more flexible and, therefore, more independent. Effective regulation of emotions contributes to the development of resilience. From the beginning of the child’s development, the parent is more active in regulating his feelings, mostly negative emotions, with practices such as holding, common sleep, frequent breastfeeding, and responding to crying. If a parent uses these practices in a sensitive way to the child’s needs, the child is more likely to develop a secure attachment relationship with the parent. The secure attachment relationship functions as a system of emotion regulation, in which the child is more active. When the child is upset, searches for contact with the parent. When his emotions are under control, he can continue exploring the world.
Having a safe base, the child can begin to move more easily from the known to the unknown. The mother’s mental presence allows the child to “carry” the mother with him as he moves away from her to discover and learn about his environment. Infants with a secure attachment to their mother are less anxious when they go out to discover their world. These children physically and mentally check with their mother to reassure themselves and continue exploring at regular intervals.
In a survey conducted with families in which parents have chosen to sleep with their children from the beginning, preschoolers appear to be more self-sufficient and show greater social independence (Keller & Goldberg, 2004). In this research, the results are adjusted according to behaviors such as dressing alone and solving problems with peers without the intervention of older ones. In a related study, pre-school children with secure attachment as infants showed less dependence than those with insecure attachment as infants (Sroufe, Fox, & Pancake, 1983).
The baby spent nine months in his mother’s abdomen, which means that he was one with his mother for all that time. This unity needs to be maintained as long as the child needs it. When we satisfy his need and do not ignore it, the child acquires the ability to move forward and give up that need. The more you respond to your toddler’s dependency, the more independent it will become as a teenager and as an adult. So, sleep with your child, hug your child, spend as much time as you can with him. Give him all your love and care because he needs them so much.
Arnold, N., (2010). Raising our children, raising ourselves.
Extra Prepare (n.d.). Attachment Parenting. http://guide.extraprepare.com/articles/attachment-parenting-47.php
Markham, L., (n.d.). Attachment Parenting Pros and Cons. http://www.ahaparenting.com/parenting-tools/attachment-parenting/Pros-and-cons
Miller, P., M. & Commons, M., L., (2010). The Benefits of Attachment Parenting for Infants and Children: A Behavioral Developmental View. http://www.baojournal.com/BDB%20WEBSITE/BDB-no-10/A01.pdf
Sears, W., (n.d.). What Attachment Parenting is: 7 Baby B’s, http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/parenting/attachment-parenting/what-ap-7-baby-bs
Sears, W., (n.d.). 7 Benefits of AP. http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/parenting/attachment-parenting/7-benefits-ap