Not only is October the birth month of yours truly, the start of apple picking season, and the most beautiful time of the year (you can quote me on that), but it is also Attachment Parenting Month!
"I had no idea," you say...well me neither, but this worldwide celebration, created by Attachment Parenting International along side the Sears family (of popular Dr. Sears books), hopes to shed light on this growing parenting style.
The AP Month vision is to create one strong voice for AP through activities, events and information and to celebrate our annual theme.
This year's theme is Relax, Relate, Rejuvenate. Their goal is to challenge parents to "re-examine their daily activities, routines, beliefs, habits and traditions and learn new ways to engage with their children to grow with each other and remain close while promoting opportunities for healthy exploration, individuation and development."
Sounds good to me!
But with the recent spectacle that was made with the now infamous Time Magazine article about AP, featuring Jaime Grumet, a mother of two seen breast feeding her almost 4 year old son, this style of parenting has come under the national microscope. Check out her real story in this month's issue of Pathways to Family Wellness.
I think it's funny (not really) that everyone and their mother, even people without kids weighed in on extended breast feeding and why they think its wrong or weird.
As a mom who, as I type these words, is attached to my 22 month old by a boob, I still can't understand why this topic is such a huge debate. Why do other people care how I feed or comfort my child as long as he is a healthy, thriving, and loved little boy?
I don't walk into Mc Donald's and give dirty looks to parents as they shovel french fries and franken-meats in their kids. It's their right to make those choices and unless that kid is in poor health or severely obese people should look the other way if it bothers them.
Sorry, enough with my soap box....back to attachment parenting.
I would say anyone who subscribes to this type of parenting doesn't do so for shock value or because they read it in a book. There seems to be an overall consensus that this is what "feels right"... instinctively... to help our children grown into sympathetic, independent, and productive members of society, while honoring their individual needs.
We don't raise our kids this way to be in the spot light, cause controversy, or be the latest shit-show on reality TV.
So what is attachment parenting, in a nutshell? According to Attachment Parenting International there are 8 principles of parenting, and they do not specifically include those "extreme" practices like pre-mastication, elimination communication, or even extended breast feeding.
1. Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting
As a doula I've seen many women devour EVERY book when it comes to pregnancy and their perceived trauma and drama around birth. But I think very few parents-to-be read anything about what to do once the baby gets here. So now they are left with this beautiful child that is 100% dependent on them and the choices they make, and some new parents kinda freak. Educating yourself helps you to make choices that are right for you, not based on what friends of family members did.
2. Feed with Love & Respect
Though API understands that breast feeding exclusively the first year is the most beneficial way to feed a baby, they also respect the choices of parents choose or need to bottle feed. More importantly then what they eat is how they eat. By avoiding a schedule and paying attention to your child's feeding cues of when they are hungry and when they are full, you are setting them up for healthy future eating habits.
3. Respond with Sensitivity
Becoming a new parent can be a stressful time. This principle helps to remind us that sometimes we need to take a pause and think about how our responses to our children (hurried, angry, scared, stressed, impatient) will shape their life.
4. Use Nurturing Touch
Physical intimidation or discipline is not something that fosters a sense of safety, security or love. Children are not little adults. Their view of the world, as a baby, is limited to what we as parents subject them to. Those experiences form how they will approach the world as adults. AP promotes raising children to approach others with love and respect, not fear.
5. Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically & Emotionally
If you aren't getting kicked in the face every night by a tiny human...I envy you. Co-sleeping, the family bed, and bed sharing are all terms we see associated with AP. But in reality they are not mandated or necessary. What is key is that we listen to the needs of each individual child, while keeping them in close enough proximity to foster secure bonding and attachment. This technique does not include methods like "crying it out" or "sleep training" as they force a child into a routine and pattern that benefits the parents (short term) more than it benefits them.
6. Provide Consistent & Loving Care
This seems like a no-brainer, but being consistent in your care can be difficult when so many of us work outside the home, have busy schedules, or have to rely on others for childcare. Make sure your childcare providers understand your parenting practices and support them, that way your child isn't receiving two different messages.
7. Positive Discipline
In my experience, as a mother of 3, children don't respond well to intimidation. By being reprimanded in a negative way we encourage more negative behavior. Instead, attachment parenting asks that we take the time to understand why a child is acting out, help them communicate their feelings, and come up with solutions that are fair and reasonable. I know this principle can sound a bit soft and fluffy, but the reality is most kids act out because they don't understand what they are feeling or because they don't understand how their behavior makes others feel.
8. Strive for Balance in Personal & Family Life
This is what being "holistic" is all about for me. It means choreographing a dance between our mind, body, and spirit, that allows our families to grow in a way that benefits our local communities and the world.
To me, nothing about this parenting style seems extreme or controversial. We all want a happy and healthy children, don't let labels scare your from doing what you feel is best.
Do you think Attachment Parenting is radical? Do you think the media represents it fairly? Share your comments below!
Lovingly Attached in Granolaville,