What binds all parents together is the love that we have for our children, and our desire that they grow up to be happy, confident, healthy individuals. It should be said that as all children and all parents are different, there is no one "correct" way in which to achieve this honourable but difficult aim. Attachment parenting is one way in which the path can be made a little smoother however, both for children and their parents. Often when AP is discussed the benefits to the CHILDREN are mentioned but very little is said about the many pluses for parents. In this article I aim to redress this balance, and to explain how AP can be beneficial emotionally, physically, and financially, as well as heightening the many joys of parenthood.
Parenting is a Tough Job
Parents these days are given a VERY tough job: nurture your children, and help them to grow into responsible, happy, independent adults. In Western society, these goals can be somewhat complicated by warnings about spoiling, making children too dependent and so on. It seems that the long-term goals of independence and responsibility are put forth as an urgent matter: childcare books are filled with suggestions of how to get young babies to sleep through the night, to go longer between feeds, to play happily on their own. The difficulty here is that children are usually not MADE that way! Babies arrive VERY needy indeed, so much so that many new parents are totally rocked by how hard it is to care for their precious little bundle. It has even been suggested that human infants actually undergo a "fourth trimester" outside the womb, as they are so very helpless when born.
On the one hand, we parents have this tiny helpless creature who is totally dependent on us, and who naturally remains dependent in a number of ways for YEARS rather than months. On the other hand, we are bombarded with warnings about letting baby get "too attached", "making a rod for our own backs", "spoiling" our baby by holding him "too much" and so on. The babies need to be responded to, and we love them so very much that we WANT to respond. And yet there is so much pressure to go against this very basic instinct. Parents want to do a good job, what the experts in the books tell them, but if we do that, we end up feeling like we are constantly fighting against an inner voice and even against our very own child. In order to accomplish what the "experts" tell us must be achieved, we must fight against nature, our own desires, and those of our children. How very sad this is!
The Relief In Following Your Instincts
When parents decide to largely ignore the "experts" and instead listen to their own instincts, the relief is amazing! No more fighting to get baby sleeping alone when in fact you both want to be together, no more worrying about feeding her "too soon" if she wants a little top-up feed half an hour after the last one, no worries about "spoiling" by letting her ride along on your hip all day during a clingy phase. Baby is happy, parent is happy! Simple as that! A huge weight can be removed from our shoulders when we start listening to our babies and our own instincts rather than doing what we are told we "should" do!
Often the hardest part of parenting is not the actual physical effort required in holding, feeding and so on, but the inner fight, the second-guessing, the checking of the clock to see if it really would be okay to feed the baby after all. If baby starts to fuss, it is SO much easier to just RESPOND to the child by holding, nursing, or whatever you believe baby needs, than to try and "hold off" for fear of spoiling. The relief in giving yourself permission to do this has to be experienced to be believed!
AP Heightens The Joys
Attachment parenting is unfortunately often thought of as all give, give, give. An important point to understand is that AP is actually a JOY for parents as well as being beneficial to the child. It is emotionally easier on parents to do what they believe is right, even if sometimes that might be harder on them physically. There are also numerous joys in many of the usual "AP trademarks": snuggling next to your baby at night and waking up to his smiling little face, the many wonders of breastfeeding your child into toddlerhood (and perhaps beyond), holding or carrying your baby a lot of the day - all these things not only bring great pleasure to the children but to the parents as well! Let's face it: we love our babies and we love to have them close!
It is also a tremendous joy to see your child grow and mature with a well-developed sense of trust and feeling right about himself. Attachment parenting can definitely help achieve this aim. When your APed child goes on to nurture his or her siblings, the parental feeling of pride is overwhelming!
Happy Babies Make For Happy Parents
Attachment parenting also heightens the joys because APed babies are generally happier than they would otherwise be. By responding promptly to our children, they naturally cry and fuss less, are more contented. The usual trademarks of an AP style, such as nursing on demand and allowing the child to wean gently when he or she is ready, holding/wearing baby when baby wants that, and sleeping next to baby are all things that can make life very pleasurable for babies and young children! Respectful, gentle discipline also helps teach children how to behave responsibly in such a way that leaves their self-esteem intact.
Happy babies make for happy parents! No parent likes to listen to their baby cry, or to know their baby is unhappy. Unfortunately, many of the bits of advice that are given these days that are in theory meant to make parents' lives easier actually make them miserable because their babies are miserable! (Please note that I didn't say that APed babies are always happier than other babies, but I am saying that by responding to a child's needs, including of course the needs to be held and kept close, babies are less likely to fuss than they otherwise would. Of course AP babies can suffer from colic, reflux, and other conditions that can make them miserable. However, even in cases like this, by being worn in the sling, co-sleeping and so on, that child will be given great comfort.) Of course some babies really do enjoy being pushed in a pram, sleeping in a cot etc, but for many babies, they take some convincing to be happy in these. So many parents spend shopping trips expending physical and emotional energy trying to keep baby happy in a pram (and end up carrying the baby anyway and trying to manage the pram as well) when it would actually be so much simpler to just carry or wear baby in the first place.
Discipline is easier
Teaching children right from wrong as they grow would probably have to be the most challenging aspect of parenting! AP can make this task that little bit easier. Attachment parenting helps parents know their children, have a very close and trusting bond with them, and these things can assist with discipline. The tools of attachment parenting can also help parents and their children through the tumultuous toddler years! Even if the day has presented its share of tantrums or other unpleasantness, coming together to snuggle and nurse off to sleep can be a wonderful way of helping parents enjoy their children again, to get over the difficulties and become reconnected.
It's Great for Working Parents
In most families at least one parent needs to work outside the home. Attachment parenting can be of great benefit in keeping the closeness there, in helping parents reconnect with their children at the end of the workday. Fathers who work long hours outside the home would hardly get to see their children if not for sharing the family bed. Cuddling close at this time can be wonderful! Mothers who are away from their children for work can also find that nursing and co-sleeping help her to enjoy her children and to keep the close bond.
AP is Convenient
Attachment parenting can be extremely convenient! I should say here that in no way am I suggesting that children are always convenient nor that they should be. Nevertheless, for many families, the AP style is a very workable, convenient way to parent. When nursing on cue, using a sling, co-sleeping, it can be very easy indeed to go on outings, to travel, to basically be very flexible. Many AP babies will nap anywhere they have their mother or father to snuggle with in the sling for example.
I have heard some AP parents say that they do it because they are lazy. Even though this is clearly tongue-in-cheek, there is definitely something to be said for the physical ease and convenience of many of the typical AP traits. When co-sleeping is working well, there is no need for parents to get out of bed to tend to their babies. Mothers can help get baby attached to the breast (older babies and toddlers often manage to help themselves!) and then drift happily back to sleep. Wearing baby in a sling or similar carrier can also be easier in many instances than trying to manage a pram when out (especially if baby isn't too happy to be in there), and can make getting housework done a breeze. Babies can even nap in there and no matter where you are or for how long, APed babies are usually quite happy as long as they are with their mothers.
AP Can Save Money
Attachment parenting cannot only heighten the emotional joys of parenting, but it can also be less painful for the hip pocket! Many items that are often touted as essentials, and can be quite expensive to purchase, are not actually necessary when attachment parenting. Certainly, such items as cribs, strollers, swings and so on are owned by some AP families and they are not necessarily inconsistent with an AP style: however, they are not strictly NECESSARY, and an AP family can usually get by quite happily without having to buy such things. A sling, which can even be homemade for a few dollars, can take the place of a $200 pram (and even the crib, as many babies will sleep in the sling for naps). The firm mattress of the parents' bed can make an excellent sleeping surface. Most AP mothers breastfeed, so there is no expense for formula. Basically, with the AP style of parenting, you need to purchase very little!
Attachment parenting is not just good for babies and children: it is great for parents as well! In a whole variety of ways, attachment parenting is an easier, more joyous, way to parent. IT is definitely worth considering!