Strings attached

It is difficult to know where to start on the parenting schools of thought – each seems a minefield and I’m finding it hard to know what to believe. Each parenting approach believes theirs is the best and will guarantee that Elphie will become a functional and productive member of society, whereas all other methods are at best hokey and at worst evil.

Attachment Parenting is the brainchild of the Sears’, or Dr Bill and Martha to their friends, whose many years in paediatrics, lactation support and childrearing eight children has led them to the conclusion that “Attachment parenting is a style of caring for your infant that brings out the best in the baby and the best in the parents”. Job done then!

I find the Attachment Parenting International description a little more helpful:
“The essence of Attachment Parenting is about forming and nurturing strong connections between parents and their children. Attachment Parenting challenges us as parents to treat our children with kindness, respect and dignity, and to model in our interactions with them the way we’d like them to interact with others.”
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The strong attachment it is trying to engender is based on Bowlby’s Attachment Theory, and essentially providing the parenting style that in theory should give you the best shot of achieving secure attachment.

There are seven tools (the seven Bs) which the Sears say will help support strong attachment:

1. Bonding
2. Breastfeeding
3. Babywearing
4. Bedding close to baby
5. Belief in the language value of your baby’s cry
6. Beware of baby trainers
7. Balance

Interestingly the Balance bit is to stop you being too baby focussed, as with all that babywearing and co-sleeping it might be hard for your partner, friends or family to get a look in!

One thing worth noting is that, to my mates the Sears, Attachment Parenting is an approach to parenting focussed on developing a strong attachment between parents and child, and the “Seven Bs” are tools to help that, but they are just tools not rules, if your focus is developing a strong attachment but you love your buggy then you still get to join the AP club (whatever the purists would say).

The criticisms of AP seem to focus on the investment required, especially by the mother, to be constantly responsive, as well as a view that the baby could get too focussed on the mother or parents and find it hard to socialise with others or be independent.

I find it hard to sift through the evidence on this one as it seems to me that although you could interpret AP in a way that is extremely baby-focussed, and some do – for example, restricting who holds the baby to immediate family members, or not doing something because the baby might need you. Alternatively, you could think of AP as trying to balance baby with life – that you should be responsive to your baby, but also take advantage of the “babywearing” and “balance” to continue living life as you have done. Indeed some argue for women to return to the workplace with their babies strapped to them.

I would certainly say that we have tended towards the AP style of parenting although we don’t follow the Seven Bs to the letter. Part of that decision is nothing to do with a belief that Elphie will be better off because of it, but because we will be better off – public transport is easier if she’s in a sling; we still go out to dinner at pubs, restaurants and friends’ houses and bring her along because that is convenient for us; I’m responsive because I don’t like hearing her crying (but sometimes we let her cry – like on short car journeys where it’s inconvenient to pull over); she doesn’t follow a strict schedule because we like to be flexible on when we go out and when we come back in again and that’s harder if she’s expecting to be put down for a nap at 10am.

So is AP really entirely baby-led or is it parent-led just in a different way?

I think I have more research to do!

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