There are so many styles and labels for parenting lately. When I grew up it was just parenting period -- you either had weird parents or cool parents, there was no in-between. Now there are “helicopter,” “Velcro,” “snowplow” parents, “tiger mom” – all titles we use to vilify styles of parenting in today's culture.
There is one more -- it's called "attachment parenting" and just FYI it's Attachment Parenting Month in October. I don't believe Hallmark has a card for it nor is there a commemorative ribbon. At least not yet.
Janet Jendron is the board president of Attachment Parenting International and she describes it like this: "Attachment parenting is natural parenting, it's what people have the instincts to do, and that's what's kept the human race going all these years. It's being close, feeding on demand and all of that."
These are, we're told, the “8 Principles of Attachment Parenting:”
Prepare for pregnancy and birth
Become emotionally and physically prepared for pregnancy and birth. Research available options for healthcare providers and birthing environments, and become informed about routine newborn care. Continuously educate yourself about developmental stages of childhood, setting realistic expectations and remaining flexible.
Feed with love & respect
Breastfeeding is the optimal way to satisfy an infant's nutritional and emotional needs. "Bottle nursing" adapts breastfeeding behaviors to bottle-feeding to help initiate a secure attachment. Follow the feeding cues for both infants and children, encouraging them to eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. Offer healthy food choices and model healthy eating behavior.
Respond with sensitivity
Build the foundation of trust and empathy beginning in infancy. Tune in to what your child is communicating to you, then respond consistently and appropriately. Babies cannot be expected to self-soothe, they need calm, loving, empathetic parents to help them learn to regulate their emotions. Respond sensitively to a child who is hurting or expressing strong emotion, and share in their joy.
Use nurturing touch (babywear!)
Touch meets a baby's needs for physical contact, affection, security, stimulation, and movement. Skin-to-skin contact is especially effective, such as during breastfeeding, bathing, or massage. Carrying or babywearing also meets this need while on the go. Hugs, snuggling, back rubs, massage, and physical play help meet this need in older children.
Ensure safe sleep
Babies and children have needs at night just as they do during the day -- from hunger, loneliness, and fear, to feeling too hot or too cold. They rely on parents to soothe them and help them regulate their intense emotions. Sleep training techniques can have detrimental physiological and psychological effects. Safe co-sleeping has benefits to both babies and parents.
Provide consistent, loving care
Babies and young children have an intense need for the physical presence of a consistent, loving, responsive caregiver, ideally a parent. If it becomes necessary, choose an alternate caregiver who has formed a bond with the child and who cares for him in a way that strengthens the attachment relationship. Keep schedules flexible, and minimize stress and fear during short separations.
Practice positive discipline
Positive discipline helps a child develop a conscience guided by his own internal discipline and compassion for others. Discipline that is empathetic, loving, and respectful strengthens the connection between parent and child. Rather than reacting to behavior, discover the needs leading to the behavior. Communicate and craft solutions together while keeping everyone's dignity intact.
Strive for balance
It is easier to be emotionally responsive when you feel in balance. Create a support network, set realistic goals, put people before things, and don't be afraid to say "no." Recognize individual needs within the family and meet them to the greatest extent possible without compromising your physical and emotional health. Be creative, have fun with parenting, and take time to care for yourself.
Not everyone agrees
Jendron says her group's mission is to educate and support all parents in raising secure, joyful, and empathic children in order to strengthen families and create a more compassionate world. It's hard to argue with that but there are some details that raise hackles.
Many critics take issue with the notion of on-demand feeding. And "co-sleeping" is condemned by experts if it takes place in the same bed, primarily because of the danger of suffocation.
See the group's website to learn more.