Attachment Parenting Erica Jordan, Ph.D. University of West Florida
What is an Attachment? • A strong, enduring, emotional bond • Transcends time, space, and death • Often begin to develop before birth for expectant parents • Vary in quality and fall along a continuum of security • Secure • Insecure
What Attachment is Not • Not a new style of parenting • Not attachment therapy • Not helicopter parenting or “martyr mothering” (or fathering) • Not exclusively child-centered • Not indulgent or permissive parenting • Not only for mothers
Internal Working Model • Attachment relationships set the stage for a child’s social and emotional development • Becomes the framework for other relationships and for regulating down negative emotional states • Secure • Anxious/Ambivalent • Avoidant
Benefits to Children • Have fewer health problems • Have better emotion regulation and cortisol balance • Are better prepared to explore the world around them • Better peer relations in early childhood and adolescence • Related to exploration in toddlerhood and IQ in children • More positive romantic relationships and more likely to have secure attachment relationships with their own children
Benefits to Parents and Caregivers • Find it easier to meet their child’s needs • Makes discipline easier • Promotes a lasting positive relationship with the child
Primed for Attachment:Some Strategies Come Naturally • Infants’ attachment-promoting behaviors: • Quiet alert state soon after birth • Bid for attention by crying • Quickly prefer parents’ voices • Quickly learn smell of mother’s breast milk • Seek close proximity • Drawn to “high contrast” objects (such as faces)
Primed for Attachment • Parents also have attachment promoting behaviors • Feel compelled to attend to baby’s cries • Mothers lactate when seeing or hearing a baby • Baby “smell” and touch is attractive to caregivers • Often enter a “falling in love” stage with their infants • Parents naturally hold infants close • Parents speak in high-pitched, parentese
Challenges to DevelopingSecure Attachments • The child’s temperament and individual differences • The parent or caregiver’s temperament • Lack of education about best practices • Influences from outside of the family
Additional StrategiesTo Encourage Secure Attachment • The Seven “Baby Bs” (William Sears, M.D., & Martha Sears, R.N.) • Attachment Parenting International’s Attachment Parenting Guidelines (www.attachmentparenting.org) • Child development and family development empirical research • Strategies should be chosen like tools
Preparation for Pregnancy,Birth and Parenting • Provide education about parenting philosophies and birthing options. Warn parents about information that is unfounded. • Refer to patient-focused physicians. • Encourage recommitment between expectant parents (if there will be more than one parent caring for the child). • Encourage parents to seek out sources of encouragement. • Encourage parents to make peace with any lingering childhood issues.
Encourage Birth Bonding • Allow parents to hold the baby immediately after birth. Delay routine procedures, if possible. • Baby will often be in a state of quiet alertness soon after birth—perfect for gazing, touching and talking. • Provide parents privacy, when possible. • Encourage rooming-in. • Encourage parents to engage in appropriate attachment promoting behaviors, even if they don’t feel an immediate connection.
Encourage Developmentally-Appropriate Expectations • One of the best strategies! • Provide quick-and-easy educational resources for parents so that they have age-appropriate expectations about specific ages and stages.
Promote Breastfeeding • Encourage breastfeeding within the first hour. • Rooming-in often makes breastfeeding easier. • Encourage the use of a lactation specialist. • Discourage parents from making feeding a control issue, and encourage them to nurse frequently and wean gently. • Become familiar with support groups available to parents (ex: “Breastfeeding in Combat Boots” Facebook Group).
Bottle Feed withAttachment In Mind • Advice for bottle-feeding parents: • If possible, use the pump. • Feed according to baby’s cues and don’t worry about spoiling a baby by feeding it. • Avoid bottle propping. • Don’t feel bad about bottle feeding.
Encourage Nurturing Touch • Skin-to-skin contact • Infant massage • Avoid overusing technology to babysit
Encourage Baby-Wearing • Baby-wearing • Eases stress and keeps baby calm. • Teaches contentment. • Helps babies to learn about their environments and promotes the development of speech. • Helps slow-to-gain babies. • Makes breastfeeding easier. Makes life of parent/caregiver easier and promotes becoming an expert.
Encourage Belief in Baby’s Cries • Crying is the baby’s way to communicate that they have a need. It is their primary signal. • Over time, distinct types of cries become evident and you can respond more appropriately. • Remember that dealing with young children takes patience—with the child and with yourself. • Take the “Caribbean approach.” “No problem, Baby.”
Encourage Belief In Baby’s Cries • Early response means less crying. • Intentionally allowing babies to “cry it out” is stressful, unhealthy and can be dangerous for infants. • Resist the urge to believe that your baby is trying to control you or that you are not competent.
Encourage Belief in Baby’s Cries • Focus on routines—not rigid schedules. • Babies thrive when they are nurtured. • Involve others who are willing to help.
Special Suggestions for Fathers • Make time to spend with the child. Take time to learn the tricks of parenting. Practice attachment parenting strategies. • Be present at the birth. • Feed the baby and wear the baby. • Play, play, play! • Remember that good fathers make a huge positive impact on a child’s life.
Strategies for Maintaining Positive Attachments • Continue to respond with sensitivity. • Encourage children to handle what they can handle. • Show interest in the child’s interests and activities. • Continue to use nurturing touch. • Practice positive discipline strategies.
Maintain Age-Appropriate Expectations • Have developmentally-appropriate expectations! • Can challenge child by promoting some behaviors that might be slightly above the child’s developmental level, but must be done with patience and with the realization that this will not always be possible. • Avoid exasperating the child to minimize the feeling that they are helpless to succeed.
Major Sources • Handbook of Attachment: Theory, Research, and Clinical Applications (by Jude Cassidy and Phillip R. Shaver) • Attachment Parenting: A Commonsense Guide to Understanding and Nurturing Your Baby (by Dr. William and Martha Sears) • Attachment Parenting International organization (www.attachmentparenting.com)
Suggestions for Further Reading • Bell, D. C. (2009). Attachment without fear. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 1(4), 177-197. • Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachment and loss. New York: Basic Books. • Bretherton, I. (2005). In pursuit of the internal working construct and its relevance to attachment relationships. In K.E. Grossman, K. Grossman, & E. Waters (Eds.) Attachment from Infancy to Adulthood: The Major Longitudinal Studies (pp. 13-47). New York: Guilford Press. • Candelaria, M., Teti, D. M., & Black, M. M. (2011). Multi-risk infants: Predicting attachment security from sociodemographic, psychosocial, and health risks among African-American preterm infants. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 52(8), 870-877. • Nicholson, B., & Parker, L. (2009). Attached at the Heart: 8 Proven Parenting Principles for Raising Connected and Compassionate Children. iUniverse.com • Oconner, E., Bureau, J., Mccartney, K., & Lyons-Ruth, K. (2011). Risks and outcomes associated with disorganized/controlling patterns of attachment at age three years in the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. Infant Mental Health, 32(4), 450-472.