The Misconceptions of Attachment Parenting

by Holly Keich

As the leader of a the Harrisburg Attachment Parenting Group, I’m often approached with requests to join the group followed by a list of reasons the applicant considers themselves to be an attachment parent. Often I’m left wondering how it is that each person has come to identify specific attributes to this particular parenting style. Breastfeeding, babywearing, cloth diapering, co-sleeping, home schooling stay-at-home moms who slather their babies in coconut oil, make all their own baby food, choose to leave their baby boys intact, are vaccine hesitant and buy amber necklaces in bulk…This has become the attachment parenting stereotype.

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Let’s take a step back and look with fresh eyes to see where it all started. Attachment Parenting; a phrase coined by Dr. William Sears in and his wife Martha, a registered nurse, in 1982; was discovered by Dr. Sears when reading Jean Liedloff’s book The Continuum Concept. (1) This ground breaking book published in 1975 took a look at the Ye’kuana people of Venzuela. Through her research, Liedloff proposes that the modern Western ways of giving birth and raising children, with bottle feeding, cribs and baby carriages, does not meet the evolutionary needs of children and therefore they develop a sense of wrongness and shame about themselves and their desires. (2)

Attachment Parenting owes it’s roots to many philosophic predecessors beyond just Liedloff. The first of which is the father of attachment theory, John Bowlby and subsequently his research assistant, Mary Ainsworth who is most notably known for the “Strange Situation” which investigated how attachments might vary between children. With Attachment Theory burgeoning in the world of research after World War II, many responsive parenting styles began to become more mainstream. Most notably Dr. Spock’s best selling book “Baby and Child Care” was published in 1946 where he advised mothers to raise their infants according to common sense and plenty of physical contact. (3) In the 1990’s T. Berry Brazelton also contributed to this discussion with new research about the capacity of newborn infants to express themselves and their emotions and for parents to become sensitized to their babies needs and to follow their own judgment. (4) And there are countless others in between the two as research began to hone in on how babies attach and what that looks like in varying family situations.

The Baby BookIn 1993, the Sears’ published the first edition of “The Baby Book”, the first publication that guided parents in the tenants of “attachment parenting”. (5) This is where the 5 Baby B’s where introduced, which later became the 7 Baby B’s in 2001 with the introduction of “The Attachment Parenting Book”. (6)

  • Birth bonding
  • Breastfeeding
  • Baby wearing
  • Bedding close to baby
  • Belief in the language value of your baby’s cry
  • Beware of baby trainers
  • Balance

As we look at the 7 Baby B’s we begin to see where some of these stereotypes surrounding attachment parenting might have originated.   And even though the Sears’ discuss that attachment parenting is a responsive approach to parenting that it doesn’t have a strict set of rules, many choose to dig in and identify with the above concepts as guideposts to being the perfect parent, myself included in the early days of parenting. Have you found yourself using the guideposts as a checklist rather than a potential strategy that could be weighed in determining what works best for your family?

In 1994, with the blessing of Dr. Sears, Attachment Parenting International was founded by two educators and mothers, Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker in Nashville, Tennessee. (7) Both were teachers who noticed a growing need among their students for, greater family security and caregiver availability. (8) API has expanded on the 7 Baby B’s and Dr. Sears’ work and now promotes the 8 Principles of Attachment Parenting. (9)

  • Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting
  • Feed with Love and Respect
  • Respond with Sensitivity
  • Use Nurturing Touch
  • Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally
  • Provide Consistent and Loving Care
  • Practice Positive Discipline
  • Strive for Balance in Your Personal and Family Life

While the intent is the same, the principles expand on the Sears’ premise by including Positive Discipline and allowing a broader definition for each category, further defining and refining the core concepts of attachment. While the Sears’ 7 Baby B’s are geared primarily for children 5 and under, the 8 principles are expansive enough to guide you through the ages and stages of parenting up until the teen years (and beyond).

Although it’s been around for nearly 35 years, with roots dating back to World War II, Attachment Parenting is viewed as a fad. Even though the tenants of parenting that are proposed are as old as time and secure attachment remains as basic and beneficial as it ever was to human development, there are critics of Attachment Parenting. Often, this criticism is muddled, confusing attachment parenting with permissive parenting, helicopter parenting, and natural parenting. But if we go back to the principles, you won’t find these attributes on the list. Positive Discipline utilizes strategies that are empathetic, loving, and respectful while strengthening the connection between parent and child. The strategies are kind yet firm. The ultimate goal of discipline is to help children develop self-control and self-discipline. (10) And even though many of the tenants are instinctual, responsive and therefore may come “naturally”, the use of coconut oil, cloth diapers, and natural remedies as espoused by natural parenting is nowhere on the list.

Despite the broader definitions, Attachment Parenting is still mistakenly viewed by many as an intensive parenting style that requires you give up yourself completely to care for your child. Visions of babywearing until they are in middle school are conjured up in people’s minds and written about in articles. And this stereotype may made even more true by those adhering to what they believe are the attachment parenting principles, forgetting that one of those principles is to Strive for Balance. Taking time for yourself is one of the key elements of being an attached parent. If you run yourself ragged meeting your baby’s needs and everyone else comes before you, you’ll soon find yourself struggling to hold on without realizing that you’re the one leading the circus. You’re the one spinning more and more plates striving for perfection and applause. That is, until they come crashing down to the ground and the tent falls in.

Before you loose yourself, take a step back, take a deep breath and realign yourself with the principles that speak to you and work in your life. Use them as tools rather than steps that help you achieve the broader over-arching goal of raising a compassionate, loving and responsible human being. Look at the principles as objectives in reaching that goal. Realize that babywearing is a tool, one of many that can help you meet the objective of using Nurturing Touch, as are infant massage, bathing, hugs, and snuggles. Move through each principle and reassess. There is no one right way to be an attachment parent, but there are a million ways to attach with your child. As is embedded in the philosophy itself, listen to your intuition and let it guide you. You are the best parent for your baby. You know what is best for you and your family. If you are able to quiet your mind enough to listen, to stop the plates from spinning, you can hear that inner voice guiding you. Sit with that voice. Learn to trust that voice.

Celebrate Attachment Parenting Month with a deep connection to peace, love and trust in your own heart so that inner light can shine out brightly for others.

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attachment_parenting
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attachment_parenting
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attachment_parenting
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attachment_parenting
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attachment_parenting
  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attachment_parenting
  7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attachment_parenting
  8. http://www.attachmentparenting.org/WhatIsAP.php
  9. http://www.attachmentparenting.org/principles/principles.php
  10. http://www.attachmentparenting.org/principles/discipline

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Holly Keich is the owner of Om Baby Pregnancy & Parenting Center in Camp Hill.  She is a Licensed Social Worker, Yoga Instructor, Certified Infant Massage Instructor, Parent, Wife and adamant learner in the school of life.

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It’s All Normal: A Story of Extended Breastfeeding in American Culture

20526275_10155428980056257_533579188615686729_n“How long did you breastfeed?” she’d asked as I started engaging in small talk at my husband’s friend’s New Year’s Eve party. She had seen me still breastfeeding my youngest earlier in her living room. I’m stumped by her question. This is the first time I’ve ever been asked point blank about the length of time I breastfed my oldest child.  I searched quickly for a non-answer and couldn’t find one. So rather than engage in awkward silence, I answered tentatively that he’s still nursing. She was astounded. “I mean don’t you want your body back?” She continued saying that she’d weaned at one because she needed to have her body back. It was her story, many women’s story, and another story that let me know I was different. This interaction left me feeling exposed, sure she would share my secret that my son was still breastfeeding at age 6.

“You know what they say? If you breastfeed past two it’s just for you.”  A co-worker who loves to instigate throws this quip at me after learning that I am still breastfeeding my then 2 year old son.  The implication is that I get sexual pleasure from the experience. It’s said in a tone that meant ‘not me of course, but that’s a belief that’s out there.’ It’s an offensive thought, but a small part of me feels the shame of society and looks inside as I defiantly defend myself and my sons need to keep nursing beyond what is socially understood or accepted in our ‘me first’ culture.

Up until age 2 I had an easy, pre-prepared come back; “The AAP recommend breastfeeding until one and the WHO recommends continuing to breastfeed until at least two years old.”  Even that gap between one and two years old felt tenuous when I said it. American pediatricians at least agreed that breastmilk was important enough for a child under one, but beyond that those WHO recommendations were really just for those living in 3rd world countries. For those living where it was less safe to mix formula for their child due to water conditions. Where disease was more prevalent and dangerous and breastmilk beyond one would help their survival rate. It really wasn’t for the modern mom living in western suburbia and headed to work every day.

So I developed a new story; “I planned to nurse to 2 years old, but my child had a different plan.” I used attachment parenting and the adage to follow your child’s lead to guide me through the years after two. But I became acutely more aware of the moments when he wanted to nurse in public, being extra sure to be discreet without actually leaving the room to hide my ‘shameful breastfeeding’ away. I wanted to normalize it, but had my own tenuous feelings of wanting to hide in those years after his 2nd birthday.

My son is 3 and perusing the food table stealing snacks and treats out of my view at a party. Eventually as day turns into night, he comes to me and wants the comfort of nursing or maybe it’s that he fell and bumped his knee, I can’t quite recall.  He wanted the comfort of being held close in his mama’s lap and the familiar rhythm of nursing. I don’t know these people, I think. I don’t feel safe to nurse here, so I steal away to a quiet, dark corner and sit at the bottom of an open stairway to nurse. This is the first time I remember feeling shame while nursing. I am more worried about who could see us than my son’s need to nourish himself, be it emotionally based rather than nutritional.

Before he was born I wasn’t certain how I felt about breastfeeding in public. It’s not something I had seen often and I’m not an exhibitionist who feels free with her body to expose it.  I mean whenever I was in a situation in college where everyone went skinny-dipping, I was the one sitting on the dock, fully clothed wondering what fresh freedom these people had found. It wasn’t that I was ashamed of my body, but that it was private and there was shame in sharing it publicly. How would these thoughts transition to breastfeeding my child? What I found is that my newborn’s needs trumped my concerns about what other people thought or saw. I mean which would they rather have, a crying, hungry baby or a possible nip slip sighting? I felt justified in those early days. And I’m pretty sure the hormones of birth and early parenting had a lot to do with that fierceness that allowed me to take care of my child regardless of setting. After all, this is what nature intended.

The cultural norm in countries where breastfeeding continues to term unhindered by these judgmental labels, what’s considered ‘extended breastfeeding’ in our culture (as if anything beyond 1 is abnormal), is 4-7 years old. Good, good. I’m within the cultural, biologically normal group. There’s nothing wrong with this, nothing wrong. We’re not an enmeshed family dyad where my needs depend on him needing me.

As the days and years pass, I tell myself he won’t nurse forever. He won’t need me forever. It’s as if I’ve resigned myself to his needs as I’ve always done since he was born, without considering me in the equation.  After all, what is motherhood but selfless service to another? I don’t need him to nurse to give my life value. His very existence as my child brings value to my life. He was a ‘wanted’ child that we conceived after two years of trying and many procedures poking and prodding my ovaries to work properly. Is it in my effort to prove to myself and the world that we aren’t enmeshed that I begin to push him away and resent his need of me? Is it what I feel or what society has laid on me?

In breastfeeding groups over the past ten years I’ve seen more women speaking out about how long they’ve breastfed. Proud of their 3.5 years, 4 years, 5.5 years. But you don’t hear much beyond that. Is there still shame in nursing to the upper limits of ‘normal’ even amongst breastfeeders? Portrayals of women who continue this connection beyond even the extended breastfeeders norm are considered freaks. The mother who has the bravery to share her story on TV is shown holding her child with their lanky legs dangling off her lap, certainly too old for breastfeeding. A story of someone who once knew a woman who nursed her son until he was 8, until her family had an intervention to say enough is enough.

My son lay next to me in his bed, our typical bedtime ritual in progress, reading a book, then lights out and nurse to sleep. It’s the only time my son nurses anymore. It’s the last of his security he’s had since he’s arrived on earth. As we turn out the lights and he drifts off to sleep sucking on my breast,  I hear my mother-in-law walking back the hallway to tell me she’s leaving. I quickly unlatch and we lay side by side as she comes in to say goodbye.

It should come as no surprise then when my son asked to nurse on another day in another time and knows that I’m scanning the room to see if I feel safe enough to indulge right then and there. I’ve taught him that it’s not safe to expose yourself, to be vulnerable even in the name of love. You must hide to feel safe.

Screams and cries as my son hits the floor in the lobby of the Farm Show building. It’s only been a few weeks since his little sister arrived in the world. We’re trying our best to keep his world the same and show our love for him by doing things. Nothing says love like the smell of a barnyard and petting a fluffy bunny.  As I carry his sister in the Moby Wrap, I assume he has tripped behind us and fallen to the ground. Nothing worse than the screams of a 4 year old in a massively crowded public setting. I scoot us to the side, out of the way of the moving crowd and know that he’ll want to nurse to calm down. I pass my daughter to my husband and I huddle up my son in my lap and enshroud us in my giant babywearing coat and hide in plain view of everyone entering and exiting the Farm Show. I comfort him. I meet his needs. And I send a clear message that what we are doing isn’t to be seen by others.

I often wonder how those messages were received. I continue to nurse to meet his needs, but if I’m ashamed of it what story does that implant in his brain. How will it display itself when he’s older?  Curiosity sparks me to continue nursing to term to see what is his norm, regardless of my discomfort which is more cultural than personal.

Despite my fears, I realize he still looks at it as a loving normal connection as I ask him if it’s OK if I share a story of our breastfeeding journey. He pauses for a second and looks confused as to why it would be important enough to write a story about it. It’s all normal. It’s the expression of the life giving love and power of motherhood…
regardless of the age of your child.

What is Attachment Parenting?

logo-that-hopefully-doesnt-change-colorAttachment Parenting is the term coined by Dr. William Sears and his wife Martha to describe a highly responsive, attentive style of caring for a child.  The essence of Attachment Parenting is about forming nurturing strong connections between parents and their children.

Attachment parenting promotes physical and emotional closeness between parent and child through the eight principles of parenting.  All of these principles are aimed at promoting a trusting, intuitive relationship between parents and baby through the physical and emotional closeness that makes it easier to know and appropriately respond to the baby’s needs.

Attachment Parenting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting

  1. Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting

The way baby and parents get started with one another helps the early attachment unfold. Start by becoming emotionally and physically prepared for pregnancy and birth.  Research available options for healthcare providers and birthing environments, and become informed about newborn care.  A close attachment after birth and beyond allows the natural, biological attachment-promoting behaviors of the infant and the intuitive, biological caregiving qualities of the parent to come together.

  1. Feeding with Love and Respect

Breastfeeding is the optimal way to satisfy and 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.

  1. 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 and 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.

  1. Use Nurturing Touch

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.

  1. Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally

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.

  1. Provide Consistent and 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 and alternative 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.

  1. 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.

  1. Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life

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.

While some people might see these principles as a set of rules they must follow, they are just recommended tools that can and should be individualized for each family and parenting situation.  Parenting is too individual and too complex for there to only be one way. Attachment parenting is the style that many parents use instinctively anyway.  The important point is to get connected to your baby and once connected to stick with what is working and modify what is not.  Ultimately you will develop your own parenting style.


Compiled by Holly Keich, LSW & Owner of Om Baby Pregnancy & Parenting Center.

Sources:

http://www.attachmentparenting.org/principles/principles.php

http://www.askdrsears.com/html/10/T130300.asp

http://parenting.ivillage.com/baby/bparentstyle/0,,489j-p,00.html

Choosing Child Care

Attachment Parenting is a parenting paradigDSC04833m rooted in attachment theory that encourages an infants need to be nurtured and remain physically close to the primary caregiver, usually the mother, during the first few years of life.  It is believed that the child’s emotional, physical and neurological development is greatly enhanced when these basic needs are met consistently and appropriately.  The long-range vision of Attachment Parenting is to raise children who will become adults with a highly developed capacity for empathy and connection. The essence of Attachment Parenting is to form and nurture strong connections between parents and their children.

Because of these components, many believe that following the Eight Principles of Attachment Parentingand returning to work are mutually exclusive.  Although these principles were developed to promote optimal attachment between parent and child, they are also comprehensive enough to fit a broad spectrum of family situations because Attachment Parenting is not a one-size-fits-all recipe for raising children.

Not everyone has the ability to stay home with their child as their full-time caregiver and must return to work.  The prospect of returning to your job can be difficult for any parent and finding the right daycare situation is a daunting task even for the best of us.  Finding someone who is not only consistent and loving, but is able to bond with your child and consciously provide care in a way that strengthens the attachment relationship will be the challenge set before you as an attachment parent.

Be sure to seek a trusted caregiver who supports the Eight Principles of Attachment Parenting. One of the Eight Principles however will be key in your child care decision: Provide Consistent and Loving Care. This principle includes examining the consistency of care in the setting that you choose to place your child and being sure to avoid care with frequent turnover.  If the facility has multiple caregivers for your baby’s group, you might request that one of the staff be designated as his primary caregiver.

Make the transition a gradual and slow one, encouraging the child to form an attachment to the caregiver.  Respect your child’s feelings and follow his lead about his readiness to separate. Going to the daycare with your child for a portion of the day the first few days and gradually work up to the full-time daycare hours that you plan will help you achieve this goal. During these introductory meetings, you can also share with your baby’s caregivers some of the parenting methods that you are using (such as rocking, singing, babywearing) and ask that they try some of these as well. However, keep in mind that babies can develop different routines with different caregivers.  Your baby may surprise you by learning to sleep in a bed on his own when in a daycare.

Be sure to minimize the number of hours in non-parental care so that the child has the opportunity to build secure attachment with you as well.  Babies have an intense need for their mother’s presence especially.  So if you are able, work with your employer so that you can maximize your time with your child.  Many babies respond to regular separations by sleeping more when you are apart and wanting to spend time with you (such as playing, breastfeeding, and touching) when you are together. Being present with your baby, holding, feeding with love, and cuddling all help you and your baby reconnect after time apart. To optimize your time, try fitting baby into your daily routines when you are home.  Consider getting exercise by taking walks with baby in a sling, taking baby along on date night or bringing them along for special events.

Many parents find the first separations very difficult. However, if the transition and caregiver situation works well, the family will adjust to the new routine within a reasonable amount of time. During the transition you can observe your child’s behavior when you leave and when you are reunited. Unusual crying or clinginess and other changes in his behavior may be signs that he is very stressed by the childcare situation. Babies communicate their needs and feelings in many ways. Being responsive to your baby’s needs and emotions and making adjustments if necessary will reinforce his trust in you Your attention to your baby’s emotional needs will help build the strong lifelong attachment that will help your child develop secure and enduring relationships with others.

Information Compiled From Attachment Parenting International 

 

The Revival of an Ancient Wisdom

©Holly Keich

©Holly Keich

Baby Carriers are nothing new and have been around for centuries, even thousands of years. Prior to the recent upsurge in popularity, parents worldwide have used long cloths, shawls, scarves and even bedsheets to snuggle up to their babies and get their chores done.

In celebration of International Babywearing Week (October 2-12, 2015), we want to honor this rich history and help you choose a modern baby carrier that is right for you!

Each country/area of the world has a traditional baby carrier designed to meet their particular needs, i.e. hot/cold climate, type of work mothers do, cultural/traditional wearing positions.

  • For instance Mexican people use the Rebozo, which is a square of woven cloth tied over one shoulder with baby usually on the back- sometimes called a Chal, depending on the length.
  • Peruvians have a Manta which sits over both shoulders like a cape, and baby sits high on mother’s back.
  • Guatemalans use Parraje– similar to a Rebozo.
  • European mothers used a mixture of pouches, wraps and short cloth carriers.
  • Alaskan/Canadian people have the Amauti which is a very thick arctic jacket with a baby ‘pocket’ in the back, baby even fits under the over-sized hood!
  • Papua New Guinea mothers use a Bilum– a net bag held at the forehead with baby hanging at the back (very strong necks!)
  • Indonesian mothers use a Selendang which is a long ornate wrap.
  • Aboriginal mothers used to keep their babies in carriers made of bark, similar to the cradleboards used by Native Americans but without the cloth covering.
  • Asian mothers use a variety of carriers including Mei-tai /Hmong/ Bei(China), Onbuhimo (Japan), Podaegi (Korea) plus many use a ‘carrier’ of long straps which go under baby’s armpits and thighs for back carries.
  • Welsh mothers used to wear their babies in warm shawls, called ‘Siol Fagu‘ (nursing shawl ).
  • Ethiopian mothers use a blanket with top straps, similar to the Onbuhimo.
  • African mothers use a ‘Khanga’ which is a short-ish piece of cloth tied around the torso, so baby sits low on the back.
  • Maori women carried their babies in a cloth inside their cloaks, or in a flax Pikau (backpack).  (excerpt taken from http://www.slingbabies.co.nz/Site/History_2.ashx)

In the Western world, babywearing saw a decline as parents misunderstood or were not aware of babywearing. (For instance, some parenting experts believed the mistaken notion that babywearing hindered developing independence, whereas it actually facilitates it when practiced properly).

A modern resurgence came about in 1981, a man from Hawaii, Rayner Garner, invented a sling with two rings and padded edges, for his wife Sachi to wear their baby.  His design was so popular and useful that in 1985 Dr William Sears, pediatrician and Father of 8, bought the rights and continued making and promoting slings.  The basic sling design still exists today in many variations, and many brands and types to choose from.

Dr William Sears coined the term ‘babywearing’ which has gained in popularity (along with soft carriers/slings) since the 1980s.  He sees baby slings as an extension of the womb environment, bringing with it many benefits for baby’s development and parents’ sanity!  Studies report less crying, better growth for premature babies, increased parental confidence that helps to reduce postpartum depression, and don’t forget about the comfort and convenience of being hands free and able to go where no stroller dares to tread.  Check out the new local group Hike It Baby Harrisburg for some great outdoor options for enjoying the great outdoors with your little ones.

Ready to give babywearing a try, but not sure where to start? There are many considerations, whether you are choosing your first (or tenth!) carrier. The BabyWearer http://www.thebabywearer.com/index.php?page=whattype and Babywearing International http://babywearinginternational.org/pages/typesofcarriers.php are 2 great resources to help you choose the carrier that is best for you and your baby. We are lucky to have a local Babywearing International Group with qualified leaders to help you learn how to use your carrier.  You’ll find them at Om Baby on the first Sunday of every month from 2-4pm, but they also host meetings in York, Lancaster and Waynesboro.  The group meetings are free, but they also offer a sling lending library for only $30 a year.  Be sure to stop in and get help from experienced babywearers who can show you proper positioning and provide tips for safe carries.

Infant and Toddler Sleep: Cultural Values VS Instinct and Scientific Evidence

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Photo: Om Baby Center

Pamela Moran, MSW, LSW

One of the biggest struggles and stressors for new and not so new parents are sleep issues…how much sleep should they get, how do I get them to sleep, where should they sleep, how can I get more sleep while also getting things done and having time to myself….and the list goes on. Interestingly, these questions and concerns are relatively new for parents, and are specific to western culture. And for babies and toddlers, these issues are irrelevant. They already know all of this. They have already been doing it for nine months in-utero. They already know how to sleep, when to sleep and how they feel most comfortable and safest while sleeping. How have we come to have such little trust in them and in ourselves as parents?
Based on all the overwhelming cultural chatter about what is “normal” regarding sleep, it is no wonder most of us have become victims of all the fears that surround these issues. Will my baby become overly dependent? Will they sleep with us forever? Will they ever sleep through the night? What will others think? Is there something wrong with me as a parent? Could it be our fear that drives us, both as parents and as a culture? What if it is our culture that has actually created all these struggles and fears? In Western society we have come to value self-soothing , self-sufficiency and early independence for babies and toddlers.In the mid 20th century, it was pediatricians, who had little if any part in the care of their own infants, who were providing authoritative advice to parents as to these sleep questions. Their recommendations were based on the values of our culture, not on knowing what babies need, or on instinct, much less on any scientific evidence. These values for infants are all based on how we want infants to be, not on how they actually are, or on their actual needs as infants. In fact, humans are the most highly dependent, for the longest period of time, of all infant mammals, on their caregivers, for their basic needs. A tremendous amount and quality of caregiver attention and interaction is required for the infant’s brain to develop optimally, for intellectual, social, emotional health, as compared to any other mammal infant. Dr. William Sears motto is, “Show me the Science! Childrearing is too valuable to be left to opinions alone”. www.attachmentandhealing.com