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Attachment Parenting - What is it really?

Author Philippa Murphy

Attachment Parenting - What is it really?

To me, attachment parenting is one of the amazing essences of life! By that I mean, it encompasses all of those fundamental values that are necessary for health and well-being like being respectful, nurturing and present for one another. There are of course many ways that these values can be fostered. As a postnatal educator and a, Associate Professional with Attachment Parenting International(API), I believe I cultivate this by teaching parents what their baby is truly telling them, which in turn creates an exchange of intimate, responsive relating that is so beautiful to watch. And as a mother, well words can't really describe that pure emotion of love that bursts forth copious times a day among the errands and sometimes stressful juggling of life. As I'm sure many of you know, it can catch you unaware and touch you to the core.

If you are looking for a more succinct answer to what Attachment Parenting is then API provides just that. They say there are eight principals that make up the philosophy of attachment parenting:

  • Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting
  • Feed with love and respect whether you are breast or bottle feeding
  • Respond with sensitivity
  • Use nurturing touch
  • Ensure safe sleep, physically and emotionally
  • Provide consistent and loving care
  • Provide positive discipline
  • Strive for balance in your family and personal life

A recent article written by a colleague of mine at the Infant Mental Health Association New Zealand, Lauren Porter, (Co-Director for the New Zealand Centre for Attachment, a mother of two and an advisor and presenter for Brainwave Trust,) summarised some well known former studies on attachment parenting... 'security in infancy is associated with healthy mutually satisfying relationships, optimal cognitive functioning and emotional and behavioural management later in life (Karen 1994). Secure attachment relationships are marked by a mutual bond in which the mother, or other caregiver, shapes infant development through her interactions and relationship with her child (Bowlby1982). These relationships then allow for the formation of an ‘internal working model’ that functions as a template by which babies can gauge their own emotions and those of others (Marvin & Britner 1999). The hallmarks of attachment security are availability, responsiveness and sensitivity (Ainsworth 1973). Hence it is not just the presence of the parent, but the quality of the parental response, their emotional availability and their sensitivity to the baby’s communication that form the heart of a child’s security (Kobak 1999).'  

'When a baby is cared for in this wholly sensitive way, a secure relationship will likely develop and form a foundation for emotional health that lasts a lifetime. All aspects of development are influenced by fundamental attachment relationships. For example, the human brain adds 70% of its structure after birth (Schore 2001). Hence our genetic potential is expressed via our experiences (Siegel & Hartzell 2004). Positive, nurturing parental response impacts the brain in two very important ways: it decreases the impact of subsequent stress on the brain (Cozolino 2006) and it enhances brain growth and the development of brain systems that support attachment, emotional regulation and problem solving (Davidson 2000). Babies who experience soothing touch, comforting warmth, repeated experiences of calming when distressed, a sustained positive emotional state and homeostatic balance when tired, hungry or over stimulated grow to develop healthy emotional regulation, brain growth and self esteem (Cozolino 2006). On the other hand, babies who experience neglect or abuse during their early life are at risk for mental illness, behavioural disturbances, cognitive impairment, and brain damage (McEwen 2000; Perryet al 1995). Because infancy is dedicated to an explosion in brain growth and neural connectivity, those years are widely considered the most critical period of development (Perry et al 1995).'

For more in-depth information on the eight principals go to: 
Lauren Porters full article can be read here

Last Updated: 12 October 2016