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Parenting - Why Attachment Parenting?

Updated on October 26, 2011

Why Attachment Parenting?

Put the two words "Attachment" and "Parenting" together and you have created an emotional frenzy of opinions that can convey pure acceptance or outright disdain for the movement. Having this debate, with someone face to face, based on the reaction of the person your talking with might actually confuse you and leave you unsure as to how to proceed. The mere mention of parenting style, particularly Attachment Parenting, can evoke a defensiveness on either side of the divide.

Parenting is actually a relatively simple process; that is if you can find a way to get in touch with your inner instinctual primal parent. Human babies are fairly predictable, they need food, continuity of care and lots of time to finish developing their brain, which continues throughout the first year of life.

There have been numerous studies done on the effects of high cortisol levels in infants and children. There have also been more studies done about the effects of high cortisol levels in adults. Even if you want to ignore the infant related studies, paying attention to the adult studies and the effects that chronically high cortisol levels have on adults should be enough to make some sense out of Attachment Parenting.

The negative effects of chronic high cortisol levels are increased abdominal fat, and the risks associated with this are many; such as increasing your risk of heat attack and strokes . Hyperglycemia, high blood sugar levels can easily lead to Type 2 diabetes, it also contributes to increased abdominal fat which is also a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes. Too much cortisol can lead to high blood pressure and lowered immunity, add to this Impaired cognitive abilities. The end result could be harmful neurological effects that may be permanent, is it worth the risk?

Now take the above risk factors and give them to an infant during a critical time in their development. Attachment Parenting isn't about coddling and creating needy children who can't live independently, its about finishing the job that started in utero that is now relegated to the outside world and to the caregivers involved in finishing what they started. Attachment Parenting addresses all the above issues. Bonding at Birth, Breastfeeding, Baby wearing, Sleeping close to your baby, Reacting positively to your crying baby are all part of creating a solid foundation to continue parenting on.

Bonding at birth is being aware that your baby needs to connect with you and you to him, finding ways to nurture this, wearing your baby close to you is an easy way to accomplish this. Breastfeeding not only provides the most nutritious food for your baby, but it facilitates bonding and gives ample opportunities to hold your baby increasing opportunities for positive interactions. Sleeping close to your baby isn't as daunting as it might sound. Co-sleeping also know as the family bed is a great way to have your baby close to you, but its also a great way to establish breastfeeding which as I explained above provides more opportunities to hold your baby. Leaving a baby to cry no matter what your intentions are, does nothing but cause harm. If you go back to stress and cortisol levels you can see how this impacts on infant development and long term health both physical and emotional.

Baby sling
Baby sling | Source

A few years ago I wrote about my experience in hospital with my infant son who experience physical pain so severe that it actually impacted on his ability to urinate. The problem escalated when his urine output ceased and the focus became, he was not getting enough breastmilk. My doctor knew he was getting loads of breastmilk and told me before they start trying to put a nasal gastric tube in I should head out and cuddle him at home. It didn't matter that I had nurses stand beside me listing and watching him gulping milk (I have an overactive let down) making it visually obvious he was getting breastmilk, and that I was weighing him before and after feeds to prove my point, no one was listening to my concerns as to why he wasn't peeing, their reaction was more intervention and more painful procedures. It wasn't until I got home from the hospital and went on-line and contacted Dr. Jack Newman that I discovered the connection to his pain in hospital and the physiological effect it had on him. As painful as it is to remember, I will never forget the last few time they gave him and IV. He had gone from this screaming red faced newborn, tense and shrill to a rag doll who looked as though he had totally left himself, no he didn't just get use to the procedures, he was shutting down, within hours he stopped urinating and just lay there. Once we were released from hospital and he was no longer receiving IV needles (due to collapsed veins) within 48 hours he returned to normal urine output. I'm sharing my story here to explain my first hand experience with stress and its affect on a new born baby. As extreme as that may have sounded, leaving a baby to cry for long period of time can have the same effect and this is backed up with science.

There are immediate and long-lasting harmful consequences to the nervous system when infants experience severe or repetitive pain; repeated painful procedures may result in decreased pain thresholds and hypersensitivity to pain. Immediate harmful effects of pain include physiologic instability and increased incidence of serious complications such as intraventricular hemorrhage. Painful stressors may lead to sleep disturbances, feeding problems, and inability to self-regulate. Long-term effects of pain may include altered pain perception, chronic pain syndromes, and somatic complaints. Repetitive pain in the preterm infant may be associated with attention deficit disorders, learning disorders, and behavioral problems in later childhood. Nursing involvement with pain management is crucial to achieve positive health outcomes for high-risk infants and older children and adults who have experienced repetitive or severe pain as infants. (J Neurosci Nurs. 2002 Oct;34(5):228-36).

THE NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE, Volume 317, Number 21: Pages 1321-1329,
19 November 1987.

Numerous lines of evidence suggest that even in the human fetus, pain pathways as well as cortical and subcortical centers necessary for pain perception are well developed late in gestation, and the neurochemical systems now known to be associated with pain transmission and modulation are intact and functional. Physiologic responses to painful stimuli have been well documented in neonates of various gestational ages and are reflected in hormonal, metabolic, and cardiorespiratory changes similar to but greater than those observed in adult subjects. Other responses in newborn infants are suggestive of integrated emotional and behavioral responses to pain and are retained in memory long enough to modify subsequent behavior patterns. Current knowledge suggests that humane considerations should apply as forcefully to the care of neonates and young, nonverbal infants as they do to children and adults in similar painful and stressful situations.

I realize the above information was related more to physical pain, but it is also related to how parents interact with their children in these situations. While I was in hospital, more often than not, parents almost exclusively mothers handed their babies over to nurses to take them to the procedure room without being present. Most moms to told me they can't handle seeing their baby suffer and they would most defiantly cry. As hard as it was to be in that room so many times with him when he had to undergo a procedure I did, I was his advocate. When they could not get a vein after several attempts, I intervened and asked for a new nurse with more experience working with difficult IV's. Had I not been there, they most likely would have continued and the result would have been more unnecessary suffering.

Parenting is time consuming, but you don't have to be of a particular religion, philosophy, or live a particular lifestyle to be an Attached Parent. AP is not self identifying as superior beings that know, they know it all. Attachment Parents are parents who have tapped into the lost art of instinctual and primal parenting accidentally or on purpose. Once it's first realized, it brings about an immense sense of “How did I not see this! and How do I spread the news?” The AP movement has been fierce at times defending its core beliefs (based on science and historical evidence), but not self righteous as it is often portrayed as being.

Yes, today's busy lifestyle can create barriers to parenting the way we would like, but they are hurdles that can be overcome. By incorporating the most important aspects of Attachment Parenting you will on the right track. Remember, if a baby's cortisol levels are chronically high, then it stands to reason that your cortisol levels are high, not good for you or your baby.

New and experienced parents should focus on the core of Attachment Parenting, the foundation is the most important. As wonderful as it is to cloth diaper a baby, eat organic homemade food, homeschool, if your forgo these things to make time to carry your baby, respond to his cries, breastfeed on demand your already there.




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  • profile image

    leelee66 5 years ago

    Attachment parenting is the only way to go:)

  • earthybirthymama profile image

    earthybirthymama 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Hi Daniella,

    Congratulations on your pregnancy. It's actually harder not to be an Attached Parent, your always fighting with your instincts and emotions. Thank you for your comments and the Vote Up.

  • Daniella Lopez profile image

    Danielle Lopez 6 years ago from Arkansas

    Great hub. I'm pregnant and my husband and I have been considering Attachment Parenting. This hub just reinforces my decision to practice this. Thanks for the info! Voted up!