Why all the fuss about attachment?

What is attachment parenting anyway? According to what you may have read in the media recently, it’s about extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping and baby-wearing. However, that is not what attachment is really all about. It’s not about the way you feed your baby, but about how you respond to their hunger cues. You don’t need to co-sleep and wear your baby. It’s actually about the relationship between you and your child and how you respond to them. You probably do this without realizing it…. I know I did. My kids, particularly my first born, taught me a lot about it in fact.

My daughter was born 8 years ago, before I was a Public Health Nurse. She was pretty fussy and wanted to be held a lot (for more on that, read the crying blog I wrote!). My instincts told me to respond by picking her up, cuddling and calming her, especially when she was upset. I played with her, read to her and sang to her. I also spent a lot of time carrying her in a baby sling because she much preferred that over being in a stroller. The way I responded to her fostered a very special relationship between us and helped her become the caring, independent, friendly young second grader she is today.

Attachment is, quite simply, the trusting, emotional connection between you and your baby. It develops over time when you respond promptly, sensitively and warmly to your baby, especially when they are frightened, hurt, upset, or sick. It’s important to read your baby’s cues so you respond appropriately. Don’t worry if your baby is hard to read though, some babies are! It’s also important to play and interact with your baby. When you create that special relationship, they are trusting, and feel safe and loved. Your child knows you’re there for them, so they feel comfortable exploring and trying new things – it actually fosters independence!

I think one of the common myths about attachment parenting is that it means you have to be glued to your child, 24 hours a day 7 days a week. That is simply not the case. In fact, it’s important for your child to have other meaningful adults in their life too. The relationships they develop with other adults will teach them life skills and broaden their horizons too. So don’t worry if you’re going back to work and sending your child to daycare! They will develop new trusting relationships with their caregivers. Anyway, it’s about the quality, not the quantity of time that you spend with your child.

Having a good relationship with your child is really important… studies show being a responsive parent makes a difference. Children that are responded to have higher self esteem, are more cooperative, and have a better memory. It makes them more social, and teaches them how to relate to people and make friends. It also teaches them to control their emotions, something particularly important for toddlers!!

Things you can do to help you have a good relationship with your child:

  • Learn to read your baby’s cues (body language, cries etc)
  • Respond appropriately and sensitively: comfort them when they are upset
  • Cuddle them: show them and tell them you love them
  • Give them attention: talk and play with them
  • Be available, predictable and caring
  • Provide a safe and predictable environment
  • Help them understand and manage their feelings
  • Allow and encourage them to explore their environment
  • Discipline them by providing choices, setting limits and providing guidance

Trust your instincts… if something feels wrong, it probably is. If anyone tells you you’re spoiling your baby, they’re wrong – you can’t spoil a baby under 1 year old. So love them, respond to them, cuddle them, and play with them. That’s what they need.  Kids have different temperaments and there is no single solution to any parenting problem.

Share your experience:

If you are struggling with parenting, there is help available! For more tips and hints, or to share your experience, there are many ways you can talk to one of us directly:

  • Leave us a comment below – we’d love your feedback
  • Talk to us on Twitter: @haltonparents
  • Email us at haltonparents@halton.ca
  • Dial 311 or 905-825-6000 for parenting information or to speak directly to a Public Health Nurse every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Some programs available in the community:

For more see the Halton Parenting Directory from the Halton Our kids Network

About this guest blogger:

Anna West, RN 

About Anna West

I’m Anna and I’ve been working as a Public Health Nurse on the Early Years Health Team since 2005. I love working with families and have a passion for everything parenting related. My focus is on breastfeeding support, promotion and protection. I am the Public Health Nurse Liaison to the Halton Baby-Friendly Initiative and am the Baby-Friendly Coordinator for the Health Department. I also have a lot of personal parenting experience as I have four young children who keep me very busy! I live in Halton and think it’s a wonderful place to raise children, though I’m originally from New Zealand.
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4 Responses to Why all the fuss about attachment?

  1. Pingback: Time Out or Time In – a temperamental question? | HaltonParents

  2. Pingback: Is it normal for babies to cry? | HaltonParents

  3. Pingback: Why it’s better to NOT have a routine with young babies | HaltonParents

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