Any parent can create a secure attachment for their child no matter what their parenting philosophy, no matter how rigid or how laid back they are.
Attachment parenting is a style of caring for your child in way that aims to be in tune with a baby’s needs at all times. Often this will mean wearing the baby in a sling, lots of body to body contact, rocking and holding to sleep, co-sleeping and very much, as the name suggests, being ‘attached’ to the baby. Many of these practices might be harmless in a baby’s early weeks because they reflect the closeness the baby had with her mother in the womb but it can become quite habitual to give a baby everything she might be asking for, right away and this is not always helpful for the baby.
There are many life skills we, as parents, take responsibility for teaching our children. As tiny babies they are helpless and we do everything for them and, as they grow, we do less and less for them as they become more independent. Their independence is essential for safety, self-regulation and all aspects of development and you will notice your child become curious and look to explore, discover and learn right from a young baby.
You can accommodate this development while maintaining a secure attachment with your child. It does not have to be all or nothing. Wrapping your child in cotton-wool may seem protective but it is not loving. Letting your child figure things out for himself is great but you don’t have to leave him alone to do that. Having boundaries around it along with your support, offers love and a secure attachment is likely to last.
So how does secure attachment affect sleep?
When a baby first comes into the world, we do everything to make her feel safe and secure. After all, she has been tucked up inside her mummy for so long, it must be quite daunting on the outside! Everything we naturally and instinctively do to help our baby to feel comforted, loved, safe and secure will, undoubtedly help her to settle to sleep because sleeping is something tiny babies do a lot of! This is all perfectly fine. No new parent should be afraid of getting into ‘bad habits’ with a newborn.
What you need is an understanding of your baby’s changing needs as he develops and a plan for how you adapt your loving responses to your child to encourage this development.
In many cases, whether a baby had previously slept well or had difficulty settling to sleep since birth, there comes a time when parents decide that they need to help their baby to become a better sleeper. I wholeheartedly applaud this recognition because sleep is essential for the baby’s brain development and general health as well as for a parent’s well-being, health and ability to care for the child and the family’s safety. However, most parents are left confused about how to go about helping their baby to sleep well. Many think that they only have two choices; either do it for them with rocking, feeding or cuddling to sleep or leave them alone to figure it out and just grit your teeth while the baby cries. This is not true at all. You can absolutely take steps to help your baby learn how to become an excellent sleeper while still responding to her lovingly, offering comfort and reassurance, maintaining that secure attachment, just not doing it for her.
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