Regardless of how you feed your baby, it's more than providing necessary sustenance. Feeding your baby allows you to spend quality time with your baby and show them they can count on you for their needs. For some, this is done by adopting the child-rearing philosophy of attachment parenting. If you're thinking about using this methodology and you plan on or currently nursing, there are things to know about attachment theory breastfeeding that can help you figure out if it's right for you and your baby.
Attachment parenting proposes that making a nurturing connection with your children is the best way to raise self-secure, independent, and empathetic children according to Web MD. It was made popular by well-known pediatrician Dr. William Sears in the early 2000s, although it's been around for several decades. Supporters of this style tout it as natural and innate love. Those who disagree with it say it assumes women automatically and naturally feel connected to their babies, and that all women want to essentially be on demand and make their babies the center of their universe.
Fundamentally all parents just want to bond with their babies and have choices about how to go about it. What works for one child or family, might not for another so it's nice to have options. Even within the attachment parenting philosophy, there are hard-lining principles, but also less rigid exceptions and variations that are more inclusive to everyone's particular lifestyle. This is especially true when it comes to attachment theory breastfeeding. Here are seven things you need to know about it as you play around with this philosophy or other parenting techniques.
1. Breastfeeding Helps Figure Out A Baby's Cues
The Dr. Sears website called breastfeeding "an exercise in baby reading." It helps new moms pick up on their babies hunger cues and aids them in feeding on demand. This means the baby's needs dictate the feeding schedule, not the other way around. A baby's needs will change as they grow, become sick, or start to teeth. But a mother who responds to her baby's cues regardless of how regular or irregular they are is practicing attachment theory breastfeeding.
2. "Comfort Nursing" Meets A Baby's Sucking Needs
According to Attachment Parenting International (API), breastfeeding is a way to naturally comfort a baby and satisfy their desire to suck. Attachment parenting principles don't say moms can't use pacifiers, but mothers are encouraged to keep using their breast as a "human pacifier" unless her nipples are starting to hurt or she's getting annoyed by it.
3. Supplementing And Bottle Feeding Are OK
Psychology Today explained that a mother can still practice attachment parenting when bottle feeding if the child is still the most center of her life. She could use other attachment parenting behavior to respond to her baby's cues like holding and co-sleeping.
According to API, mothers who bottle feed and want to do attachment parenting should familiarize themselves with breastfeeding behaviors such as putting the bottle near the breast, maintaining eye contact, talk softly and feed on cue. The site suggested that only the mother feed the baby, even if it's with a bottle and wean just like you would in breastfeeding.
4. Co-Sleeping And Attachment Breastfeeding Go Hand In Hand
One of the key tenants of attachment parenting is that co-sleeping and breastfeeding are connected. The Dr. Sears website added that a night time touch might be missing during a busy day. It also essentially allows the mother to be right there when her baby is hungry or needs to nurse, without fully rousing anyone awake.
5. Breastfeeding Has Benefits For Baby And Mama
Many advocates of attachment theory breastfeeding emphasize the positive impact nursing has on both the baby and the mother. The Dr. Sears website noted that breastfeeding increases a mother's bonding hormones, prolactin and oxytocin which helps her feel love and connection towards her new baby.
6. Extended Breastfeeding Is Supported, But Not Required
Attachment parenting supports extended breastfeeding, which is nursing beyond the first year. The principles stress that breastfeeding should come to a "natural end" when the child is ready, according to the Dr. Sears website. There is no defined end to when a mother should stop breastfeeding. The site noted that it's understandable if extended breastfeeding is not ideal for every family. The same literature on attachment theory breastfeeding also emphasized that breastfeeding is supposed to be a happy experience and if the mom or the child isn't enjoying it anymore, it may be time to wean.
7. Balance And Variation Are OK
Given the resources available attachment theory breastfeeding doesn't appear to have hard rules. It's not dogmatic or extremely narrow. There are principles and explanations laid out for interested parents and advocates, but the philosophy leaves a lot of room for personal lifestyle choices and variations.
According to most of the literature, it seems as though parents can practice attachment parenting without the breastfeeding component, or sans another component and still be considered "attached parents."
Parents are bound to go through trial and error phases as they figure out what works best for them. That's what adjusting to life with a newborn baby is about — changing, adapting, and ultimately growing.