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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The A's and B's of AP

If you're a mom in any of the online parenting forums one recurring acronym you might see is AP. AP is for Attachment Parenting and it's a parenting style that is a throwback to ancient tried and true parenting techniques. Many parents practice AP without even realizing it. AP is a very natural and instinctual way to care for your baby.

Basicallly the principles of AP break down into 7 B's:

Birth Bonding- Most often this is referred to as skin-to-skin contact. It's crucial that mother and baby get time for birth bonding directly after labor. Skin-to-skin contact has many benefits. It creates an oxytocin spike for both the parent and the baby (yes even daddy will experience this hormone spike). Oxytocin promotes bonding and encourages milk letdown. It also calms baby and and helps mom heal from child birth. If circumstances are not favorable for immediate bonding don't worry! There is no critical window for bonding that is missed if mother doesn't get to birth bond immediately. Birth bonding is something parent and child will continue to practice and experience throughout your baby's childhood. Just remember! get in as much skin-to-skin as possible it's good for the whole family.

Breastfeeding- Nutritional benefits aside, the breast is where a baby is meant to be. Not only for nourishment physically but to provide baby with emotional security. The breast is where mother and child will get to know one another and establish their relationship. Breastfeeding teaches mom baby's cues and helps them get in sync with each other. Understanding what each gesture baby makes and responding appropriately is the first communication mother and baby will experience with each other.

Babywearing- I mentioned babywearing in an earlier post but did not have the time to touch on it fully. In the future I will dedicate an entire post to this practice, but for now, just the basics. The practice of birth bonding in many ways carries over into babywearing. Babywearing is a method of carrying a baby on the parent's body via sling/wrap/mei tai etc... Wearing your baby while doing everyday things like shopping for groceries or doing laundry is a great way to free up both hands while still having your baby close to your body. This contact is comforting to baby and gives baby an opportunity to see and experience new things. Babies carried in this way tend to fuss less and parents become more sensitive to baby's needs. This, too promotes bonding. And, unlike breastfeeding, both parents can participate.

Bedding Close to Baby- Usually referred to as co-sleeping. This can range from sharing a room with baby to sharing a bed with baby. Sleeping close to your baby promotes healthy lactation. Simply being near mom during the night can keep baby's feeding schedule regular which improves mom's milk supply. Being close to mommy and daddy comforts baby at night, which can be a scary time. It also helps baby sync up to mom and dad's sleep schedule. On average, babies whose parents co-sleep in some capacity are far less likely to die from SIDS or crib death.

Belief in the Language Value of Baby's Cry- Understanding that a baby cries for a reason is crucial. A baby's cry is a signal that there is a need. It's important to respond to cries to establish trust. Just because baby is not wet, hungry, hurt or sick doesn't mean baby is crying for "no reason".  You may not live in a jungle full of wild animals ready to pounce on an unattended child at any moment, but your baby isn't born knowing that. Everything is new to a baby, all baby knows is mommy and if mommy isn't close by it can be frightening. Responding to your baby's cries can also teach you to distinguish between the different cries so you will eventually learn the difference between a hunger cry vs. a frustration cry. This further cements good communication.

Beware of Baby Trainers- In essence, use your head. Not all advice is good advice. What we do as parents now will affect the relationship we have with our children and our children will have with the world. Putting a baby on a schedule for your convenience and allowing your baby to "Cry it out" may seem like good ideas in the here and now but can have long term consequences. Trying to keep your child on a rigid schedule can set you up for failure, particularly in regard to breastfeeding. Feed baby when baby is hungry, change baby when baby is wet. These things are common sense and cannot be mandated by schedules no matter how badly you would like them to be. Ignoring your baby's cries tells them "I don't care what you have to say". Imagine what that does to a child, to believe that their voices don't even matter to the people who are supposed to love them the most. Trust your parental instincts. If you are given advice that doesn't jive with that do your homework before you try it.

Balance- I know it's easy to get wrapped up and make your entire life 100% about doing for baby and 0% about doing for yourself. This is probably the hardest principle of the 7. Balancing your relationship with your child and the rest of your life can be so difficult. Especially if you're a first time parent. I'm struggling with this one right now. Particularly for mothers who are married or in committed relationships it's important to take time for yourself and your partner. The example of a healthy relationship with your spouse is critical for a child. Furthermore the desire to socialize or learn and have new experiences doesn't just shut down because a woman has become a mother. But attempting to find balance in your life can be one of the things a mother feels most judged about. Anything a mother does away from her baby will be judged by others, but most critically by herself. This is also the most personal principle of the 7, because what balances out in my life may not work in yours.

Attachment Parenting isn't anything new. People have been parenting this way since the dawn of man. It's only recently that society has gotten away from it and adopted rigid, restrictive parenting practices. Obviously each parent has to choose for themselves what is right for their family. I would encourage you to look into Attachment Parenting further. I firmly believe that everyone can take something away from this model of parenting.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for clearing so much of that up for me! Excited to be a follower of your blog. When I first read AP, I thought of the advanced placement classes offered in high schools. I guess that comes much later, huh?

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  2. LOL! Yeah advanced placement classes come a little later. I've taken a few so I might have a few insights on them. But that's a post for a different blog.

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