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MomTalk.com November 19, 2017:   The women's magazine for moms about children, family, health, home, fashion, careers, marriage & more


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Attachment Parenting: Good Enough Moms

A three-generational column by Dr. Marti Erickson
with her daughter, Erin Erickson Garner, and her mom, Betty Farrell

Q: We are expecting our first baby in a couple of months and my wife has been reading all kinds of stuff about something called "attachment parenting." I understand that attachment is very important, but is all this necessary in order for a good attachment to develop?

A three-generational column by Dr. Marti Erickson
with her daughter, Erin Erickson Garner, and her mom, Betty Farrell

Q: We are expecting our first baby in a couple of months and my wife has been reading all kinds of stuff about something called "attachment parenting." This apparently means that the mom has to stay home full time, breastfeed, "wear" the baby in a sling most of the day, and have the baby sleep with her at night. (I assume this all ends before the child goes to school, but I'm not sure!) I understand that attachment is very important, but is all this necessary in order for a good attachment to develop? I'm afraid my wife and I will never get any sleep -- or have any kind of relationship -- and I can't think that would be good for us or the child.

Betty: Attachment is good, but that approach seems to be going too far. I'm no expert, just a great-grandma, but I don't think it's necessary for the baby to sleep with you in order to have a good attachment. I think the baby should learn to be in its own bed at least some of the time. And, whether or not your wife works or stays home depends in part on what you can afford.

Marti: Well, attachment actually IS my area of expertise as a researcher at the University of Minnesota. And you're absolutely right, Mom, that you do not need to be a stay-at-home mom or sleep with your baby in order to have a secure attachment. Babies develop a secure attachment when a parent reads their cues and responds warmly and sensitively most of the time. Personally I think it's wonderful when a mom (or dad) can choose to stay home with a baby or young child. But attachment research shows that a secure attachment usually can develop just as well when a mother works outside the home as when the mother is home full-time. In either case, the quality of attachment depends largely on the sensitivity and predictability of the care the mother provides when she is with the baby.

As for breastfeeding, there are several reasons it is the best feeding approach for nearly all babies. It is convenient, provides optimal nutrition, and improves immunity to disease. However, if a bottle-feeding mother is warm, attentive and sensitive to her baby's cues, that baby will develop a secure attachment just as a breastfed baby will.

Erin: While all those things (baby-wearing, co-sleeping, etc.) can be nice if you are both comfortable with them, it is important for you and your wife to decide together what works best for the two of you and your baby. Certainly "attachment parenting" isn't the only way to raise healthy, securely attached children. I would set up a time (maybe a coffee outing) with your wife to discuss these things before the baby arrives. Tell her you understand she wants what is best for the baby, but that you have some reservations. Clearly explain what things you feel good about and what things you're not so sure about. For example, you can say, "I think it sounds like a great idea for us to use a sling, but I'm really not comfortable sharing a bed with the baby." Also, there are some great bassinets that attach to the bed (such as the Arms Reach Co-Sleeper), so your wife can be close to the baby at night, which makes breastfeeding easier, and you can feel comfortable not having the baby right in the bed with you.

All: Although the new baby is bound to be the center of your life for a while, it's important for you and your wife to maintain a strong relationship with each other. Make sure you save some time (and space!) for the two of you to preserve the romantic relationship that led you to become parents in the first place. Find a good babysitter early on so your baby will become accustomed to brief separations from you and so you and your wife can go out on regular dates. Not only will you and your wife benefit, but as your baby grows up, he or she will learn from your good example of a loving, enjoyable marriage.

Marti Erickson, Ph.D., is a developmental psychologist and director of the Harris Training Programs at the University of Minnesota. A well-known public speaker, writer, and media commentator, Marti also is the mother of two adult kids and three young grandchildren.

Erin Erickson Garner, Marti's daughter, is a writer and a specialist in maternal and child health. She currently is home with her two young children except for Saturdays, when she and her mom co-host the Good Enough MomsTM radio show on WFMP-Radio, FM107.1 in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Betty Farrell, Marti's mom, lives in Houston, TX, and is known fondly as "Grandma Betty" to Erin and her kids.



Categories: Babies, Advice, Ideas & Stories, MomShare,


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