When Attachment Parenting Isn’t Enough

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I first learnt about the concept of attachment parenting when I  was pregnant with my daughter. I decided that of course I would do all of the 7’s b’s of attachment parenting, including, breastfeeding her, carrying her in a sling everywhere, and bedsharing. It seemed like attachment parenting was the perfect antidote to all my fears about bringing up a happy child who would grow into a well-adjusted adult. 

As my daughter got older, it was no longer easy to carry her in a sling due to health issues, and I remember the pain and upset that I could no longer do attachment parenting ‘right.’ I worried that somehow my daughter and I were less-attached. I was a new mum who’d never done this before, figuring out the best way to parent in an information over-loaded world.

Attachment parenting was great, but I soon began to realise that beyond the baby stage, I’d need to do much more than simply hold my child close. What did attachment parents do as their children got older?

When I discovered Hand in Hand parenting I started considering the missing piece of this attachment puzzle – emotional connection. I began to read articles like this one about how children’s hurt feelings can get in the way of them feeling connected to us, even when we’re right there next to them. I began to understand that sometimes physical closeness can even be a way that children can stuff down their feelings, clinging to us, rather than working through their feelings, so that they can feel that it’s safe to explore their world.

Attachment parenting can make us feel like it is our responsibility to make sure our babies never cry because there are stories about other cultures where babies are happy and contented all of the time. We start to feel like it’s our job, to ‘cheer our babies up’ and bounce and ‘shhhh’ them because we want to be the best parents we can possibly be. Every time our babies cry, we can go into a wild panic that they are not attached enough and it’s our fault.

It was such a relief to me when I got a different perspective, when I learnt about the healing power of tears. Sometimes there will be times when our babies and toddlers cry, and that’s okay. Actually it’s more than okay. We can figure out the times when they have a need that we can fix, and we can also be aware that sometimes they may simply need to have a good cry, to release stress and tension with us there to give them cuddles.

In Patty Wipfler’s decades of work with Hand in Hand parenting she has worked with many different kinds of families, some who co-slept and some who didn’t. She found that what was much more important than physical proximity at night was the strength of emotional connection between parent and child. A strong emotional connection can make children feel safe to sleep in another bed, or another room if that what’s works best for the family.

Learning about this was a revelation to me. We may not all be able to breastfeed, baby wear, or bed share, and as beneficial as these can be, they don’t work for everyone. What’s more important is our ability to be there when our child needs us, and to listen.

Would you like to get started with Hand in Hand parenting? Find out more about our Parenting by Connection Starter class

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