Guest Author - Molly Carter
Although you donít have to believe in evolution to practice attachment parenting, the fundamental concepts are rooted in evolutionary science. Attachment parenting is sometimes referred to as instinctual parenting, and focuses on the natural way we were designed to rear children, like the practices of our ancient ancestors. Letís look at some of the basic principles of attachment parenting, and it will become clear.
Breastfeeding. Letís face it, breastfeeding is about as natural as you can get. It is the way nature meant for us to feed our babies. And not just for the first six weeks, but for the first few years (yes, I said years) of a childís life. Try to imagine what it was like, even a thousand years ago, heck even a hundred years ago. There wasnít such a thing as Similic or Enfamil. There was breastfeeding. And if something happened where you couldnít do it yourself, you had a wet nurse, someone who would nurse your baby for you. And there was no cereal, there was no baby food. And most of the food that our ancestors ate, baby would not be able to eat (raw meats, roots, nuts, etc). Hence, in pre-history, babies were most likely breastfeed well into the toddler years, at least until they were able to chew up many of the foods that were available.
Baby wearing. If you look at any tribal culture, and even most third world countries, babies are worn. And not just here and there, but all day, everyday. When you must work the land, or hunt and gather, to eat, you wouldíve had to take baby with you. And you canít just leave baby lying around, so mother or older siblings would wear baby. This made life simple. Baby would always be close at hand and would sleep most of the day (anyone who wears their baby regularly knows the movement tends to lull a baby off to sleep). When baby got hungry, they were already right by mom. It would also tend to keep the baby calmer, and reduce fussy time. For someone who had to search out their food, this would be very important. Think of how a baby clings to you when you hold them. Even newborns will wrap their arms around your shoulder and make fists into your shirt or your hair. This is their way of holding on while mom was busy going about life (if you ever watch primate newborns, they hold on to their mother by wrapping their little hands into momís hair).
Co-sleeping. Not sleeping with your baby is a very new, Western concept. Even today, in most countries babies sleep with their mothers, if not in the same bed, at least in the same room. This encourages breastfeeding, bonding, and allows both mom and baby to get more sleep. It also lowers sleep problems for baby, since mom and baby tend to become sleep synchronized, where their breathing and sleep patterns fall into the same rhythm. In countries where the norm is to co-sleep, there is a significantly lower number of SIDS cases than in those where baby and mother sleep apart. If you think to caveman days, the whole family slept together, most likely with baby very close to mom. If you look at nature, and in particularly at mammals, mothers always sleep with their young, at least until the young are weaned. We are no different. We were meant to sleep with our babies, especially while they are nursing.
The fact that babies are designed to keep mother close at hand supports attachment parenting. Babies cry, they cling, they suck, all things that support keeping mom close. Their brains are designed in such a way to support close contact. When making decisions about how to raise your baby, keep in mind what our bodies were made to do, think about what is most natural, think about what is best for baby.