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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Attached at the Heart- A Parent's Call to Arms

Humans are born with only 25% of the brain development they will grow to have in adulthood, unlike other mammals who would clearly succoumb to natural selection if they weren't fully developed at birth! Even chimpanzees, our closest genetic relative, are born with 75% of their ultimate brain function.

Some call it the 4th trimester of pregnancy, other's call it post pardum. So while it's based on science, it's also common sense. Think about it! One day you're nice and cozy warm, listening to moms heartbeat, being swished around all day and lulled to sleep...then the next, your placed in a dark, quiet room all alone, and expected to sleep soundly! It doesn't make any sense!

"...their brains are adapting to their experiences (hardwiring), internalizing what their parents have modeled for them, making it more difficult to change as they grow older" (p17). We all know and understand, I would hope, that we influence our children as they grow. But it was not quite so clear to me the first time around THEIR experience and transition- I was too consumed with day to day survival :) Wearing your baby in a sling or wrap or carrier- provides them with the warmth, and similar sounds (heartbeat), and feelings (swishing with your movements) that they're used to in utero. Babies are calmer and more relaxed, and as I mentioned in I am an Attached Parent, are you? , you also end up with two free hands! As babies get older, like baby A who is now 6 months, they also learn more. I can talk with her as I'm doing dishes or laundry and she is at face level. She sees everything almost as I see it and I can talk to her about what I'm doing. Does she care? No, half the time I look at her in the mirror after and she is sound asleep! But her brain is absorbing something! And it HAS to be more interesting than being placed in her crib or on the floor during the stretches of time during the day where I am required to function as a housewife. 

As you can see, as your baby grows, there are a variety of ways to wear your baby. These are all using the Moby wrap  , but there are a variety of options available. Not sure which one to use? Sites like PAX Baby allow you to RENT different types of carriers for CHEAP money so you can figure out which one works best for you and your baby. You can also check within your own community for sling exchanges and how-to classes through your local hospital or community center.  Parent support groups are also a great way to discuss/ learn about/ and experience babywearing!

Another facet of this whole 4th trimester is sleeping. From the womb to a lonely crib? Eek! Bassinets and co sleepers are not just for ease of night time feedings- they are, to me, essential to getting a better night sleep! Now, per my usual behavior, I let my babies tell me when they were ready to cease our co sleeping arrangement. My son outgrew his bassinet at about 4 months, and happily transitioned to his crib at that time. My daughter, about the same time, but she insisted on being swaddled :) Myself, that was a good time for both babies too- because I cherish those few moments when you first go to bed with your husband/spouse/partner. Especially in those early months and years :) They are vital for nourishing your own relationship!

Other families co sleep for far longer, which can be a tremendous bonding experience for the whole family. Since I can't speak from experience, I won't discuss that here. But to learn more, you can check out more family bed information via Google, Attachment Parenting International (API), or Mothering magazine.

 This book, which describes all 8 Principles of Attachment Parenting in detail, and which we will delve into in the weeks to come, explicity states that it is not a manual on how to parent. It is, however, a guide on allowing parents to go with their gut. Using your instincts, and listening to what your children are telling you will not spoil them. It will teach them they can rely on you, and it will teach them how to form relationships with others. Be the result you want to see in your kids.

"Our children are living examples of what it means to fully embrace life with joy, passion, enthusiasm by living in the moment and filling wonder in everything. The love, empathy, and affection our children learn from us and others in their lives will carry on into their adult relationships and with their children. Our children can be our greatest teachers in life if we allow it - they will challenge us in ways we never believed possible, and as a result, we will become better human beings and parents" (p296).

Want to read this book but not spend money? Check your local library! If they don't have it, ask about an inter library loan.

What are some attachment parenting ideals you can relate to and why? or why not?

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