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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Finally, the continuation of our Attached at the Heart Series :)

Principle 3: Responding with Sensitivity, Learning the Language of Love

The ability to respond to one's child is the foundation for all other principles of the attachment parenting model.  Based on this theory, one would need to be able to respond/communicate/understand one's child in order to create a secure attachment. 

"Sensitive responsiveness implies the ability to set aside one's own needs for the needs of the baby; it presupposes a change in consciousness of the parents and the capacity to feel empathy- to see the world through the eyes of their child. Babies communicate their needs in many ways, including body movements, facial expressions, and crying. They often try to tell us that they needs our attention long before they being to cry, if we only understand their attempts. As you learn to understand and respond to your infant's cues through consistency, you will build a strong foundation of trust and empathy" (p94). 

Empathy is the capacity for, and ability to treat someone else's feelings as their own. When we have empathy for our children, it means understanding and responding to how they feel/act in consistent ways. 

By reacting consistently to their physical needs, as well as emotionally interacting, playing, talking, etc- we form connection(s) with our child(ren). Many times, we get so caught up in advice, theories, and the confusion or fog of sleep deprivation that we forget to just BE with our baby. 

photo by Cathy Jourdan art prints

Personally, I missed out on a lot of this my first time around. Granted, I was also unknowingly in the throws of postpartum depression among other things, but nonetheless I was so busy worrying what I was doing "right" and what I was doing "wrong", and listening to everyone and their advice on what I "should" be doing; that I really didn't spend enough time just staring at my baby and waiting for him to tell me what he needed. 

Don't get me wrong- I think I did a swell job in the end :) , and I guess we all learn the things we 'won't' do the 'next' time when we have our first, but I definitely could have spent more time wearing him and watching him and less time worrying about if I was going to do the "wrong" thing. 

Knowing the stages of physical and emotional development from birth- 12 months can be an important step in appropriately responding to, hence bonding with, your new baby. For example, knowing when particular behaviors are 'stages' versus problems can build confidence in a new mom happy to follow her child cues versus let them 'soothe themself' (which babies actually aren't neurologically or physiologically able to do anyways), or forcing them too early to overcome separation anxiety, etc. 

And this all includes OVERNIGHT, people! WHO ever decided that babies were supposed to sleep through the night??! If your baby is crying, for God sake, WHY would you let them sit alone, in the dark, and CRY?! I know I've reference this article several times now, but if you haven't already, check out Letter from a Sleep Training Baby if you think I'm wrong.

Fussy Baby? 

Follow these simple steps by Harvey Karp in Happiest Baby on the Block

2. Side  (side/stomach positioning when held in parent's arms)
3. Shushing (mimics loud noise in the womb)
4. Swinging (same motion can be obtained by babywearing versus a mechanical swing)
5. Sucking (this includes nursing/nursing on demand/ bottle nursing/ pacifiers)

Toddlers & Beyond

Your babies, regardless of their age, will always need your responsiveness to their needs, both physically and emotionally. Remaining empathetic and compassionate will help you maintain that strong attachment you have worked toward. 

Showing interest in your toddler's activities, participating in child-centered play, reading, and singing are just some of the ways you can connect with and nurture your toddler. And let's be honest, your toddler (if s/he is anything like mine) is a walking billboard at this point for Independence! So feel free to follow their lead, they like that better anyway :) 

But what about the dreaded Temper Tantrum??

-Remain calm. 
-Time things right (make sure they get their consistent schedule whenever possible. For example, you're not trying to browse the mall during their naptime, etc.)
-reiterate to them their need (empathy. Let's say they are crying over a toy they want in the store... you would say "<toddlers name> really wants that toy, and s/he is very angry. I understand that your angry" and move on)
* there will obviously be variations of this based on the age of the toddler, but for more info, check out Harvey Karp's other book, Happiest Toddler on the Block .  PS. NO LIE, the feeling validation and moving on thing really does work! :) 

Last thing is this, children learn from us. The old adage of BE what you want your children to be. They learn empathy and compassion, and emotional expression from US, so always use positive parenting, and nonviolent communication. And this applies to everyone in the home, not just mom (or whomever is the primary caregiver)- keep dad (or spouse/partner) and siblings involved too. Keeping the family unit connected and emotionally attached is EXTREMELY important, especially during those trying times of baby's first year! 

How did you and/or your family hold it together during baby's first year? What do you like/dislike so far about the Attachment Parenting model?

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