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Attachment parenting in the 4th-trimester: An easy guide for new parents

From the moment I knew I was pregnant, I thought about the kind of parent I wanted to be. I read countless books and articles about the importance of bonding with my baby as early as possible, and how seemingly simple things like eye contact could have lasting effects on my baby's development.

That's because, according to UK-based registered clinician and parent-infant psychotherapist Viven Sabel, "You are creating a solid foundation for neural growth and development. If your baby is happy and feels the connection between you, this will likely improve how you feel."

It has even been discovered by researchers from the University of Amsterdam (UvA) that infants will form secure attachments with parents who can read their wants and needs—otherwise known as mentalization—frequently and accurately.

After my daughter was born, I focused my attention on putting my lofty goals into practice. I was fortunate that my flexible employment allowed us to be together nearly constantly, and I spent hours wearing her as we went about our day or talking and singing to her in her stroller as we motored around our city neighborhood.

Even so, I worried if I was doing enough. In my effort to discover new ways to strengthen our connection, I discovered Attachment Parenting and was excited to see that so many of their tenants were things my daughter and I had naturally been doing.

What is Attachment Parenting?

Like many parenting philosophies, Attachment Parenting means something slightly different to every parent who practices it. In general, though, Attachment Parenting focuses on the bond and connection between child and parent, often emphasizing and developing it further through closeness and touch, with the goal of raising secure, independent and empathetic children.

As Moniek Zeegers, PhD, a researcher at UvA's department of Child Development and Education says in a new study published in Psychological Bulletin, "Children who feel securely attached are, among other things, better at regulating their emotions, have higher self-esteem and exhibit less emotional and behavioral problems," Zeegers says.

How can I start?

Attachment Parenting International (API), a non-profit organization that promotes practices that create strong emotional bonds between parents and their little ones, identifies eight principles of Attachment Parenting.

Prevent meltdowns and opt for positive parenting tactics by prepping well for outings.

Paired with our tips, here are eight ways to bring Attachment Parenting to life with your little one.

1. Prepare for pregnancy, childbirth and parenting. Essentially, parents should try to learn as much as they can prior to baby's arrival about pregnancy care, childbirth without interventions (if possible), and parenting styles.

Try this: Before your due date, check with your OB or midwife to see if your hospital or birthing facility offers a birth prep or child care class. You'd be amazed at what you can learn in just a few short sessions, and it can be incredibly helpful to connect with other moms going through the same things you are.

2. Feed with love and respect. Breastfeeding or attentive bottle feeding is strongly emphasized as the healthiest infant-feeding choice.

Try this: For the first few weeks of your baby's life, don't worry about adopting any kind of feeding schedule. Feed your baby on demand as much as possible and pay close attention to their hunger cues until a natural rhythm develops.

3. Respond with sensitivity. Viewed as the cornerstone of Attachment Parenting, this principle refers to responding to baby's needs and cries in a timely manner.

Try this: A parent-facing stroller can be a great way to make sure you're there to immediately soothe tears while you're on the go. The Ergobaby 180 Reversible stroller allows parents to go from forward-facing to parent-facing with just a simple push of a button, instantly sliding the handlebar from one side to the other without adjusting anything on the child's seat. And because it fully reclines, it can be used from birth to build an unbreakable connection.


Ergobaby 180 Reversible Stroller

4. Provide nurturing touch. Think massage, hugs, hand-holding, and cuddles (so many cuddles!).

Try this: The benefits of skin-to-skin contact extend well beyond the "golden hour" after birth. Spend a few minutes after bath time, while your baby naps, or simply relaxing at the end of the day with your little one in your arms to maximize the benefits.

5. Ensure safe sleep. Sleep with baby nearby to maximize responsiveness.

Try this: Since 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics has touted the benefits of sharing a room with baby for at least the first six months to a year of their life—benefits that include a decreased risk of SIDS. Plus, nursing mamas will undoubtedly love having their little ones at arm's reach for nighttime feedings.

6. Use consistent and loving care. To ensure the baby feels secure, Attachment Parenting encourages a single, primary caregiver—typically a parent.

Try this: If both parents work, it can be beneficial to opt for a single, consistent caregiver (be it a nanny or Grandma!) or a daycare with a low child-to-caregiver ratio to step in during working hours.

7. Practice positive discipline. Teach by example and employ positive parenting tactics, such as distraction and problem solving, to guide children.

Try this: To prevent meltdowns, prepare for situations that typically cause tensions to rise. For example, avoid running errands too close to nap time and pack healthy meal options in advance in case you aren't able to find suitable choices on the go.

8. Strive for personal and family balance. This family-centered approach believes all members of the family have equal value. Parents should balance their parenting roles with their personal life to model the healthiest lifestyle for their children.

Try this: Babywearing may be one of the easiest tenants of Attachment Parenting to incorporate into your daily life—and you'll probably be amazed at how much easier it makes it to get things done around the house! Pop your child into a carrier that keeps them close (we love the Ergobaby Omni 360 for safe and easy-to-convert carries) and use that hands-free time to pick up around the house, throw in a load of laundry, or simply get out for a refreshing walk.

In many cases, you may already find yourself practicing one or several of these key tenants. While not every principle may work for every family, there are plenty of easy ways to boost your attachment with your baby from the start.

If you're not able to incorporate every principle of Attachment Parenting, don't stress. The point is to create a system of trust and security that works for your family. And that's something we can all get pretty attached to.


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When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.

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The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.



As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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As a mom of three, I frequently get a question from moms and dads of two children: “Ok, so the jump to three...how bad is it?"

Personally, I found the transition to having even one kid to be the most jarring. Who is this little person who cries nonstop (mine had colic) and has no regard for when I feel like sitting/eating/resting/sleeping?

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