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By Diana Divecha

In the months leading up to birth, a pregnant woman begins to read about childrearing, including a book called Attachment Parenting by pediatrician William Sears and registered nurse Martha Sears. They advocate for a collection of seven practices they call the Baby Bs: "birth bonding, breastfeeding, baby-wearing, bedding close to the baby, belief in the baby's cry, balance and boundaries, and beware of baby trainers."

The pregnant woman finds their ideas compelling, and so decides to embrace this style of "attachment parenting." But nothing goes according to plan. She begins delivery at home with a midwife, but when the labor doesn't proceed, she's taken to the hospital and given a Caesarean section.

Influenced by Attachment Parenting, she worries that she has missed a critical bonding experience with her baby. Six weeks later, the mother develops a severe breast infection and reluctantly switches to formula. "Make sure you find some other way to bond with your baby," her pediatrician cautions, adding to her distress. At night, the mother pulls the baby from his crib into her bed—even though it makes the baby cry.

Pretty soon, no one is happy—and the new mother wonders if her child is on the road to insecurity and anxiety.

All of these experiences are real; they've happened to mothers I know. And as a developmental psychologist, I know this tension between the ideal and the reality is based on a misunderstanding. Home birth, breastfeeding, and co-sleeping all have benefits—but none of them is related to a baby's secure attachment with her caregiver, nor are they predictive of a baby's future mental health and development.

Simply put, a secure attachment—which does lead to positive child outcomes—is not the same thing as the philosophy called attachment parenting.

What is the scientific view of attachment?

The term attachment parenting was coined by Sears and Sears to refer to a parenting approach that emphasizes responding sensitively to the needs of babies and children. Many of their ideas come from parenting their own eight children, as well as from their pediatric practice; some are from anthropologists' observations of indigenous childrearing practices (thought to be more "natural"); and some (like emotional responsiveness) are consistent with research findings.

Many parents, myself included, have welcomed the Sears' guidance for creating warm, loving relationships, especially in contrast to earlier parenting approaches that were more strict, cold, or distant.

The implication, though—liberally strewn throughout the Sears' writing and the precepts of the related international attachment parenting movement—is that the Baby Bs lead to a secure attachment, which is a specific psychological concept based on 60 years of research. Here we come to the problem: their use of the word attachment and the confusion it creates with the scientific notion of attachment theory.

Attachment theory has its roots in the work of an English psychiatrist, John Bowlby, who in the 1930s worked with children with emotional problems. He noticed that the troubled children in his care were deprived of affection and had disturbed or nonexistent caregiving. He came to believe that a primary caregiver served as a kind of "psychic organizer" to the child, and that the child needed this warm, intimate influence to develop successfully.

According to Bowlby, babies form a "small hierarchy of attachments": The number has to be small for the baby to learn relevant emotional information, but multiples offer the safety of backups. And it's a hierarchy for safety, too—in danger, there's no time to think, so the baby can automatically turn to the person already determined to be the reliable comfort.

In the 1950s, Mary Ainsworth joined Bowlby in England. A decade later, back in the United States, she began to diagnose different kinds of relationship patterns between children and their mothers in the second year of life, based on how babies respond to separations and reunions. When babies have a secure attachment, they play and explore freely from the "secure base" of their mother's presence. When the mother leaves, the baby often becomes distressed, especially when a stranger is nearby. When the mother returns, the baby expresses joy, sometimes from a distance and sometimes reaching to be picked up and held. (Babies vary, depending on their personality and temperament, even within a secure attachment).

Though early researchers studied mothers, current research shows that fathers, co-parents, grandparents, babysitters, and even older siblings can be significant attachment figures. Caregivers who foster a secure attachment are responsive, warm, loving, and emotionally available, and as a result babies grow to be confident in the caregiver's ability to handle feelings. The babies feel free to express their positive and negative feelings openly and don't develop defenses against the unpleasant ones.

Why the confusion about a secure attachment?

The Sears' idea of attachment parenting is not well defined—and certainly has not been scientifically linked to a secure attachment outcome. And this confusion can sow guilt, worry, and misdirection in parents, who (understandably) are not aware of the distinction.

"Attachment [in the scientific sense] is a relationship in the service of a baby's emotion regulation and exploration," explains Alan Sroufe, a developmental psychologist at the Institute for Child Development at the University of Minnesota, where he and his colleagues have studied the attachment relationship for over 40 years. "It is the deep, abiding confidence a baby has in the availability and responsiveness of the caregiver."

A secure attachment has at least three functions:

  • Provides a sense of safety and security
  • Regulates emotions by soothing distress, creating joy, and supporting calm
  • Offers a secure base from which to explore

"Attachment is not a set of tricks," continues Sroufe. "These [attachment parenting principles] are all fine things, but they're not the essential things. There is no evidence that they are predictive of a secure attachment."

Take breastfeeding, for example, touted as key to attachment parenting. Mechanical and insensitive breastfeeding could actually contribute to an insecure attachment, while warm, sensitive, interactive bottle-feeding could help create a secure attachment. It's not the method of feeding but the quality of the interaction that matters for attachment, says Sroufe.

Constant contact, too, can be misunderstood. Certainly, skin-to-skin contact, close physical touch, holding, and carrying are good for infants and can even reduce crying. But again, what matters for attachment is the caregiver's attunement. Are they stressed or calm? Checked out or engaged? Are they reading the baby's signals?

Attachment parenting advises emotional responsiveness, and this practice aligns best with scientific attachment theory. Babies grow best when their feelings are taken seriously. But well-meaning parents can overdo it, believing they need to meet the child's every request, which can be exhausting and counterproductive. In contrast, research on secure attachments shows that, in the flow of everyday life, misattunements happen about 70 percent of the time!

What is important, researchers say, is that the baby develops a generalized trust that their caregiver will respond and meet their needs, or that when mismatches occur, the caregiver will repair them. This flow of attunements, mismatches, and repairs offers the optimal amount of connection and stress for a baby to develop both confidence and coping skills.

"There's a difference between a 'tight' connection and a secure attachment," Sroufe explains. "A tight attachment—together all the time—might actually be an anxious attachment."

The neurobiology of attachment

"Attachment theory is essentially a theory of regulation," explains Allan Schore, a developmental neuroscientist in the Department of Psychiatry at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine.

The areas of the brain that process emotional and social information begin to differentiate in the last trimester in-utero (whereas the more "intellectual" regions pick up in the second year of life). By birth, the amygdala, hypothalamus, insula, cingulate cortex, and orbitofrontal cortex—regions important for emotion processing—are present, but the connections among these areas develop in specific patterns over the first years of life. That's where input from the primary relationship is crucial, organizing the hierarchical circuitry that will process, communicate, and regulate social and emotional information. Synaptic connections are pruned, and epigenetic processes modify the expression of genes that regulate stress, depending on input from the environment.

Parents use their own empathy, perspective taking, inference, and intuition to discern the needs of the baby. And the behaviors that parents are inclined to do naturally, like eye contact and face-to-face interaction, baby-talking and holding, are exactly the ones shown to grow the neural regions in the baby that influence emotional life. It is through a "right-brain-to-right-brain" reading of each other that the parent and child synchronize their energy, emotions, and communication.

"What a primary caregiver is doing, in being with the child," explains Schore, "is allowing the child to feel and identify in his own body these different emotional states. By having a caregiver simply 'be with' him while he feels emotions and has experiences, the baby learns how to be," Schore says.

And it's not just about regulating stress. Supporting positive emotional states is equally important to creating a "background state of well-being." If the caregiver's emotions are too high, the stimulation could be intrusive to the baby, Schore explains. Too low, and the baby's "background state" settles at a low or possibly depressive emotional baseline. Just right, from the baby's point of view, is best.

Even then, there's a lot of leeway. As Schore says:

Insecure attachments aren't created just by a caregiver's inattention or missteps. They also come from a failure to repair ruptures. Maybe the caregiver is coming in too fast and needs to back off, or maybe the caregiver hasn't responded and needs to show the baby that she's there. Either way, repair is possible, and it works. Stress is a part of life, and what we're trying to do here is to set up a system by which the baby can learn how to cope with stress.

How important is attachment?

"Nothing is more important than the attachment relationship," says Sroufe, who, together with colleagues, ran a series of landmark studies to discover the long-term impact of a secure attachment.

Over a 35-year period, the Minnesota Longitudinal Study of Risk and Adaptation (MLSRA) revealed that the quality of the early attachment reverberated well into later childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, even when temperament and social class were accounted for.

One of the most important (and paradoxical) findings was that a secure attachment early in life led to greater independence later, whereas an insecure attachment led children to be more dependent later in life.

The MLSRA studies showed that children with a secure attachment history were more likely to develop:

  • A greater sense of self-agency
  • Better emotional regulation
  • Higher self-esteem
  • Better coping under stress
  • Closer friendships in middle childhood
  • Better coordination of friendships and social groups in adolescence
  • More trusting and positive romantic relationships in adulthood
  • Greater social competence
  • More leadership qualities
  • Happier and better relationships with parents and siblings

But attachment is not destiny; it depends on what else comes along. A poor start in life, for example, can be repaired in a subsequent relationship with a good mentor, a healthy romance, or constructive therapy.

As for my new-mother friends, they're bonding successfully with their babies, welcoming and enjoying the moments when connection happens. And if you're concerned about bonding with your own baby, rest assured that you'll have some help—from your baby. Because regardless of their individual personalities—whether they cry a lot or sleep very little, whether they're breastfed or bottle-fed—babies invite adults in with their wide-open gaze, their milky scent, and their tiny fingers that curl around your big ones. They let you know what they need.

Before you know it, they are lighting you up with their full-body smiles and pulling you close with their plump, soft arms. And the sweet elixir of attachment is underway.

Originally posted on Greater Good.

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We spend a lot of time prepping for the arrival of a baby. But when it comes to the arrival of our breast milk (and all the massive adjustments that come with it), it's easy to be caught off guard. Stocking up on a few breastfeeding essentials can make the transition to breastfeeding a lot less stressful, which means more time and energy focusing on what's most important: Your recovery and your brand new baby.

Here are the essential breastfeeding tools you'll need, mama:

1. For covering up: A cute nursing cover

First and foremost, please know that all 50 states in the United States have laws that allow women to breastfeed in public. You do not have to cover yourself if you don't want to—and many mamas choose not to—and we are all for it.

That said, if you do anticipate wanting to take a more modest approach to breastfeeding, a nursing cover is a must. You will find an array of styles to choose from, but we love an infinity scarf, like the LK Baby Infinity Nursing Scarf Nursing Cover. You'll be able to wear the nursing cover instead of stuffing it in your already brimming diaper bag—and it's nice to have it right there when the baby is ready to eat.

Also, in the inevitable event that your baby spits-up on you or you leak some milk through your shirt, having a quick and stylish way to cover up is a total #momwin.

2. For getting comfortable: A cozy glider

Having a comfy spot to nurse can make a huge difference. Bonus points if that comfy place totally brings a room together, like the Delta Children Paris Upholstered Glider!

Get your cozy space ready to go, and when your baby is here, you can retreat from the world and just nurse, bond, and love.

3. For unmatched support: A wire-free nursing bra

It may take trying on several brands to find the perfect match, but finding a nursing bra that you love is 100% worth the effort. Your breasts will be changing and working in ways that are hard to imagine. An excellent supportive bra will make this so much more comfortable.

It is crucial to choose a wireless bra for the first weeks of nursing since underwire can increase the risk of clogged ducts (ouch).The Playtex Maternity Shaping Foam Wirefree Nursing Bra is an awesome pick for this reason, and because it is designed to flex and fit your breasts as they go through all those changes.

4. For maximum hydration: A large reusable water bottle

Nothing can prepare you for the intense thirst that hits when breastfeeding. Quench that thirst (and help keep your milk supply up in the process) by always having a water bottle with a straw nearby, like this Exquis Large Outdoor Water Bottle.

5. For feeding convenience: A supportive nursing tank

Experts recommend that during the first weeks of your baby's life, you breastfeed on-demand, meaning that any time your tiny boss demands milk, you feed them. This will help establish your milk supply and get everything off to a good start.

What does this mean for your life? You will be breastfeeding A LOT. Nursing tanks, like the Loving Moments by Leading Lady, make this so much easier. They have built-in support to keep you comfy, and you can totally wear them around the house, or even out and about. When your baby wants to eat, you'll be able to quickly "pop out" a breast and feed them.

6. For pain prevention: A quality nipple ointment

Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, but the truth is those first days can be uncomfortable. Your nipples will likely feel raw as they adjust to their new job. This will get better! But until it does, nipple ointment is amazing.

My favorite is the Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter. We love that it's organic, and it is oh-so-soothing on your hard-at-work nipples.

Psst: If it actually hurts when your baby latches on, something may be up, so call your provider or a lactation consultant for help.

7. For uncomfortable moments: A dual breast therapy pack

As your breasts adjust to their new role, you may experience a few discomforts—applying warmth or cold can help make them feel so much better. The Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Pack is awesome because you can microwave the pads or put them in the freezer, giving you a lot of options when your breasts need some TLC.

Again, if you have any concerns about something being wrong (pain, a bump that may be red or hot, fever, or anything else), call a professional right away.

8. For inevitable leaks: An absorbing breast pad

In today's episode of, "Oh come on, really?" you are going to leak breastmilk. Now, this is entirely natural and you are certainly not required to do anything about this. Still, many moms choose to wear breast pads in their bras to avoid leaking through to their shirts.

You can go the convenient and disposable route with Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads, or for a more environmentally friendly option, you can choose washable pads, like these Organic Bamboo Nursing Breast Pads.

9. For flexibility: A breast pump

Many women find that a breast pump becomes one of their most essential mom-tools. The ability to provide breast milk when you are away from your baby (and relieve uncomfortable engorged breasts) will add so much flexibility into your new-mom life.

For quick trips out and super-easy in-your-bag transport, opt for a manual pump like the Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump .

If you will be away from your baby for longer periods of time (traveling or working outside the home, for example) an electric pump is your most efficient bet. The Medela Pump In Style Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump is a classic go-to that will absolutely get the job done, and then some.

10. For quality storage: Breast milk bags

Once you pump your liquid gold, aka breast milk, you'll need a place to store it. The Kiinde Twist Pouches allow you to pump directly into the bags which means one less step (and way less to clean).

11. For keeping cool: A freezer bag

Transport your pumped milk back home to your baby safely in a cooler like the Mommy Knows Best Breast Milk Baby Bottle Cooler Bag. Remember to put the milk in a fridge or freezer as soon as you can to optimize how long it stays usable for.

12. For continued nourishment: Bottles

Nothing beats the peace of mind you get when you know that your baby is being well-taken of care—and well fed—until you can be together again. The Philips Avent Natural Baby Bottle Newborn Starter Gift Set is a fan favorite (mama and baby fans alike).

This article is sponsored by Walmart. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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We are almost into Pumpkin Spice season—this summer, this month and this week have flown by! But don't worry, we've been taking note of the good news stories you need to read when you have a moment to slow down.

Grab a coffee and get comfortable, mama, because these are the headlines that made us smile this week:

This kindergarten father is total #dadgoals

As Today reports, dad Jamie DeSpain is going viral for making his kindergarten daughter's day by taking her stuffed cat, Sophia, to work with him and putting her to work.

DeSpain's oldest daughter, Hadley, had been taking Sophia the cat with her to school as she made the big leap into kindergarten this month, but last week her dad realized she'd forgotten Sophia in the van when he'd dropped her off at school. DeSpain didn't want to cause an interruption at school, so he just brought Sophia into work with him and began texting his wife, Erica, photos of Sophia doing work around the office.

"I kind of have a goofy streak and Hadley really appreciates goofiness," Jamie DeSpain, who lives in Madison, Alabama, told Today Parents. "Combine that with her love for stuffed animals...[it] made for the perfect dad setup."

He took pics of Sophia taking phone calls, doing emails, having coffee and even having a pensive look out the window, which DeSpain captioned: "wondering what Hadley is doing."

When dad got home, his daughter was thrilled with her stuffed animal's big day out and was happy to be reunited with both her father and Sophia. Hadley was so thrilled with the experience that she asked her dad to repeat the mission the next day with her stuffed dog, Mocha. The cotton-filled canine was spotted doing various office tasks and, of course, drinking some coffee. 😂

Hadley's mama says her husband's antics were a welcome bit of fun and helped the family remember that while kindergarten is a big step, Hadley's still a little kid (and it seems her dad is too, at least at heart).

"Sending Hadley off to kindergarten has been a big transition for us as a family, but this activity reminded us that she's still little," Erica DeSpain said."We want to soak up that childlike wonder as much as we can, and this activity was a great way to do just that."

We think office buildings are about to see an infestation of stuffed animals!

This father's viral Instagram video is total #dadgoals

Father Jimmy Howell has gone viral for giving his 9-month-old daughter Kensley an adorable pedicure.

"She got a little crazy with me today due to the fact that I was filing her nails a little too rough, y'all see why I can't do anything for free, I'm charging her next week, just watch," he captioned the video he posted to Instagram.

"Kensey, this is free," He jokes in the video after Kensley seems to protest the spa service for moment. 😂

With the power of dad humor, Howell not only got the baby's toes clipped (which is hard to do!) but got her laughing, too. He says he has weekly "spa talks" with his daughter, so it's no wonder his baby nail skills are so on point.

Viral kindness: "Please ask me if I have sunscreen" 

We have all been there—sometimes you're the one who needs an extra diaper and sometimes you're the one who has one to give. The point is, every parent needs help sometimes and most are happy to pay it forward when it is their turn to give a diaper to a stranger in need.

Wisconsin mom Shelby Beck captured this perfectly in a Facebook post this week after she went to the park with her daughter and a fellow mama had to ask her for a favor.

When the stranger approached Beck, she could tell she was uncomfortable. "She shrugged her shoulders and quietly said 'I'm embarrassed to even ask, but do you happen to have sunscreen we can use?' As if she was somehow ashamed that she forgot to pack sunscreen today." Beck wrote.

She continued her Facebook post with an open letter to parents who find themselves in the same situation as the sheepish stranger.

"Dear fellow mamas,

Please ask me if I have sunscreen. Ask if I have baby wipes, diapers or even extra snacks.

Ask me if your toddler can sit down and play with us while you find a shady bench to nurse your newborn.

Hand me your phone and ask me to take a picture of you with your sweet babies - we all know mamas aren't in enough photos.

Ask for help. Ask for love. Ask for anything.

Even though we are strangers, please ask me.

It's not easy being responsible for little humans but it's easier if we help each other out.
We're all in this together.❤️"

We could not agree with Shelby more. Mamas helping mamas is a beautiful thing (and asking for sunscreen could even lead to making a mom friend!).

Oh, and one last thing...

Oh, and if you need a good cry this weekend, check out this viral Michael Bublé video that has parents everywhere crying about our kids growing up. Team Motherly could not get through it without sobbing! Just like summer, their childhoods will be over before we know it so take some time to connect with your babies this weekend. They're off to kindergarten today—off to college tomorrow! 😭


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Discovering the best foods for lunches and snacks is an important step in back to school preparation. But with new routines and packed schedules on the horizon, finding time to think about what to pack for back to school lunches can be a challenge. Some kids are super picky and won't eat anything but grilled cheese. Others could eat endless amounts of nutritious snacks all day, everyday. Regardless of where your child falls on the food spectrum, we're here to help you find what works best for your family.

We asked #TeamMotherly to share their favorite go-to lunches and snacks for the back to school season. Mix it up and add some variety in there and you'll be good to go! Here's what they had to say:

1. "Cubed ham, cheese, cut grapes, yogurt covered raisins."—Tiffany S.

2. "Granola bars, carrots or cucumbers and ranch, peanut butter crackers, fresh fruit."—Melissa B.

3. "For me? Wine."—Nicole N.

4. "My little one loves to take tuna or chicken salad with grapes and crackers, yogurt and ice water with fresh cucumbers and garden tomatoes or chicken Alfredo with toast and veggies or peanut butter celery tomatoes cucumbers chips and water."—Jackie P.

5. "The cafeteria!"—Toni H.


6. "Once a week, it's usually ham and cheese sandwich with raw baby carrots and grape tomatoes. And for dessert, I do yogurt or fruit. It doesn't really matter if it's always the healthiest or the best lunch, what I find really good is alternating and rotating and trying to get creative."—Erica W.

7. "Bananas, string cheese, blueberries, apple sauce, raspberries."—Melina S.

8. "Cut strawberries or cut apples & peanut butter for snacks! & Sandwich with ham or turkey, tomato, lettuce, & mayo separately! And yogurt."—Melodi B.

9. "I roll a hotdog in a flour tortilla and toast it in a skillet until crispy. Like a hot dog burrito."—Elda E.

10. "Sandwiches (meat or sunbutter and jelly), quesadillas, hummusdillas (hummus in tortilla), leftover pizza, bean salad with tortilla chips, boiled eggs/cheese, pesto pasta salad, yogurt and granola, bagel with cream cheese, empanadas (bean and cheese or meat). And always fruit/veggies as sides."—Tran L.


11. "I make a sandwich with hummus then pack carrots, applesauce, Z-Bar and some crackers."—Suzanne W.

12. "Vary it between ham sandwiches, dairylea dunkers, breadsticks and then healthy snacks and juice box. [I also include] water in a sports bottle for during the day."—Danielle B.

13. "Gluten-free pretzels and peanut butter, ham and cream cheese rolls, GF tortillas with PB & J."—Heather T.

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Learn + Play

If Amazon is a large, impersonal department store filled with endless inventory and unlimited choices, Hullabaloo Book Company is a sweet, curated boutique where you know you'll find something that's just a little bit more special and a little more meaningful.

It's a new children's book gifting site you need to know about, mama.

Hullabaloo treats books as the ultimate experience gift. Each book you buy comes packaged up in a beautifully designed canvas bag with a personalized letterpress bookplate. It honestly makes my bookworm heart soar seeing how thoughtful the experience is for both the gift giver and receiver.

The only thing I never feel guilty buying too much of for my 3-year-old son is books, and books are also one of my favorite things to gift. But as he gets older, I find myself turning to books not just to entertain him, but to also open up his mind, explore new feelings and understand that we have shared experiences as people.

My favorite part of this site is the way they categorize their books by "Amazing Attributes." Parents (or aunts or grandparents or friends) can shop for books curated by these qualities. For example, "Kind Hearts" is a collection of books that "teach the importance of understanding and caring for family, other children, and our communities" and "Big Feels" is a collection of books that "focus on helping kiddos learn emotional intelligence."

If you're shopping on price alone, they also offer a tiered set of gift collections starting at $29. It's such an easy and brilliant way to find a special birthday or baby shower gift.

SHOP

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When you're a mama on the move, safe car seats are a necessity but can be a budget buster, especially if you're looking to upgrade or have to furnish multiple cars. Luckily, Target is here to fix that.

Target is bringing back their popular car seat trade-in program from Tuesday, September 3 – Friday, September 13.

Just bring your old car seat to the recycling bin near Guest Services and a Target team member will give you a coupon for 20% off a new a new car seat, booster seat, car seat base, travel system or stroller. And the coupon can also be applied to select baby gear, such as high chairs, swings, rockers and bouncers. 👏

The coupon is eligible through Saturday, Sept.14, 2019, so if you don't see the seat of your dreams in store when you drop off your old one, you'll want to check out the online selection and act pretty fast.

With the exception of the small format stores, all Targets will be taking car seats between September 3 and 13. (You can find a participating store near you here.)

Target has held several of these car seat trade-in events since 2016 in an effort to help parents recycle the seats, which are not eligible for curbside recycling and take up a lot of space when sent to landfills. The retailer hands over all the old car seats to Waste Management, and the materials are recycled to make grocery carts, plastic buckets and construction materials like steel beams.

The event is really a win-win—we get to keep our kids safe while giving the car seats that protected them a second life. Just another reason to love Target.

[A version of this post was originally published April 18, 2018. It has been updated.]

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