The amount of books I read during pregnancy, and even through the newborn phase, was nothing short of ridiculous. I was “prepared” for every type of birth after reading What to Expect, YOU: Having a Baby, From the Hips and everything Ina May Gaskins. I was ready to face every breastfeeding hurdle after reading The Complete Book of Breastfeeding. I was equipped to make my baby The Happiest Baby on the block. But after Simplicity Parenting, my parental reading got trampled on by everyday obligations and... actual parenting. Although Bringing Up Bébé introduced me to helicopter parenting, I think it was my mom and sisters insisting that I answer to each baby sound IMMEDIATELY that unknowingly taught me about Attachment Parenting.
Still, it wasn’t until I hit the parks and heard fellow moms talk about their beliefs that I started really examining my parenting style. I definitely wasn’t a Tiger Mom but then again, how much of a tigress can you be with a baby? I teeter-tottered on helicoptering during those tummy time classes that I ended up nursing through. Do you really even parent until your baby becomes a toddler? Just keeping them fed is a full-time job until that point.
As I thought about it, I realized that the way I was raising Oliver was leaning heavily into the Attachment Parenting International ring. But then again, it was only because our lifestyle really called for it. And it wasn’t just me. It was the mom I walked by nursing her toddler on the park bench and the dad baby-wearing on the subway. Suddenly I started thinking about all the moms and dads I knew that were actually Attachment Parents without them even knowing it.
Here are a few of the API principles and some of the commonly spotted behaviors that lead to them. So before you judge, remember: You might just be Attachment Parenting. Gasp.
Respond with Sensitivity
“Babies cannot be expected to self-soothe, they need calm, loving, empathetic parents to help them learn to regulate their emotions.”
If you live in a city, you’re probably the type of person who is out and about a lot. Therefore, even though internally you may want to scream, “Not now child!” the external you is probably sitting at a crowded brunch -- with babyless friends -- saying, “I’ll have an Americano,” all cool, calm and collected while you gracefully undo your nursing bra to get that baby fed as fast as possible. What’s that saying? “Make believe long enough and it becomes real”? That applies to patience too.
Feeding with Love and respect
“Breastfeeding is the optimal way to satisfy an infant's nutritional and emotional needs.”
Plain and simple: city life is expensive. While we all know a mom can feed their baby with love with a formula-filled bottle as well, for some, overcoming those breastfeeding hurdles might economically be the best reason to stick to breastfeeding. Since it’s free and all.
Use Nurturing Touch
“Skin-to-skin contact is especially effective, such as during breastfeeding, bathing, or massage. Carrying or babywearing also meets this need while on the go.”
I can’t be the only one who will avoid a NYC subway elevator at all costs. Unless I am with my fiancé, I will always opt to babywear instead of taking the stroller. It makes me nervous to carry a stroller up and down the stairs, and you can’t always assume there will be a stranger there to help you (except usually they won’t say no, even if they’re annoyed). When you babywear, you don’t have to worry about narrow doorways or getting stuck in sidewalk cracks. It just so happens your baby is benefiting from the closeness as well.
Ensure Safe Sleep, physically and Emotionally
“Safe co-sleeping has benefits to both babies and parents.”
Aaah, the joys of co-sleeping. The gentlemen at How to Be a Dad sum it up pretty perfectly. But as you know, we live in close quarters as New Yorkers. Many people I know -- including myself -- live with their babies in one-bedroom apartments for at least the first year. And while we don’t consider ourselves co-sleepers, for one reason or another, I wake up with my toddler next to me every morning. Maybe it’s neighbor etiquette -- there is only so far you can take sleep-training when you have people living above and below you… and sometimes to the left and right of you. “Just bring ‘im into bed” will become a regular part of your late-night dialogue if you don’t have a natural born sleeper.
Strive for Balance in Personal in Family Life
“It is easier to be emotionally responsive when you feel in balance.”
If you live in a city, there's probably as much for you to do as there is for your baby, and according to API, taking care of yourself should be a priority. Sometimes all it takes is a solo walk to get recharged. There is so much to see and so many interesting people to gawk at. Leave the baby with someone you trust whether it’s solo or with your partner and go let off some steam, have a good meal (and cocktail), and get inspired.
Do you have a specific parenting style?
Photo of Koyuki Smith and son Seiji by Bianca Fehn of Metro Minis.