Finding your way as a parent can be confusing, difficult, even overwhelming, in no small part because of the many parenting trends that make headlines one day and fall out of favor the next. Some promise to make your life easier, while others are all about your child's health or development. From playing classical music to a baby in utero to adorning a teething tot with an amber-bead necklace to sneaking sweet potatoes into the picky pre-schooler's mac-n-cheese, these parenting trends appeal to moms and dads who are desperate for any kind of help they can get.
However, there's one approach to parenting that has both scientific evidence and tradition backing it up. Attachment parenting may have become "trendy" in the past few decades, but its devotees know that it's really just about nurturing your child in the same ways that our ancestors did, by doing what comes naturally.
The time immediately after birth is exceptionally important; both mother and child have a primal need to be close. Skin to skin contact -- with both mom and dad — can help the newborn infant bond to both parents. However, considering the fact that 80% of mothers deliver either two weeks before or two weeks after their due date, your child may have to spend time under special care if they are too early. If this happens, simply ask your doctor about the best time and way, to bond, skin to skin.
Nursing your child is natural, and although there was a time when women were discouraged from doing so, the breastfeeding movement is back in full swing. And it's easy to see why: not only does breast milk provide the ideal combination of nutrients that actually changes as the baby grows (how cool is that?), but the very act of nursing can promote mother-child bonding. Children who are breastfed may have fewer ear infections, respiratory issues, and allergies. Down the line, they may be at lower risk for diabetes, obesity, and even certain types of cancer. And moms benefit too, with reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer and osteoporosis. It's free and it's portable.
Anyone who's ever had a baby knows that there's no such thing as a newborn sleeping schedule — at least not right away. Newborn sleep patterns can give you as little as an hour or two between feedings, and every parent anxiously awaits that momentous morning when your little one has finally slept through the night — even if that means you define "morning" as 4:30 a.m. Babies sleep better near their parents, so don't banish them to a separate room. Consider co-sleeping, of which there are several variations: you can snuggle up with baby in your arms (which makes it very easy to nurse), place her in a "sidecar" — a crib or bed that attaches to your own bed — or use a specially designed bed that sits atop yours. For both newborn sleep safety and for your comfort, sleeping within a close touching and nursing distance is something you should discuss with your pediatrician, but it's definitely something to consider, since it helps everyone sleep better.
Trends may come and go, but keeping your little one close, breastfeeding whenever possible, and finding ways for both parents to bond are some of the main tenets of attachment parenting.