The Science of Attachment Parenting

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What is the scientific purpose of attachment parenting? In short, attachment parenting provides the child stress relief. Every child experiences stress and it impacts the body by triggering a stress response. Emotions such as fear, loneliness, sadness, frustration and unhappiness are present in children as young as babyhood. Children’s response to those emotions is usually crying in babies and “acting out”, crying or screaming in toddlers. Young children do not have the executive functioning to “self-sooth” or regulate their own stress response because of the immaturity of the brain’s pre-frontal cortex. They need external “scaffolding” help from an adult. When a caring adult responds to the situation promptly and with warmth, the stress is soothed and the calmness of the child resumes. Eventually, children grow to an age, usually in the teen years, where their self-regulation skills are developed enough so they can help themselves to “self-sooth,” and the scaffolding may be removed although comfort and parenting is nice to have all through childhood.

There are three kinds of stress; positive, tolerable and toxic. Positive stress is good and everyone needs some of this kind.Positive life challenges in the form or people, events or places, create positive stress. When the child faces the stress and overcomes it, often with caregiver support, (and as they get older, with peer support in addition to adult support); the child builds resilience to adversity and it creates a feeling of accomplishment for them. It encourages the child to meet even greater challenges as they grow because it builds their self-esteem and confidence. When a school child makes a class presentation, or a baby is left with a new loving, supportive caregiver, or a toddler faces new playmates at a new daycare, their accomplishment of managing the positive stress builds their resiliency.

Men On Scaffolding Working on a Brain

Tolerable stress is caused by negative events in a child’s life.  A parent’s divorce, an unwanted move, or the loss of a childhood friend are examples of tolerable stress because they are temporary, and supported by a caring, loving, warm attachment adult who can help steer the child through the stressful time.  The adult responds to the child with active listening, lots of hugs, immediate problem-solving and being available for continual help. Even when the child “acts out” their stress by exhibiting bad behaviour, a caring, warm response from an adult will help the child regulate his emotions, return to a calmer state and eventually resolve the problem.

Toxic stress is also caused by negative events although these events tend to be on-going and the one pervasive factor that moves tolerable stress into toxic stress is the lack of a supportive caregiver or attachment parent. On-going, unaddressed bullying at school, or a baby being left to cry it out most nights, or a toddler that is spanked every day for touching items, are examples of toxic stress. In the first example, the bullying is on-going and pervasive. In the last two examples, the adult caregiver no longer is the supportive, caring person, and instead, becomes the source of the toxic stress as in the spanking and leaving to “cry it out” example. When the child has no other adult support resources, they are left to manage the adverse experience on their own.

Of the 8 principles of attachment parenting, the principles of responding with sensitivity (and not anger), practicing respectful sleep habits (not leaving children to cry-it-out alone) and using positive discipline (non-punitive guidance) are the most important attachment parenting principles to ensure toxic stress does not occur.

Children do not need toxic stress. Ever. The full onslaught of toxic stress stimulates the production of cortisol and adrenaline, which in turn is good in short doses to motivate the body into flight, freeze or fight mode, but bad for the body when it is produced in large ongoing doses. The constant production of these hormones can damage developing brain architecture in children and may produce lifelong consequences later in life in the form of eventual physical and emotional health problems and propensity to addictions.

No one lives a stress-free life, but adults who practice attachment parenting principles can buffer the negative effects of toxic stress in order to turn the stress into tolerable stress and grow healthy, happy children. Loving, caring support is never spoiling a child. It is crucial for a child’s healthy emotional, physical and social development.

http://www.professionalparenting.ca

http://www.attachmentparenting.ca

http://www.judyarnall.com

How to Help Soothe a Crying Baby

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My 2 month-old won’t stop crying. What can I do?

Brain development stage: Even though it doesn’t seem like so at the time, this crying stage passes very quickly. It’s very normal for baby to cry at 2 months and this is the peak. From 4 to 5 months of age, baby’s crying time decreases immensely.

Suggestions:

  • Offer food first. Even if you’ve heard that babies should eat every 1.5 to 2.5 hours, perhaps she is going through a growth spurt and needs to “cluster” feed for several days. She should be feeding 12-14 times per day. You can’t overfeed a baby. She will turn her head away from breast or bottle and not suck.
  • Check for illness next. As you get to know your baby, you will have intimate knowledge when things are not normal for her. Trust your “gut feeling” if you think she is sick or something is seriously wrong. Call your local baby advice line or take her to the hospital emergency.
  • Check her diaper. A heavily wet or poopy diaper won’t bother some babies, but will irritate others.
  • Check for gas. Try carrying baby with your forearm around her tummy and gently rub her back. Or lie her down on your forearm with your inside elbow supporting her head and your hand supporting her pelvis. Gently rub her back with your other hand.
  • Check for prickly tags on clothing and hairs or threads wrapped around toes, wrists, fingers or neck. Baby may be in pain from some kind of irritant.
  • Check if baby is too hot/too cold. Baby should wear the same amount of clothing layers that you do.
  • Check if baby needs more sleep. Some babies wake up and seem fussy. Try not to disturb her and encourage her to go back to sleep.
  • Motion really calms fussy babies. Walk, dance, sway, or rock her. Go for a walk in the car or stroller.
  • White noise from a fan, ticking clock, aquarium, vacuum or dishwasher can help too. Buy a white noise machine that will play white noise or nature sounds, or use a phone app.
  • Carry your baby in a sling, snugli, or similar carrier. Studies done in cultures where babies are constantly carried, show that babies cry very little. Warmth, touch and motion works magic for babies because they simulate life in the womb.
  • Wrap baby in a blanket heated from the dryer. Then rock her in a rocking chair.
  • Music or yourself humming, or shhhhhing may help calm the baby.
  • Sway your baby while standing up or sitting on an exercise ball.
  • Put baby in the swing.
  • Run the dishwasher, vacuum or washer near your baby’s seat.
  • Go for a car ride. Keep a pillow in the back seat so when baby is asleep and car is parked, have a bit of a nap yourself.
  • Try a baby massage.
  • Hold her using the tummy hold. It applies a bit of pressure on her tummy to help releive gas.
  • Bicycle her legs so that gas can move out.
  • Distract your baby with a bath.
  • Swaddle baby. Flinging arms and legs can upset some babies. Others like loose clothing that allows movement of arms and legs.
  • Babies that are over-stimulated from too much activities can be soothed by a dark, quiet room with gentle rocking.
  • Go for a walk outside.
  • If your baby’s doctor diagnoses colic, or you have a fussy baby, get support systems in place for you and baby. Know your limits. If you start feeling helpless, frustrated, and angry because baby is still screaming, hand her over to partner, or a friend or relative that can give you a break. Make a list of her likes and dislikes to post on the fridge. If no one is around, make a safe choice and put the baby down in the crib while you take some deep breaths and calm down. It’s okay to take a breather, even if baby is screaming.