Posts Tagged ‘API’

API Principle #6: Provide Consistent and Loving Care

Friday, January 13th, 2012

Attachment Parenting International offers 8 parenting principles they believe to be the foundation of developing a healthy attachment with young child. The sixth principle is to Provide Consistent and Loving Care. API recognizes that young children thrive when their day to day interactions are full of love and consistency. A baby feels safe and secure when there is a predictable rhythm to their day and a predictable response to their needs.

One important way to ensure a child’s daily care routine gently and lovingly addresses their needs is to let¬†the child create the schedule. Rather then relying on a clock to inform you if your child is hungry or tired, learn to read your baby’s subtle (or sometimes not so subtle) cues. Over time you will probably observe a pattern and can anticipate baby’s needs. For example you may notice your baby likes to take a short mid-morning nap on most days or that your baby is typically ready to go to bed for the evenings around the same time each night. You can use this information to create a routine for your baby, however remain flexible as a baby’s sleep and hunger needs change frequently throughout the first year of life. Creating a daily routine that is reflective of baby’s needs is an important foundation of the sixth API principle to providing consistent and loving care.¬†Ideally a parent provides of bulk of baby’s daily care routines and interactions in order to foster a strong bond. They suggest “exploring a variety of economic and work arrangement options to permit your child to be cared for by one or both parents at all times” (Attachment Parenting International, 2008).

However API does recognize and understand that there are times/circumstances when separation from a parent is necessary. Therefore they offer some practical suggestions for making separations go smoothly for both parent and child. One main consideration is selecting who will care for your child in your absence. Optimally you would find someone who supports¬†the 8 principles of Attachment Parenting¬†and infuses them into how they care for your child. Choosing someone your child already has a bond with such as a extended family member or close family friend will help make separation easier for your child. If this is not an option, encouraging your child to form a bond with a new care provider is important. This might be a¬†gradual process, so¬†if possible ensure a positive relationship is formed prior to long periods of separation. For example you might ease into using a new care provider by first having them care for your child while you are nearby or for short durations. Additionally¬†API states that “it is critically important that parents who are separated from their children spend very focused and intentional time reconnecting with their child after separation” (Attachment Parenting International, 2008). Breastfeeding offers a wonderful opportunity to physically connect with your child as does co-sleeping and babywearing.

What ways do you practice Attachment Parenting Principle #6, Provide Consistent and Loving Care, in your family?

-Sarah

API Principle #5: Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

Attachment Parenting International is an organization dedicated to promoting a evidence-based information to foster healthy parent-child attachments. Each Friday for the last several weeks, I have examined one of API’s 8 Principles of Parenting. The fifth API Parenting Principle and the topic of today’s post is to Ensuring Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally.

Often when a couple finds out they are expecting they¬†will put a great deal of¬†thought¬†into decorating a nursery, choosing a crib, and selecting bedding. However it is not very common for many expectant¬†couples to devote that same energy to understanding an infant’s sleep needs or patterns. The underlying assumption is that¬†their baby will soon be sleeping solo in their crib through the night. While this may be the case for¬†some families, it is likely the result of intentional sleep training on the parent’s behalf. The most common approach is to allow a baby to ‘cry it out’ by simply ignoring their crying until the baby finally falls sleep on his/her own. Often this approach is validated by claiming it teaches a baby to be independent and how to self-soothe. However “an infant is not neurologically or developmentally capable of calming or soothing himself to sleep in a way that is healthy. The part of the brain that helps with self-soothing isn’t well developed until the child is two and a half to three years of age” (API, 2008). While this method has prevailed for the last few decades, research is now showing the harmful effects of allowing babies to cry themselves to sleep.¬†When a¬†baby’s cries¬†are ignored there is a significant¬†increase in¬†’the stress hormone cortisol in the brain which has¬†potential long term effects to emotional regulation, sleep patterns and behavior’ (API, 2008). So while crying it out may indeed be effective in getting a baby to sleep through the night at an early age, we are starting to question at what cost? Science is¬†now¬†providing evidence for¬†what we’ve intuitively known all along; a crying baby needs our love and comfort and¬†we are discovering¬†that there are serious implications to denying those basic needs.

Getting ready to go to sleep in our "Family Bed"; a queen size and a king size bed pushed together

So what does API believe ensures safe sleep, physically and emotionally? API believes that babies nighttime needs are equally important as daytime needs. An effective way for babies to communicate their needs is by crying. When a baby cries at night they are expressing a valid need whether it be they are too hot, too cold, ill, hungry, uncomfortable, or simply needing physical contact/reassurance from a parent. By recognizing these needs as important and responding accordingly, parents instill a sense of trust and security in their child which form the foundation of healthy attachment. What is often misunderstood about healthy parent-child attachment is¬†that it actually leads to greater independence. The fear of creating a an overly dependant child is so prevalent in our society that often parents will go to great lengths to attempt to “teach” independence¬†at a¬†very early age. When a baby/child is prematurely forced into independence, it often results in greater dependence as well as can lead to anxiety and insecurity.

API encourages parents to be open, flexible, and creative in developing a sleep arrangement that allows for optimal responsiveness to night time needs. Typically this translates to baby sleeping in close proximity to parents. Two distinct terms are used to describe such sleep arrangements:

Co-Sleeping – infant/child sleeps in same room as parents, but on a different sleep surface than parents such as in a bassinet, a sidecar crib, or on a separate mattress.

Bed-sharing/Family Bed¬†- infant/child sleeps on the same sleep surface as the parents. “This practice is recommended for only for breastfeeding families using API’s Safe Sleep Guidelines” (API, 2008).

Shared sleeping arrangements such as co-sleeping or bed-sharing¬†frequently report a¬†reduction in¬†parental fatigue thus providing a physiological benefit to the parents as well to baby. Additionally “we should understand the mother and child as a mutually¬† responsive dyad.¬† They are a symbiotic unit that make each other¬† healthier and happier in¬† mutual responsiveness” (Psychology Today, 2011).

While getting adequate sleep can certainly be challenging as parent, API reminds us to not lose sight of the importance of¬†ensuring a baby with safe sleep both physically and emotionally. By providing baby with¬†a peaceful sleep routine and environment, parents are optimally supporting¬†their child’s¬†development.

What does your sleep arrangement look like? How did you know that was the right fit for your family?

-Sarah