Saturday, April 9, 2011

My two cents on attachment

I saw a sad thing on the bus Wednesday, as I was heading to my Fit4Two class with Sprout. A woman got on just after me with a little baby in a stroller. The car seat that was clipped in had one of those zip up covers on it to keep the baby warm. The baby was drinking from a bottle propped up on the cover of the seat. At no point did his mother touch him & she never interacted with him at all during the time we were on the bus.

Maybe she doesn't feel safe holding her baby in her arms on the bus & prefers to have him strapped into the seat for safety, or maybe she doesn't usually feed him on the run at all & this was an exception... but I wonder how much time he spends in his mother's arms. Does she hold him when she feeds him at home? Does she ever use a carrier?

Say what you will about different styles of parenting being valid for different people, there is scientific evidence that proves it is beneficial to hold babies & children. The hormonal feedback loop that happens when you have skin-to-skin contact with your child helps both of you feel happier & helps your baby grow & thrive. Even if you're not breastfeeding & concerned with keeping your supply up through physical contact, it's still worth holding your child when you feed them to enhance bonding. We evolved suckling at our mother's breasts & being carried next to her body. I don't believe you can take that contact away without some health or developmental consequences for a baby.

I find it physically difficult to wear or hold Sprout for hours a day, as my arms are really not that strong, plus I've been struggling with hip muscle spasms, inflammation & arthritis in my feet lately. When we go shopping or if I'm going out for a few hours, I tend to buckle him into the stroller & take advantage of its cargo-hauling capacity. He seems to nap longer in the stroller than on my lap or in the carrier. However, I think Sprout's so much more content when in my arms. When he's tired or upset, he certainly calms down almost instantly if we pick him up & hold him. If I'm holding him, he is more secure & open to new experiences that might be a bit scary otherwise: playing with a dog for the first time; meeting new people at noisy parties & in public places; eating solid food the first time; watching noisy trucks, ambulances & construction machinery. Now that he's strong enough to be carried on my back (& I've gotten more comfortable loading him into the carrier that way on my own) I find I'm wearing him a little more.

It's important to be mindful of everything you do with your child & how it could impact them. It's more convenient to prop a bottle & leave the baby to it, but that's more or less how you'd feed a cat or a guinea pig. Is that the type of relationship you want with your child? I have my moments where I just need to be alone & away from Sprout for a while. It's draining to have a little person who is so utterly dependent on you every hour of the day & night. But if I'd really expected motherhood to be convenient & to maintain my pre-baby autonomy, I would have just gotten another pet instead.

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