I’m suggesting another thing that may not work for everyone. But it’s something that personally worked somewhat for me when I suffered with postnatal depression. I’m going to talk about how attachment parenting can help with postnatal depression.
What is Attachment Parenting?
Attachment parenting is basically a form of parenting where you connect yourself with your baby as much as possible. Generally it consists of breastfeeding, co-sleeping, babywearing, holding and carrying the baby as much as possible and attending to their cries quickly without letting them ‘cry it out’. It’s essentially a more ‘natural’ approach to parenting, and one that has a large connection with our ancestral roots.
For me, this works because it’s hardwired into us to parent like this. Let’s not forget our evolution. Back in the day (thousands and thousands of years ago) they didn’t have a cot. They didn’t have a pram, they didn’t leave a baby to cry themselves to sleep for the sake of ‘sleep training’ and they didn’t have bottles. Of course, I’m speculating on most of that as I wasn’t physically there. But you only have to look at modern day hunter-gather societies to guess what it might have been like.
Attachment parenting often supports parents to use nurturing touch through slings or co-sleeping – these practices feed the biochemical process involved in parent/infant bonding. Yet, the depth of attachment isn’t dependent on the amount of time with the child but the quality of presence instead. Our work at Attachment Parenting UK invites parents to recognise that they are not experiencing their children, rather their thinking about their children. This simple but profound understanding helps us to see the child in their full expression of innocence and to remember that our own insecure, anxious or fearful thoughts are not facts, nor true, and we can be relieved of the pressure of believing them to be so. Knowing our children have innate well-being and simply need an environment of love, care, support, encouragement and light heartedness is enough to soften the immense responsibility we can place on ourselves during those early years.
Breastfeeding and Attachment Parenting
Before I continue, I will address the issue of whether you can still be an attachment styled parent without the breastfeeding element. The more hardcore ones out there would argue that you can’t, and sure, I see their point; at the end of the day it’s a very big bonding tool and something that was the most needed element back in the day.
But I personally feel that you can still be an attachment parent whilst using a bottle. If you couldn’t, then you’re basically saying men can’t parent this way. But you should bottlefeed as if you were breastfeeding. And by that I mean, on demand, try not to let everyone do it, and don’t ram the bloody bottle in their mouth like you’re trying to make foie gras. Case in point:
The above image is not only a form of bad parenting, it’s also actually dangerous and can result in death.
I’m still a huge supporter of breastfeeding, but if you are using bottles then that’s ok. You’re free to do what you want, and your mental health has to also be a priority. If breastfeeding causes you too much stress, then you should either seek support to help you through it, or simply go to the bottle and not feel guilty for doing so.
How Does Attachment Parenting Help with Postnatal Depression?
For me, I feel that this style of parenting has the possibility to get you out of postnatal depression as it’s the way it was always meant to be done. It’s something that is much more baby-led and hence means that your baby is far more likely to be content and that’s very likely going to then help you. At least that’s my opinion.
Take me to a hunter-gather society and show me someone not using this style. Then show me someone there who has postnatal depression. You’ll likely struggle with both. I’m not saying correlation implies causation, but there’s no smoke without fire. I will admit that those communities are just that, they are communities, and as such are incredibly supportive of each other, something we often forget about in the Western world.
I’ll admit, that it can be incredibly draining, and does involve you being fully involved with the baby when you are with them. I’m not suggesting that you use this parenting style if using it is going to make you feel worse. If you feel that you need to have time away from your baby to go out and regain your independence, then by all means do that.
I’ve recently experienced what it’s like to be with a baby all day as my wife has ended her maternity leave, so I know how draining it can be having a baby depend on you for the entire day.
But using something like the baby carrier helped me a great deal. I could go out for a decent walk across difficult terrain, and then I could let Isabelle sleep whilst I made food all the while she’s still happily connected with me. It’s also something that has helped me a great deal when it came to forming a bond with Isabelle, which was something I’ve struggled with quite a lot since first having her. Babywearing has played that much of a part in my postnatal depression recovery that you can read more about it via the toolkit.
I genuinely feel that co-sleeping is one of the best decisions we’ve made. We all love it, even the dogs, and it’s great waking up each morning to the sound of Isabelle babbling away to signal that she’s ready to get up, even if it is at 6am.
Attachment Parenting Might not be For Everyone
You don’t have to take all the aspects of attachment parenting and incorporate everything into your life. The main one for me personally has been the babywearing. I’ll be honest, we haven’t used the pram since Isabelle was just over three months old. I almost struggle to see the point in them. But if you’re struggling to form a bond with the baby like I did, then I do recommend that you try to incorporate some of these principles into your parenting. If it’s not for you, then simply try something else.