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Have you ever noticed that conversations about parenting too often focus solely on mothers? Of course, in part it makes sense: the mother is the person who carried the baby for nine months, and the person who breastfeeds. However, other than that, there is no particular reason why a mother’s role should be so jarringly greater in a child’s life, compared to the father’s. Just as they need a mother figure, kids need a healthy father figure for ideal development. There is no reason whatsoever why a father wouldn’t take part in attachment parenting together with his partner, and there are many numerous benefits both for him and his baby.
What exactly is attachment parenting?
The term natural parenting or attachment parenting might sound like some sort of a new fad, but in fact, it’s as old as time. In simple terms, it’s the practice of raising children in a way that promotes closeness and strengthens the parent – child bond. The most common principles of natural parenting include co-sleeping in a safe and controlled way (precautions are necessary in order to minimize chances of SIDS), breastfeeding on demand, babywearing and respectful disciplining. Natural parenting is based on recognizing and striving to meet the needs of every member of the family. Of course, that might sound exhausting if it falls entirely on the mother, which is why the role of the father is to create a support network and share the responsibility and duties in as equal a way as possible.
How can dads get involved?
Of all the aspects of attachment parenting, only breastfeeding is exclusively the duty of the mother. However, if the baby is bottle fed for any reason (whether with formula or pumped breast milk), dads can share those duties too. Some dads choose to co-sleep with their kids – and, if you take certain precautions, the practice is perfectly safe. What is more, kids who co-sleep with their parents tend to wake up less and establish better sleeping habits. The aspect that dads seem most comfortable with – in fact, they relish it – is babywearing. It gives them the chance to spend time in close proximity to their child. Physical touch is a powerful tool for forging a loving bond. Babies, from the earliest days, love exploring the world around them, but they also thrive best when they feel safe and loved. The best way to provide that safety is physical contact. Every dad can explore the different possibilities of babywearing and choose the one that works for them. Some opt for a comfortable baby carrier, others prefer baby wraps.
What are the benefits?
The benefits of attachment parenting are numerous and immediate. The most important is, of course, the establishment of the father as a warm and close caregiver, instead of a distant breadwinner figure. The second, extremely practical reason is that all moms, however strong they are, need a break sometimes. Too often, mothers work too hard to keep their families happy, without actually providing themselves with even the most basic nourishment. They sleep too little, eat on their feet, sometimes they don’t even have the time to shower or wash their hair. Their social life too often just flies out the window. When dads also take up babywearing, feeding or co-sleeping, moms can finally get some much-needed time for themselves. Not only does attachment parenting feed the love between father and child, it also positions the mother and father as equals, and strengthens their relationship too. The whole family will be able to flourish through mutual support, and the father, unlike in so many traditional scenarios, is there to witness every single moment.
At the end of the day, everyone benefits from a strong bond between the father and child. Many dads experience a feeling of being on the outside, looking in, especially with the first baby in the family. The bond that instantly forms between mother and child is so strong that it can leave dads feeling excluded and even jealous. On the other hands, moms are too often exhausted and feeling at the end of their tether. Natural parenting gives dads the tools to get involved and help create a safe, loving environment where their kids can thrive.