Today we’d like to continue our discussion on Attachment Parenting with a contribution from Hannya Melrose.

Hannya’s interest in working with attachment issues with adults and children, originates from training as a psychotherapist and craniosacral therapist, specialising in prenatal, birth and post-natal bonding between mother and infant. She more recently trained as a Parent-Child therapist.

Hannya on Attachment

I am delighted to have been asked by Circus Day Nursery to write about attachment. It is such a fascinating area and there is so much new research into the development of the brain and the power that you have as parents to sculpt your infant’s brain in positive ways!
When I thought about how to begin this piece, I remembered an article, which was published in several leading newspapers last spring. The article focused on the question of whether a parent should leave a baby to cry or not and came down in favour of parenting expert Penelope Leach’s view that emotionally responsive parenting is essential for healthy infant brain development.

This is in contrast to the popular Gina Ford approach, which involves strict routines for a baby. Thankfully Penelope Leach’s argument can be backed up by solid scientific evidence that high levels of the stress hormone cortisol are toxic to the developing brain of an infant. If you are interested in reading more about this, Leach has a new book “The Essential First Year” and I also recommend Margot Sunderland’s wonderful book “What Every Parent Needs to Know.”

I thought this would be a good starting point to explore attachment parenting, which is essentially a way of facilitating a secure attachment with your infant through emotionally warm, sensitive and responsive care giving from as early as possible.

This kind of approach will inevitably mean that parenting is harder work in the early years – it really is hard work responding to the needs and feelings of a highly vulnerable and dependent infant on a constant basis and difficult feelings may well surface at times (particularly if your own needs were not met when you were a young child). I believe parents need to be well supported by a network of family, friends and professionals involved in childcare. It really is such a difficult job being a parent and no one is given any prior training!

I believe that the most important gift you can give your child is a secure attachment to you. A child who is securely attached is well set up for life– research shows that he or she will be more trusting, open and at ease emotionally and socially and also more advanced in his or her intellectual and motor development.

The good news is that it is never too late to start adopting an attachment parenting approach with your child or to do healing around your own childhood – as often making shifts in your approach to parenting may involveexploring aspects of your early life which hampered your own development.

So the question is – what is it about attachment parenting that has such a beneficial impact on your infant or child’s holistic development? The short answer is that all those positive interactions between you and your child help to build a really healthy brain! Practices such as breastfeeding, sleeping with your baby, using a sling, keeping a baby close to you until he or she is ready to move away and very importantly regulating and calming him or her emotionally – all this will contribute to the experience of safety, trust and love which a child needs for the developmentof healthy neuronal connections and a secure attachment.

And the good news is that you don’t always have to get it right! Babies and children are resilient and can cope with some stress but what really helps them is if you can talk openly and honestly with them, apologising if he or she has been hurt or let down. Attachment parenting is essentially about creating a real relationship with your child that is based on empathic responsiveness and loving connectedness.

Training at Circus

In the spring of 2010, I was delighted to receive an invitation from Circus Day Nursery to offer a training session to all staff on the theme of attachment. We explored as a group how to integrate attachment theory into the 4 areas looking at, EYFS (a unique child, positive relationships, enabling environments and learning and development) and apply the theory on a daily basis with the children. We then watched a DVD featuring a Parent-Child therapist working with a mother suffering from post-natal depression.

I returned to Circus Day Nursery in December to offer another session focusing on listening to children and supporting attachment. We discussed how best to understand and respond to children in the light of early brain development, developmental stages and the EYFS. We also watched an excerpt from a DVD from the John Bowlby Institute in London, featuring various world experts talking about attachment.

The staff engaged enthusiastically in the training sessions and I was very impressed by their openness and dedication to the children in their care.

Hannya Melrose

Diploma in Parent-Child Therapy, MA Physiotherapy, Early Years Professional.