Lives: Totnes, Devon
Role: Attachment Parenting UK, Founding Director
What is AP?
AP is about nurturing your child’s innate need for dependency by responding to them in a timely and sensitive way. The intention is to build trust and security so that the child, having experienced a loving and stimulating relationship, can move out into the world independently and with self-confidence and self-trust in their abilities and sense of worth.
It is about being empathetic and aware of developmentally appropriate behaviours and about stepping out of the way sometimes to allow the child to fully be themselves. AP is also about relationship quality, about investing in ourselves as parents so we can model to our children our own self-care and loveability.
What are the benefits of AP?
Infants who are well attached cry less because they are responded to more sensitively – this sensitivity, in the context of a caring and interesting environment, enhances brain development. AP promotes independence because children who feel truly secure in their relationships are also more self-assured (as are their parents in their parenting), more empathetic and likely to be more cooperative. The mutuality of the relationship between the child and their carer creates ease and acceptance and sets up a repertoire of positive behaviour which the child will take into adulthood.
What does your work involve and why do you feel it’s so important?
I felt very isolated as a new mum and relied upon The Continuum Concept forum for the first two years before starting my own peer support group having trained with Attachment Parenting International. I then went on to set up what I thought would be a small website listing groups nationwide and APUK was born from there – before I knew it I was on live TV, in the broadsheets and privileged to be part of our thriving Facebook community! These mothers often feel unsupported and benefit enormously from the compassionate and generous sharing of other parents – the community really is amazingly kind and accepting.
When I’m not involved with the online community I’m supporting our APUK Facilitators who run fantastic groups all over the country. This face-to-face support changes the way people see themselves, their lives and their parenting.
I’m also currently working on our website re-design, making different support options more easily accessible and creating more educational content. We are a unique organisation in the UK for what we offer – we are meeting the recent shift in parenting styles which are moving away from super nanny and ‘cry it out’towards more instinctive and empathetic parenting.
The more parents we can encourage to parent from a loving and inner-resourced place, the happier and more secure their children will be as adults…these parents are shaping our future.
What is the most important piece of advice you’d give a pregnant woman?
Protect yourself from negative birth stories – marvel at your body’s ability to carry a child and trust in your ability to breath your baby’s head out. Relax your jaw during labour (it helps your pelvis relax too!) and remember you are a mammal so you will feel most comfortable with a sense of privacy and safety. Self-care! Self-care often sounds great but is poorly understood – how does that actually look and how is it even possible when caring for a newborn?! It’s easy to sacrifice many of our needs for our children but we also need to teach our children the importance of respectful self-care so that we can parent from with integrity. Our in-house coach Michael H Brown does the most beautiful work with parents on this topic…sometimes we get so immersed in parenting we get lost and Michael supports mums to find a direction for themselves which can transform their relationship with their whole family.
What is the most important piece of advice you would give a new dad?
Observe the level of nurturing your partner is providing for your child and offer her the same – being practically helpful is wonderful, but loving touch, a compassionate ear and a willingness to be close is priceless to a new mother. Listen to your own emotions too – any feelings of resentment, helplessness or uncertainty or frustration need to be heard – an empathetic circle of male friends or a coach can help those feelings be heard before they leak into the relationship.
Do you have any great tips for the early days or a ‘must have?’
Be wary of any thoughts around what you ‘should’be doing or who you ‘should’be taking care of on some level – keep your energy focused on yourself and your child and prioritise your own emotional and physical needs. Aim to set up a support structure before birth so people are helping out practically afterwards – ask – even if that doesn’t come naturally to you! A ‘must have’would be a sling – visit your local APUK group or sling library – a good sling can help you get out and about when you’re ready with a feeling of safety and freedom.
What is your personal newborn philosophy?
Listen to your child, observe them closely – your body is their environment and you will be helping them regulate their heartbeat, temperature and breathing simply by being close to them. Don’t be afraid to respond to their call for closeness – they are primed for survival and they depend utterly on your care. On a personal note, I kept things as calm and restful as possible for 6 weeks post-birth – I surrendered to my purpose and it was wonderful!
What are your thoughts on preparing for caring for a new baby?
Do the emotional work – invest in yourself so you can parent from the most loving place possible. We rarely do this but I see the mums working with our in-house coach and they all say it’s the best investment they ever made in their child. I would also encourage parents to not be attached to any expectations of how they think their child should be/sleep/eat – infants are fantastically dynamic and invite a level of flexibility often unknown before parenthood! Any attempt at training or managing will only create stress for the parents – it can mean the way you lived your life will change and seem a little topsy turvy for a while – it’s all part of the ride and nothing ever stays the same for long!
Your top tips for getting back to work after birth and working around your family?
Be clear on your intention for returning to work and what that brings up for you – be fully with all the uncomfortable feelings that might come up. Be wary of guilt as it does not serve positively and instead keep focusing on your intention and the benefits. I am a fan of the childminder rather than the nursery setting…children do really well when they can attach to someone who is easily available in a childminding setting and it can become a wonderful additional relationship in the child’s life.