Thank you to Brian Leaf for sharing this excerpt of his new book, Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi
Parenting precepts scare me. I’m Jewish and from New Jersey, so I’m prone to worry. My neurotic mind can turn any set of precepts into another explanation of why I have failed and my children will wind up like Pee Wee Herman or Justin Bieber. Just writing about this is too much. I may need to break for some yogic pranayama.
But I have found that Dr. William Sears’ seven precepts (known as the seven Bs) of Attachment Parenting are different. Sears’s list essentially says: Trust your baby, trust your parenting instincts and get support from friends and family. This, perhaps, I can stomach.
Sears’s seven Bs of Attachment Parenting, with some commentary, are as follows:
1. Birth bonding. Take an active role in the birth you want. Educate yourself. Speak openly with your obstetrician, midwife, and/or birth attendants. Be present for the birth.
2. Read and respond to your baby’s cries. Newborns don’t misbehave. They communicate. We just need to watch and listen. And try things. Even if you misunderstand a cue — offering a nurse when all little Jimmy wanted was a cuddle — he’ll tell you and you will refine your ability to understand. This is similar to honing your intuition. That is, the best way to cultivate and hone intuition is by listening for and then following intuitions as they arise. As Malcolm Gladwell teaches in his bestseller Blink, each time you follow an intuition, your intuition strengthens. This, I’d say, is a great example of what’s meant by follow your parenting instincts. I love seeing this as a skill that, with practice, I can hone.
3. Breastfeeding. The benefits of breastfeeding are endless. Mom gets happy hormones. Baby gets antibodies. No one has to get up in the middle of the night and walk across the cold linoleum to mix a bottle.
4. Babywearing (carrying baby in a sling or carrier). Trust your instinct to hold your baby. Sears says carried babies cry less and grow more. And they feel safe and get to snuggle up to you. When I see a baby in a very crowded mall being pushed in a stroller, the baby always looks the way I feel on a roller coaster. “Where am I going? Where’s Mom? HELP! Ahhhhh!!!” That dialogue, by the way, is a direct quote from me at age thirty on Disney World’s Space Mountain. In my town, parents favor baby carriers and wraps and are embarrassed by their strollers. There’s always a qualifier: “I’d have all three boys in a carrier on my back, but I threw out my SI joint in chaturanga last week.”
5. Bedding close to baby (cosleeping). Sears wonders when and why this practice became so controversial. He has found that because it’s so discouraged in the mainstream, lots of families who actually do cosleep don’t admit to it. Plus, he reminds us that most babies the world over sleep with their parents. And that we evolved to do so, which makes pretty good sense. Historically, babies left alone would be threatened by predators. I can’t imagine ancient peoples put their baby to bed in a small cave nearby.
6. Balance and boundaries. Take care of yourself. Put on your own oxygen mask first, as they say. A healthy baby needs a healthy mom and dad. Take a night off. Hire a sitter or call Grandma. Exercise. Eat well. Dust off the Barry White LP and have some sex, for Pete’s sake. You’ll be a better parent when (at least a few of) your own needs are met.
7. Beware of baby trainers. Don’t be convinced to follow any dogmas. Ignore any advice that counters your parental instincts to nurture your baby. Turn off Supernanny. Parent from your intuition and your heart.
I love that the seven Bs of Attachment Parenting are not dogma but a call to empowerment. They are a call to wake up to my instinctive parenting wisdom: being alert to each moment, assessing what is needed with clear eyes and an open heart. Intuition. Flexibility. Mindfulness . . . If nothing else an excuse to keep doing yoga and meditation, now that there’s really no time for it.
About Brian Leaf
Brian Leaf is author of the parenting memoir, Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi: Cloth Diapers, Cosleeping, and My (Sometimes Successful) Quest for Conscious Parenting. You can find him online at www.misadventures-of-a-yogi.com.