The following is a condensed version of this Principle. If you have questions about this Principle or how to apply it to your family situation, please contact an API Leader near you or post your comments and questions to API's forums.
Babies and young children have an intense need for the physical presence of a consistent, loving, responsive caregiver: ideally a parent. Daily care and playful, loving interactions build strong bonds. By providing consistent, loving care from early infancy, parents strengthen their relationship with their child and build a healthy attachment. If neither parent can be a full-time caregiver, then a child needs someone who is not only consistent and loving, but has formed a bond with them and consciously provides care in a way that strengthens the attachment relationship.
Create Schedules with Baby in Mind
- Instead of trying to fit baby into the existing pre-baby schedule, come up with creative ways to design new routines that include the baby
- Consider taking a sleeping baby along on date night, getting exercise by taking walks with baby in a sling, taking a trusted caregiver along for long evenings or special events, and working with employers to create a schedule that maximizes both parents' time with their child
Practical Tips for Short Separations
- Use a trusted caregiver to whom the child is attached and who supports API's Eight Principles of Attachment Parenting
- Respect the child's feelings and follow his lead about his readiness to separate, using creativity to avoid unnecessary anxious experiences
- Accept that even older children have occasional difficulties with separation
- Avoid using shame, fear, threats or intimidation to force the separation, or to attempt to prevent children from crying about it
- It is critically important that parents who are separated from their children spend very focused and intentional time reconnecting with their child after separation
- Different children are ready for separation at different ages, but research shows separations of longer than two nights can be very difficult for children under the age of three
- Studies show that daycare situations that exceed twenty hours a week can be extremely stressful and detrimental to the long-term health of children under the age of thirty months. In-home care, either by a trusted caregiver or parent, is preferable. Attachment Parenting International feels it is important to share the findings of what is optimal for child development and sometimes these are challenging expectations to achieve. In practice, no parent can attain all that research shows us and that is why API also puts forward the Principle of balance, as well as great value on parents trusting their instincts for their own child's needs. We know that today's parents are employed outside the home and may or may not be able to make arrangements that optimizes care with a trusted caregiver in the home or having the child at work with the parent. This makes practicing AP even more important by finding caregivers that respond with sensitivity, avoiding changes in caregivers if possible, helping to foster secure attachment with the caregiver, and when you are with your child before and after work, practicing the other API Principles.
Working and Alternate Caregivers
- Explore a variety of economic and work arrangement options to permit your child to be cared for by one or both parents at all times
- It is extremely important to have continuity of care with a consistent, loving, caregiver
- Parents should expect and encourage their child to form an attachment to the caregiver
- Frequent turnover of caregivers can be very damaging to the attachment process
- Make the transition to a caregiver well in advance of any separation so that it is a gradual process and is comfortable for the child
- Minimizing the number of hours in non-parental care as much as possible provides the best opportunity for a child to build secure attachments with parents
- Holding and cuddling helps parents and babies reconnect after being apart. Include the child in day-to-day tasks, and spend non-work time with family