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Parenting Advice Column

Subject: Does attachment parenting leave out fathers?


"What can fathers do to build a special bond with their baby, when it is the wife who gets to do all the feeding? Does attachment parenting have to leave out the fathers?"

Name Withheld

Naomi Aldort replies:

I admire fathers who ask this question because it comes from wanting to give more and from being very loving. Fathers are very important for the optimal growth and attachment of the child, and there are many ways for a father to build a bond with his child. Nursing is not one of them - but fathers are very much needed, as fathers.

Can you imagine talking about sharing pregnancy with the father so he has this experience too? Nature didn't make a mistake. The baby grows up in his mother's body, he then "graduates" to the outer body, and then very gradually, he includes other people. The father, as the first and most present "other person" is the bridge, the support and the model. We need not change nature and give Dad a bottle in hand. Instead of complaining that he cannot be a mother, we can celebrate that he is privileged to be the father.

The father is very much needed in the early years. He is needed in the role of connecting the child to the rest of the world. He is the one who builds a bond that is not related to survival, which allows the child to relate to a person for the sake of the relationship. The father is therefore the "safe bridge" toward the rest of society.

Practically speaking, Dad can do a lot: in addition to nurturing Mom, he can do everything other then nursing. Dad can change diapers, bathe, carry, hold, rock, sing, read books, play, and more. He can build the baby's trust and bond with him. However, most of the time his contact with the baby needs to be in the presence of Mom until it is obvious that the baby delights in spending time alone with him.

A family can spend a lot of time as a group of three (more when there are more children), loving, intimate and nurturing. If too often when the baby sees Dad, he loses Mom, he may resent and fear him, and try to avoid him. Fathers need to be the connection, not the disconnection.

Finding the balance means being in tune with the child. Most babies will prefer Mom no matter what Dad does. But that is Nature's design, and it is exactly what the baby needs for optimal attachment and growth. Father is needed to nurture and support this bond and to embrace both mother and child.

Babies are not here to fulfill the parents' needs; attachment parenting is about meeting the needs of the baby. The only one who is "selfish" is the baby as she should be. Meeting the needs of the baby does meet our need, though it may not be obvious. It fulfills our need to expand our spiritual being, and to learn to let go of our expectations for ourselves. We also feel nurtured by meeting the baby's needs, for her sake. This benefits both parents in their quest for becoming more loving, compassionate, and conscious human beings.


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