Helicopter Parenting. Freewheeling Parenthood. gentle upbringing. There’s a name for almost every type of parenting, but koala parenting — a new parenting term — is currently having a moment. But what is koala parenting?
Koala parenting is a more recent term for attachment parenting, a parenting style first coined by pediatrician William Sears in 1982. “Attachment parenting is a parenting philosophy that proposes methods aimed at fostering parent-child bonding,” explains Dr. Steven Abelowitz, Founder and Medical Director of Coastal Kids Pediatrics and Medical Director of Pediatric Associates. “Not only is it based at the core of parental empathy and responsiveness, but it also emphasizes continued physical closeness and touch.”
While there are a number of ways parents and their children can bond, Sears’ specific recommendations (more on that in a moment) resonate with many. “I was a new mom when I found myself through the work of Dr. William Sears discovered attachment training,” says mother-of-five Bonnie Way, who runs The Koala Mom website. “His writings made sense to me because I could already see that my newborn wanted to be near me at all times, and baby carrying became an easy way to meet her needs and mine. She had to be attached to me and I had to do the dishes or laundry, so carrying her with me made us both happy.”
Wondering about koala parenting and what it entails? Here’s everything you need to know.
What is the parenting approach for koalas?
The goal of attachment parenting, which is interchangeable with Koala parenting, is to encourage bonding between baby and parent through what Sears has dubbed the seven “Baby Bs.” They include:
- birth bond.
- Bedding near the baby.
- Believe in the baby’s cry.
- balance and limits
- Be careful with baby shoes.
This specific parenting philosophy has been around for decades, but the term “koala parenting” is relatively new. Where does the phrase come from? It’s difficult to say. (Some credit — who else? — to Kim Kardashian for helping the term gain popularity.) But as Way explains, the term’s evolution makes sense.
“The image of a mother koala represents attachment training well, because when we think of koalas, we often think of a mother koala with babies either in her pouch or hanging on her back,” Way notes. “It’s a cute way to think about the closeness between mother and baby, and also the baby’s dependence on the mother.”
Pros and Cons of Koala Training
According to doctors and parents, there are a number of pros and cons to both the general koala care philosophy and some of Sears’ specific policies. Here’s a look at a few.
Increased chances of breastfeeding success. For parents who want to breastfeed, “koala parenting encourages and enhances breastfeeding success,” says Abelowitz. This has in part to do with the emphasis placed on frequent touch and closeness.
Positive impact on child development. “It was originally recommended that babies be carried or placed in a fanny pack as if to ‘carry’ them to soothe crying infants,” notes Dr. Ronald Potocki, pediatrician at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. “However, this practice has become a way for parents and infants to connect. In addition, carrying babies has been shown to have a positive impact on a child’s development and can reduce anxiety in infants.”
Reduced risk of SIDS. “One of the biggest risks to a newborn is the risk of SIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome,” says Potocki. “This is usually caused by a lack of adherence to safe sleep guidelines as published by the American Academy of Pediatrics. “Safe sleep” means that infants should lie on their back on a flat surface to sleep, alone in a bassinet or crib, with nothing else in the crib, such as toys or stuffed animals. Safe sleep recommendations also include placing a bassinet or crib in the caretaker’s bedroom. This is commonly referred to as “sharing a room”. This practice of space sharing has been shown to reduce or reduce the risk of SIDS.”
However, Potocki adds, “This does not mean that caregivers share the same sleeping area as the toddler, but that the toddler has their own space within a caregiver’s room.”
Increased emotional regulation. Koala or attachment parenting can “encourage the development and learning of emotional regulation skills,” Abelowitz notes. “Some studies have found that infants exposed to highly responsive parenting styles, such as
Better coping mechanisms. “This parenting method may have the potential to reduce infant exposure to stress,” notes Abelowitz. “This can have a positive impact on brain development and the ability to deal with stress later in life.”
Reinforced attachment even as children grow. Aside from being able to carry her baby while she does chores, Way says that koala parenting has also paid off for her family in the long run. “I’ve found that all of my babies crave my presence and are much calmer and easier to soothe when they’re near me,” she says. “This longing for closeness does not end when your baby is no longer carried. My five children are now between the ages of 4 and 14 and I find that they all still crave physical and emotional closeness with me.”
“A lot of what we consider to be ‘misbehaviour’ from our children is often simply that they’re crying out for attention that we’re not giving them,” she continues. “So when we meet their needs for closeness and emotional support first, they’re happier and don’t have to fret to get attention — and that in turn makes parenting easier.”
Some aspects of koala training can have some downsides, mostly when practiced incorrectly, experts explain.
Risks associated with bed sharing, which is not recommended. “The most important and potentially very serious disadvantage of attachment parenting is when the parents share the bed,” says Abelowitz.
Less sleep for parents. “One of the only disadvantages of room sharing that has been studied is an infant’s ability to get a good night’s sleep throughout the night,” notes Potocki. “It has been shown that an infant’s sleep can sometimes be erratic and erratic. This results in the parent also having irregular and irregular sleep schedules, which can affect the caregiver’s mental and physical ability to care for the newborn.”
Risks from improper carrying. Baby carrying can be a great tool for both parent and baby — but only if done right,” Polocki notes. “One of the biggest downsides to carrying babies is the concern of possible suffocation or suffocation for the infant,” he says. “This is especially true for infants younger than 4 months, as they don’t yet have fully developed head control.”
“To avoid choking hazards in infants under 4 months, ensure infants are not wrapped too tightly, are always within view of the caregiver, and are well supported without being in a C-position on the bed Curl your chest.” Polocki continues. “This helps prevent airway obstruction, which can lead to suffocation.”
Loss of autonomy, especially for primary caregivers. Depending on the family situation, this type of upbringing can be very helpful … or vice versa. “Implementing attachment parenting can be very physically and emotionally taxing for parents,” says Abelowitz. “Many mothers struggle with establishing their own healthy sleep patterns, returning to work, or at least maintaining the same level of intimacy with their partner for some time.”
“Attachment parenting involves constant or almost always close physical contact and responsiveness to the child’s demands, which can be extremely time-consuming and emotionally draining for the parent,” Abelowitz continues. “It’s important to note that what works for one parent may not necessarily work for another.”
The final result
Just because koala parenting is an umbrella term for a number of specific practices doesn’t mean that you have to include them all. (In fact, you don’t have to include “all” parenting styles).
Say Abelowitz: “From a pediatrician and an evidence-based standpoint, there’s really no established type of practice that parents need to follow in terms of attachment or koala parenting.”