When I first decided to breastfeed my babies, I joined a Facebook group called Mama’s Milk Cafe. Emily Fite, a lactation consultant in the group, answers questions, shares her expertise and guides other moms through their breastfeeding journeys. Breastfeeding happens to play a key role in attachment parenting.

If you’re new to the concept, Attachment Parenting International defines it as “an approach to childrearing that promotes a secure attachment bond between parents and their children.”

Ideally, Fite said, this starts at “the golden hour,” which she describes as the first hour of a baby’s life after birth.

“Bringing mom and baby skin-to-skin immediately after birth is a sensitive period where the hormone oxytocin is released, promoting maternal/newborn attachment and reduces stress for both mom and baby,” she said. “Disrupting skin-to-skin time after birth may suppress a newborn’s innate protective behaviors that regulate their blood sugar, breathing, temperature and has shown to affect mothers’ bonding and responsiveness to her baby for years to come.”

The next best time to practice attachment and conscious parenting is now, Fite said. Wherever you are in your parenting journey, pause and examine your relationship with your child.

A major benefit of attachment parenting is that it helps children become psychologically and physiologically healthy. To start this at the newborn stage may prevent long bouts of crying and mitigates other intense reactions to stressful situations.

“When parent and child have the ability to find the state of calm by bonding together, it helps prevent escalating emotions,” Fite said. “It’s easy to go down the rabbit hole of anxiety as a parent, so learning to practice a peaceful presence and relaxation breathing techniques, and especially practicing those with your child, is an invaluable resource for both parent and child.”

Fite said educating yourself early in pregnancy about the benefits of breastfeeding medicine, the golden hour, babywearing and attachment parenting will bring lifelong benefits to the relationship.

“Connecting in the home, connecting with our children, setting the example of a peaceful presence, raising children to create healthy family bonds will pave the way to neurological development and enhance healthy relationships throughout their entire lives,” Fite said.

A parent responding to a baby or child whenever they need them creates a strong sense of security and safety. If the child has to cry to get his or her parent’s attention (the cry-it-out method at bedtime is a common example of this), the stress hormones going through that baby’s brain and body increase. This can even decrease immunity and increase dependency.

On the flip side, if a parent responds quickly to their babies’ cues, as modeled in attachment parenting, they develop a huge sense of security and safety. The child may actually grow up being more independent and therefore mentally and physically healthy and confident.