What Is Attachment Parenting?
Parents everywhere seek a close emotional bond with their babies. They also strive to develop a parenting style that works with their values. Some parenting models favor treating children as little adults to be reasoned with. Others stress discipline to socialize wayward kids.
With so much advice on different styles of parenting, how do you know what works? Sometimes trial and error works best. Armed with conflicting philosophies, every parent tests different approaches to see what ultimately works for the parent and the children.
Attachment parenting focuses on the nurturing connection that parents can develop with their children. That nurturing connection is viewed as the ideal way to raise secure, independent, and empathetic children. Proponents of this parenting philosophy include the well-known pediatrician William Sears, MD. They make the case that a secure, trusting attachment to parents during childhood forms the basis for secure relationships and independence as adults.
The Eight Principles of Attachment Parenting
Attachment Parenting International (API) is a worldwide educational association for this style of parenting. API identifies eight principles of attachment parenting. Parents have considerable leeway in how they interpret and put these principles into action. The eight principles are:
- Prepare for pregnancy, birth, and parenting. Proponents of attachment parenting believe it is important to eliminate negative thoughts and feelings about pregnancy. Doing so, they say, readies a parent for the emotionally demanding work of being a parent.
- Feed with love and respect.Breastfeeding, proponents say, is the ideal way to create a secure attachment. It also teaches infants that parents will listen to their cues and fulfill their needs.
- Respond with sensitivity. With attachment parenting, parents consider all expressions of emotions, including repeated tantrums, as real efforts at communication. Those efforts are to be taken seriously and understood rather than punished or dismissed.
- Use nurturing touch. Attachment parenting proponents advise maximum skin-to-skin touching. Ways to achieve that include joint baths and "baby-wearing" -- carrying babies during the day in a front-facing sling.
- Engage in nighttime parenting. Attachment parenting experts advise making "co-sleeping" arrangements. With co-sleeping, an infant sleeps in the same room with parents so they can feed and emotionally soothe the child during the night. Some parents practice "bed-sharing" or sleeping in the same bed with babies. It's thought that this creates an even more secure attachment. Precautions are advised, though, to help prevent sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS.
- Provide constant, loving care. Proponents of attachment parenting advise the nearly constant presence of a parent. That includes during walks, parents' night out, and work. They advocate against childcare for more than 20 hours a week for babies younger than 30 months old.
- Practice positive discipline. Parents are advised to distract, redirect, and guide even the youngest of babies, and to model positive behavior. Attachment parenting aims at understanding what a child's negative behavior is communicating. And parents are encouraged to work out a solution together with a child, rather than spanking or simply imposing their will on children.
- Strive for balance in personal and family life. Parents are encouraged to create a support network, live a healthy lifestyle, and prevent parenting burn-out.