The term “attachment parenting” was first used by famed pediatrician Dr. Bill Sears. Attachment parenting is a child-centric approach to parenting in which the parent quickly meets every need of their infant in order to help the child develop a strong foundation of trust. The idea is that children will grow up believing the world is a nurturing place rather than an environment marked by scarcity and negative emotions. Attachment parenting typically includes breastfeeding, baby wearing, and co-sleeping.
Attachment parenting is based on 8 principles:
1. Preparation for pregnancy, birth, and parenting. Becoming emotionally and physically ready for pregnancy, birth, and parenting; setting realistic expectations and being flexible.
3. Respond with sensitivity. Respond to what your child is trying to communicate consistently; provide soothing instead of expecting a baby to self-soothe.
4. Use nurturing touch. Meet a baby’s need for physical touch, affection, security; hugs, snuggles, and play for older children.
5. Ensure safe sleep, physically and emotionally. Safe co-sleeping to make the child feel safe and secure and make sure their needs are met.
6. Provide consistent loving care. Consistent presence of primary caregiver.
7. Practice positive discipline. Empathetic, loving, and non-physical discipline that teaches children to be empathetic, too.
8. Strive for balance in personal and family life. Meet the physical needs of individuals in the family without compromising your own physical and mental health.
While it sounds reasonable and some parents swear by this method, attachment parenting does have its critics. Some child-rearing experts believe that attachment parenting is overly demanding on the mother and stresses the relationship between parents.
Critics of attachment parenting also worry that working mothers will find it virtually impossible to be physically present for their babies, and all mothers are at risk of feeling inadequate and guilty if they feel they aren’t living up to the attachment parenting ideal. Children may learn to take advantage of their parents or become overly dependent on their parents. Co-sleeping has been linked to SIDS and is not recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The key is balance. There is plenty of research promoting the benefits of breastfeeding and physical contact with babies. Parents who can provide for their baby’s needs and create a secure atmosphere, without ignoring their own needs, can make their own decisions regarding these topics. Creating a strong bond with your child cannot possibly be harmful, so follow your instincts, whatever parenting method you choose to follow.
Reviewed by Dr. Kristie Rivers, September 2020
- Attachment parenting includes breastfeeding, baby-wearing, and co-sleeping, though these are at the discretion of the parent.
- Attachment parenting can be very demanding of your time.
- This method of parenting can be very beneficial as long as you maintain balance.