Attachment parenting (AP) is based on the belief that a child’s attachment to their caregiver(s) will have a lifelong impact.
Although this style of parenting is considered by some to be instinctive or natural, the term was first coined in the 1960s by paediatrician, Dr. Sears.
Dr. Sears believed that attachment parenting methods brought out the best in both mother and baby.
Attachment parenting is often viewed as the alternative parenting method, although it is growing in popularity each year.
Underlying Attachment Parenting Principles
There isn’t a definitive ‘how to’ guide for attachment parenting (although there are plenty available if you’d like to read more about it). It is something you must interpret for yourself. What works for your best friend, may not work for you. If you feel unable to use one tool of attachment parenting, this doesn’t mean you have to drop all the other aspects too. By understanding and following the basic principles of attachment parenting, you can create a parenting style tailored to the specific needs of your family unit.
Attachment Parenting Principle #1: Response
As a newborn baby, your child is unable to meet all of his own needs. He cannot feed himself, change himself or soothe himself. He needs you to do these things for him. The fundamental belief of attachment parenting is that you should respond immediately to your child’s needs. If your child is hungry, feed him. Attachment parenting is about responding to your baby on his schedule, rather than trying to dictate a schedule to him.
Attachment Parenting Principle #2: Respect
Attachment parenting is about respecting the needs of your child. You may be told by friends and relatives that your child is trying to manipulate you, or that he just wants attention. Attachment parenting is the understanding that a baby cannot manipulate. If your baby cries, it is because he needs something. Rather than being a tool to manipulate, parents who practice attachment parenting see crying as a communicative tool.
Attachment Parenting Principle #3: Communication
One of the aims of attachment parenting, is to foster successful communication between parent and child. This can start at birth, and continue for a lifetime. By recognising and responding to your baby’s communicative cues, you allow them to feel safe and content.
Attachment Parenting Principle #4: Touch
Many people who practice attachment parenting raise their children in high touch environments. This can be achieved by babywearing – using slings and carriers in place of prams. Keeping your baby close to you, allows to respond quickly to his needs. It also allows you to respond before he reaches the crying stage. If your baby is held close to you in a carrier, you are more likely to notice early feeding cues (such as searching for a nipple) than if you are pushing him in a pram.
Attachment Parenting Principle #5: Closeness
Another way of staying close to your child, is to sleep close to your child. Rather than a cot in another room, some parents choose to use a side sleeper or co-sleep with their child. If the baby wakes up, he feels safe knowing you are nearby. Sleeping close to your baby allows you to respond quickly to his needs, and can also be beneficial to breastfeeding (because you don’t have to get up in the night).
Attachment Parenting Principle #6: Natural Methods
Practitioners of attachment parenting often argue it is a natural, or instinctive, method of parenting. Breastfeeding, natural birth, home births and extended breastfeeding are all common amongst parents who practice attachment parenting. Often these parents can be heard saying, “I just did what came naturally, I didn’t know it had a name.” Trust in your instincts, and do what feels right for you.
The above points are just guidelines for attachment parenting. You do not need to practice them all. If you are unable to carry your baby in a sling due to a health problem, this doesn’t mean you have failed at being an attached parent. The aim of attachment parenting is to raise confident, secure children who are able to understand and manage their emotions. By using a mix of the points above, you should be able to develop a parenting style that works for you and secures the future emotional well being of your child.