Attachment parenting is a term that most parents have heard of but are probably not quite sure what it means or entails. Some parents have probably learned a little about it but have dismissed it and declared, “That’s not for me. I can’t follow all those rules.” But what is attachment parenting really about? We’ve prepared a quick primer for you to decide if this is something you’re interested in practicing on your own parenting journey.
The term as we know it today was coined by Dr. William Sears and Martha Sears, RN in their book The Baby Book, published in 1993. This book is now popularly known as “the attachment parenting (AP) bible.” The authors stress that attachment parenting is not a set of strict rules that parents must follow, but rather should be seen as an approach to parenting. It champions caring for your child in a way that brings out the best in you and your baby.
There are 7 B’s in attachment parenting:
- Birth-bonding – This highlights the importance of the days and weeks after birth in forming a secure attachment between mother (or primary caregiver) and baby. However, Dr. Sears clarifies that there is not just one window for bonding to happen but happens over the lifetime of a child. Immediate bonding after giving birth just gives a headstart in building the relationship between the parent and the child.
- Breastfeeding – Aside from being the best first food for babies, breastfeeding is a valuable tool in forming a close bond to your baby. It allows you to get to know your baby better and learn to read your baby’s cues. Attachment parenting recommends breastfeeding on demand, as opposed to scheduled feedings.
- Bedding Down Close to Baby – Co-sleeping allows parents to stay close to the baby and respond to when the baby needs them, even at night. Of course, safe co-sleeping guidelines should always be followed. Although Dr. Sears encourages co-sleeping, he also says that the best sleeping arrangement is where all family members can get a good night’s rest.
- Babywearing – Proponents of attachment parenting believe that carried babies are less fussy and spend more time in “state of quiet alertness” which is how they learn about the environment around them. Again, this also allows parents and babies to get to know each other better and form a healthy bond. Slings and baby carriers allow you to go about your daily routines while holding your baby.
- Belief in the Value of your Baby’s Cries – Dr. Sears believes that babies cry to communicate, not to manipulate. When parents respond to their baby’s cries sensitively and appropriately, the baby learns to trust his caregiver and helps form a healthy attachment between them.
- Beware of Baby Trainers – For Dr. Sears, baby trainers refer to those who promote scheduling the baby – such as sleep training like the “cry it out” method and feeding the baby on a schedule. He believes that these are short-term conveniences that end up creating a distance between the caregiver and the child, and prevents a parent from becoming an expert on his own child.
- Balance in Parenting – Contrary to popular belief, attachment parenting does not insist that the child’s needs are put ahead of the parents’. An important thing to learn is when you need to say “no” and when you need to say “yes.” Neglecting yourself or your marriage is never going to have a positive effect on your baby.
There are those who believe that attachment parenting is no longer a realistic option for most parents. Many families now have both parents working, which means breastfeeding on demand during the day, or babywearing all day long, is impossible. Some parents also misunderstand attachment parenting as putting their needs aside for the sake of the child.
This opens up parents to becoming exhausted and seeing their children as burdens instead of gifts. These are all real issues that parents must consider when making parenting decisions. It is our duty to learn as much as we can about different approaches to parenting, whether attachment parenting or not, and choosing what works best for us and our family.