Attachment Parenting and Your Child

Erica Loop
July 8, 2015

Co-sleeping, breastfeeding, bonding and more. Learn the hallmarks of this responsive parenting style!

You've heard of attachment parenting, but you're not sure if it's for you. You read a blog post, saw a news clip or heard the other mommies talking about how it's all about totally tethering yourself to your child, and now you're wondering if that's really what it is (short answer: it isn't). Separating the facts from the hype is the first step to understanding if you're an attachment parent.

Why AP?
According to the organization Attachment Parenting International (API), this type of parenting practice focuses on creating a strong, nurturing connection with your child. Rita Brhel, CLC, API leader says, "Many parents find themselves drawn to attachment parenting instinctively, or they may find it accidentally because it's what works in caring for their baby or child. Other parents choose attachment parenting with intention, to raise their children more compassionately than they were raised. However parents come to attachment parenting, know that this parenting approach is backed by more than 60 years of interdisciplinary research."

Educator, author and creator of The Sparkling Martins, Dayna Martin notes about AP, "Trust is essential to nurture, and through being responsive to your child's needs, your child trusts that you will be there when they need you. When a child is raised with trust and consistent love through a parent being responsive, a child is able to grow up whole and happy."

Are You an Attachment Parent?
API's "Eight Principles of Parenting" illustrate what AP is all about. Brhel says, "API created the Eight Principles of Parenting as a set of guidelines for parents who strive to choose parenting techniques shown by research to lead to a more secure parent-child relationship.

It has to be noted, though, that API's Eight Principles of Parenting are not an all-or-nothing approach. While many parents keep all eight of the principles in mind while creating their home life, many other parents, especially those new to it, focus on one or a few of the principles." Are you an attachment parent? Here are API's Eight Principles:

  • Preparing For It All
    Arm yourself for pregnancy, the birth process and parenting with information, and make yourself both emotionally and physically ready for what's to come.
  • Feeding
    Go beyond simply providing nutrients. Feeding, in this case, is looked at as an act of love. It meets your child's physical needs, but also satisfies his emotional ones as well. This includes both breastfeeding and bottle feeding.
  • Responding
    This starts from day one. Instead of believing that babies self-soothe, attachment parents respond consistently, calmly and with love.
  • Using Touch
    This principle plays to the idea that physical contact is emotionally satisfying. This includes skin-to-skin contact for your baby, babywearing (i.e., carrying your baby in a sling or other similar contraption) and hugs or snuggles as your child grows.
  • Sleeping Safely
    This is a physical and emotional principle. Co-sleeping is the preferred way of developing secure bonds and bringing a safe feeling into nighttime woes. That said, the API has strict safe sleeping guidelines. It's the proximity that does the trick, not sharing the actual bed.
  • Providing Consistency
    It's pretty self-explanatory -- be consistent, keep schedules and always parent with care.
  • Disciplining With Positive Practices
    No punishment here. Discipline isn't meant to shame or guilt your child.
  • Balancing Your Life
    Your personal and family lives don't have to step on each other's toes.

Benefits for Baby and Beyond
AP shows children, from infancy on, that they can trust in their parents to act in responsive, sensitive and caring ways. "Also, it is to be noted that while many parents see attachment parenting as traditionally an approach to raising infants and toddlers, it is not limited to any child development stage. API's Eight Principles of Parenting are designed to evolve as children age and family dynamics change," says Brhel.

Martin also notes that "babies are supposed to be dependent. It is through meeting these very real dependent needs that a child grows to be confident and independent as they get older."

Thinking of bringing an AP style into your home? Remember that it's OK to adopt some of the practices but not all, and don't take the different parenting styles too seriously. What's most important and finding what works best for your kids and your family.

Want to see what parenting is like in other places? Check out Different Parenting Styles in Different Countries for globe-trotting tips on raising kids.

Erica Loop is a mom, parenting writer and educator with an MS in child development. When she's not teaching, she's busy creating kids' activities for her blog Mini Monets and Mommies.

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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