What is attachment parenting?

January 24, 2010

I’ve mentioned “attachment parenting” or “AP” several time already but I haven’t really gone into what it entails. I first learned of AP about five or six years ago thanks to the wonderful message boards at Mothering.com. As I prepared to have children there was no doubt in my mind that I would parent in an AP style. Since then I have found that many non-APers have misguided views about what AP entails. Common misconceptions include:

  • AP parents don’t discipline their children
  • AP parents coddle or spoil their children
  • It’s too hard to be AP / AP is unrealistic
  • AP produces overly dependent children

To be fair, there likely are AP parents that are like this. There are parents everywhere that are like this. But this is not what AP is about, and most AP parents can’t relate to these statements.

At it’s core, AP means that you believe that your baby/child is a person worthy of respect and not an inconvenience that needs to be managed as such. It’s about a long-term committment to meet your child’s needs. It’s about integrating your children into your life. It’s about parenting from the heart without the baggage of cultural views. AP parents strive to be in tune (“attached”) to their children.

At first glance any decent parent would say “hey, I do that!” But then you later find all sorts of exceptions: they don’t meet their child’s needs at night, they don’t nurse the child except when it is convenient to do so, they discipline using a short-term fix rather than a long-term focus, their attitude sends a clear message that their child is an inconvenience. Now that I’ve criticized some parenting practices, let me be quick to qualify that I am not an AP poster child, nor am I anywhere near the perfect parent. But I do believe that there is a lot we can learn from attachment parenting practices – a lot that flies in the face of the way that our modern culture tries to parent.

Dr. William Sears coined the term “attachment parenting” and has written many excellent books on the topic. API breaks down the tenets of AP as follows:

  1. Preparing for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting
  2. Feeding with Love and Respect
  3. Responding with Sensitivity
  4. Using Nurturing Touch
  5. Engaging in Nighttime Parenting
  6. Providing Consistent Loving Care
  7. Practicing Positive Discipline
  8. Striving for Balance in Personal and Family Life

(Note: Dr. Sears also has a great article about what attachment parenting is not.)

AP is also a very evidence-based approach to parenting. Many of us APers parent this way not only because it feels right, but also because there are so many studies that are supportive of AP practices. APers tend to know important facts about baby sleep, breastfeeding, and babywearing – facts that the modern mainstream parent may have completely missed. APers tend to not worry if we are parenting in a different manner than our parents or peers. We don’t get worked up over sleeping through the night, marathon nursing sessions or weaning age.

The practice of parenting has opened my eyes to many shortcomings; both my own shortcomings and the shortcomings of other parents. But most notable are the shortcomings of our modern Western culture. A culture that so often does not value the bond between parent and child. A culture that sees no difference between breastfeeding or bottlefeeding. A culture of both men and women who want to continue to live their lives as though nothing has changed since the arrival of a new baby. A culture that does not respect babies and children as persons. A culture where “might makes right” when seeking to discipline or communicate with children. Attachment parenting is contra-culture in all these areas and more. These are just some of many reasons why I love it.


2 Responses to “What is attachment parenting?”

  1. Thank you so much for posting this introduction to attachment parenting. My husband and I are expecting our first child, and have found that the principles of attachment parenting validate what our hearts tell us that our baby needs– contact with us!

  2. Wonderful post! I am working on a natural parenting podcast in which the first episode will take a look at defining Attachment Parenting…I loved your post and found it to be a wonderful read 🙂

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