Is attachment parenting right for you?

Of course you want to build a strong relationship with your children and feel close to them. That’s why we’ve put together a guide to help you determine whether attachment parenting might be something to consider.

Bonding with your baby
Mom and baby co-sleeping

What is attachment parenting?

The term “attachment parenting” comes from the psychological term “attachment theory,” on which the method is based. Attachment theory suggests that children form strong bonds with their caregivers during their childhoods, and these relationships can have lifelong consequences. So in essence, any parent who acts as a caregiver and responds to his or her child’s needs is performing some degree of attachment parenting. Attachment Parenting International (API) explains that a baby is born with a natural need to feel nurtured and to be in proximity to a primary caregiver during the first few years of life. The child’s emotional and physical development can be greatly impacted by how these needs are met.

Distinct differences

Simply attending to your child when he or she cries or calls out for you is a form of attachment parenting, so you’re partway there. But the theory involves some practices that may be different from what you are doing right now.

Co-sleeping

One of the common practices of attachment parenting is co-sleeping. Though in recent years the practice of sleeping with young children has become rare because of fears of such situations as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), API encourages parents to experiment with the concept of having babies and infants sleep in bed with them. They do, however, also recommend you look at some infant sleep safety tips before testing it out for yourself.

More nurturing

API recommends using a nurturing touch whenever possible. They find skin-to-skin contact can be particularly effective and encourage using breasfteeding or joint baths to make that happen. Many proponents of attachment parenting feel that breastfeeding can go on well past the first year and into toddlerhood. They also encourage carrying the baby as often as possible or putting a child on your lap when he or she gets to be too big to carry. Keep in mind, however, that some of those opposed to attachment parenting worry that this constant closeness can leave mothers feeling tired and stressed. So if you do decide attachment parenting is for you, ensure you watch your own well-being as well as that of your child’s.

Positive discipline

Negative discipline strategies such as fear tactics and spanking are not encouraged in attachment parenting. API believes these types of disciplinary actions can be harmful to the parent-child relationship and may cause emotional damage in the moment as well as down the road. In early years, use such tools as distraction and substitution rather than constantly saying “no.” As children grow older, aim to resolve conflicts or causes for discipline together and in a manner that leaves everyone’s dignity intact.

Lead by example

API strongly suggests that the best way to grow the parent-child bond and help children develop well is through leading by example. For instance, don’t simply tell your child he or she has to eat healthily; make nutritious choices with them. And when it comes to lessons on topics such as respect, integrity, trust and compassion, ensure you show how it’s done. There is no one single way to make attachment parenting work for you, but by working to meet your child’s needs as well as your own, you can create a strong and healthy bond.

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