Is attachment parenting right for you?

Sep 29, 2010 at 12:34 p.m. ET

As parents, we are always looking for strategies to help us do our jobs better. While there are plenty of advice books, coaches and parenting techniques, it can sometimes be difficult to separate the advice worth heeding from the advice best ignored. In your search for parenting tips that make sense, you've probably heard of Attachment Parenting (AP) and may have considering exploring the concept further.

dad holding his daughter

What is it?

Attachment Parenting doesn't refer to a strict set of principles or rules but rather to tools that empower parents to connect with their children in an effort to raise well-adjusted, compassionate kids. There are AP groups around the world dedicated to teaching parents how to develop physical and emotional closeness with their children using AP's 8 parenting principles. Fans of this philosophy describe it as responsive or instinctive parenting. "AP really encourages parents to connect with their children," says Jennifer Zorich, co-leader of an attachment parenting group in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Baby knows best

Practically speaking, parents who subscribe to the AP method pay close attention to their baby's cues and respond accordingly. For example, "if a baby is crying in the middle of the night, believers in AP are much more likely to respond to the baby by addressing her needs than allowing her to 'cry it out,' " says Zorich. "If the baby needs to be held or fed and you address that need, you are fostering Independence and security by letting them know they are safe."

Getting to know you

"The AP method invites you to really get to know your baby," says Zorich. "When you know their cues, their needs, their habits, their preferences, and you respond to them, there's security in that for them." Responding to a child's needs includes prolonged breastfeeding, baby wearing (using a baby sling) and bed sharing. "Of course AP is not without boundaries," says Zorich. "It's not about letting your baby run the household. It's about letting your instincts guide your parenting decisions."

Is it for you?

Most parents know that there are an endless number of parenting techniques and strategies to which they can subscribe. But if you are less interested in structured methods and more apt to lean on instincts, then Attachment Parenting may be for you. "At the end of the day, we're all parents," says Zorich. "We have similar goals and want the best for our kids. AP helped me connect with my children and they are independent, confident and comfortable with themselves." For more information, visit the Attachment Parenting International web site.

Attachement parenting