Attachment parenting is a hot topic these days. Media outlets from The Today Show to The View are talking about it and labeling the parenting practice as everything from alternative to extreme. Misconceptions abound, but the attachment parenting lifestyle doesn’t have to be all or nothing, and it’s not as alternative as you might think.
Fundamentally, attachment parenting is about an infant forming bonds and secure attachment with his or her caregiver. It is a way of relating to your child and responding to his needs in a compassionate way. Dr. William Sears, a prominent pediatrician known as the father of attachment parenting, identifies seven principles of the parenting practice: birth bonding, breastfeeding, babywearing, bedding close to Baby, belief in Baby’s cries, beware of Baby trainers and balance and boundaries. These principles are an approach to raising children, and not a strict set of rules to follow. Many parents see these principles and feel overwhelmed or like they have to do it all. Once you see past the common myths and misconceptions surrounding attachment parenting, you just might discover a great way to raise children and feel closer to your baby.
Myth #1: Working mothers can’t practice attachment parenting
Mothers who work outside the home (and their babies) stand to benefit from attachment parenting just as much as those who stay at home. In fact, it could be argued that attachment parenting is even more valuable to these moms because the increased bonding and closeness can help Mom and Baby to reconnect after being apart during the day.
Myth #2: You must breastfeed in order to practice attachment parenting
While breastfeeding is an element of the attachment parenting toolkit, it is by no means a requirement. Some women find themselves unable to breastfeed due to a variety of life circumstances, but these mothers are certainly not excluded from attachment parenting. Mothers who do not breastfeed can still experience bonding and closeness while feeding their babies by practicing attached bottle feeding. Attached bottle feeding is accomplished by holding and cradling your baby while giving a bottle, making eye contact with your baby and giving baby skin-to-skin contact while feeding.
Myth #3: Attachment parenting is permissive parenting
Most attachment parenting families choose to practice gentle discipline with their children. Gentle discipline does not mean no discipline. Just because a family may choose not to scold or spank does not mean that consequences do not exist for bad choices. Permissive parenting implies that any behavior is OK, when in reality attachment families have rules and boundaries to be followed just like every other family.
Myth #4: Children will think the whole world revolves around them
Attachment parenting is about responding sensitively to your baby’s needs. In the first six months of life a baby’s wants are a baby’s needs, and those needs should be responded to accordingly. As the child grows older, attached parents learn to distinguish between wants and needs and how to respond appropriately. Attachment parenting is in many ways a family-centered approach to parenting and not just a child-centered approach; it is about balancing the needs of all family members and making sure each person’s needs are met, not just the child’s.
Myth #5: Attachment mothers have no time for themselves or their husbands
Parenting is tough work and raising a child requires a big commitment of time and energy, no matter what your parenting style. This is where the principle of balance comes into play. A mother must care for herself in order to care for her baby; if a mother is not able to care for herself then the relationship is out of balance and changes need to be made. It is also a myth that in families that practice co-sleeping (bedding close to Baby) the mom and dad are not able to spend time alone with each other. Most attachment parents I know find that there is still ample time to reconnect and spend with one another in the evening after the children have gone to bed.
Myth #6: Attachment parenting is difficult
One of the most difficult challenges for any new parent is when your baby is upset and you don’t know what is wrong. Attachment parents often find that by being closely bonded and attuned to their child, there is less of a learning curve when it comes to figuring out baby’s needs, and this makes parenting easier.
Myth #7: Attachment parenting is a new trend
Attachment parenting is not the latest fad parenting trend. In fact, it is an age-old style of parenting that has been practiced in traditional cultures for centuries. Only in our modern society — full of baby trainers and bad advice — do we see a drifting away from this natural way of caring for babies.
There is no one-size-fits-all style of parenting. Individual children will respond differently to different parenting methods. Attachment parenting is not a checklist of things you must accomplish; it is a set of tools that can be used in whatever way works best for each individual family. Ultimately, the goal of parenting is to raise children who are confident, secure, loving people. The tools of attachment parenting — whether you use one of them or all of them — are excellent ways to accomplish that goal.