When I wrote my recent posts On Bonding Part 1 and On Bonding Part 2, I received an email from a reader asking for more information about Attachment Parenting. I would be delighted to share my experiences and knowledge of Attachment Parenting in greater detail!
Valuable Resources on Attachment Parenting:
The following books have been extremely helpful resources for Attachment Parenting:
- The Attachment Parenting Book: A Commonsense Guide to Understanding and Nurturing Your Baby by William and Martha Sears
Attachment Parenting: Instinctive Care for Your Baby and Young Child by Katie Allison Granju, Betsy Kennedy and William Sears
The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age Two (Revised and Updated Edition) by William Sears, Martha Sears, Robert Sears and James Sears
The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night by Elizabeth Pantley and William Sears
- The Natural Child: Parenting from the Heart by Jan Hunt
- The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp
What is Attachment Parenting?
Attachment Parenting is a natural, gentle approach to parenting our children. Attached parents put emphasis and focus on their children’s needs and realize that they are small people who are working through life with a limited amount of knowledge and tools. It’s our job as parents to equip them with the emotional responses and wise decision making skills necessary to navigate life. Often parents become frustrated or angry with their children when they make poor choices or react badly in a given situation, without remembering or realizing that these are young people who don’t have all of their skill bank built up yet. AP reminds us that we as parents are responsible for instilling these skills in our children, and teaches that the best approach for teaching our children is through natural, gentle guidance.
AP focuses on bonding and gentle direction as our children grow. Here is a list of things AP parents strive for in child rearing and discipline:
- We focus on bonding with our infants and children. With infants, breastfeeding, touch, eye contact, one on one time, baby wearing, and active response are all very important
- We avoid forms of discipline that manipulate the child or humiliate them.
- We trust our babies to let us know what they need when they need it, and we are in tune with our babies to know what they’re trying to tell us. By having this connection, our babies trust that when they cry, their needs will be met promptly.
- We don’t believe that you can spoil an infant with affection and love.
- We don’t use the “cry it out” method for sleep.
- We practice safe co-sleeping habits. Sometimes this is a shared bed, a co-sleeper, or a bassinet close to our bed.
- We practice safe and healthy feeding of our babies and children. If breastfeeding is not possible, attached parents still strive to find the healthiest and safest formula available for their baby’s needs.
- We don’t push our infants and toddlers on to the next milestone and believe that every baby is a unique and beautiful creation who will reach their milestones in their own time.
- We avoid parent-led weaning and instead read our child’s cues to let us know when weaning should begin. We also look for clues that our child is ready for potty training and other milestones. Our “push” for these next steps are more gentle and very child-led.
- We don’t force babies on a strict schedule but rather allow them to eat when hungry. We don’t try to force our babies to match our schedule but rather let our schedules gradually grow together over time in a natural occurrence.
- We believe that many or most of AP methods come quite naturally to parents, but society and fears have taught us that these things are “wrong” or will spoil the child. Out of the fear of creating a co-dependent 30 year old in our basement, we withdraw from our children and take a backseat approach to meeting their needs.
Attachment Parenting teaches us that those very natural instincts- to hold our baby all the time, to keep our babies near us, to comfort them or meet their needs when they cry, etc.- are the most successful ways to create a trusting relationship with us and our child. We believe that a trusting relationship in the earliest years of life is the best way to create an independent, confident, happy child.
Attachment Parents are sometimes called radicals, but this type of parenting has actually been around for centuries. It isn’t new age or “touchie feelie” as I’ve heard it described. I believe with all my heart that this is the way God has called me to raise my children. I believe babies are not something we deserve or earn, nor are they a right. Because of this, AP allowed me to appreciate every moment I had with LB when he was new and tiny. I wouldn’t trade the bonding moments that Attachment Parenting brought us for anything in the world.
Think about what feels natural when you hold a baby in your arms… When they cry, do you want to stick them in a dark room alone, or is your natural instinct to rock them, talk to them, figure out their needs and meet them?
I felt like I knew my child because I took the time to study him and let him tell me what he needed. I could decipher his cries at an early age, and when he got older and was at that age where one should feel concerned about being “manipulated” by their child’s cries, I could tell when he was doing just that. If I felt he was crying for attention (this was much older than society tells us), I would sit down and play with him or pick him up for a kiss and then send him on his way. I believe this gentle response that came quite naturally to me allowed him to feel noticed and validated without teaching him that he can be carried all the time even though his legs worked just fine.
Is it “radical” to do what your gut tells you to do as a parent? In today’s society, perhaps. We’re fed by gurus and Hollywood to do this or that, or to not do this or that, and often these instructions are based on fear. We fear our children being spoiled. We fear them turning against us. We fear being manipulated. We fear losing control. But you know what tactic always squashes those scenarios every time? Trust and respect. Trust and respect keep our children from turning against us. Trust and respect keep them grounded and not spoiled or materialistic. Trust and respect keep us as the head of the household as parents.
We can’t demand respect from our children, and attached parents understand that we have to first respect our children and show them respect with our tone, our gentle direction, our touch, by listening to them, encouraging them, and occasionally stepping in to discipline them. Children are not dumb, and they aren’t here in our lives to be bossed around and ruled over by us. They’re a gift and a blessing on loan from the Lord, and our job is to gently guide them in the way they should go so they do not grow up to resent us or fear us.
I have decided to cut this entry into a series of posts because I want to be as thorough as possible in explaining the various aspects of Attachment Parenting that I think are so great. Next time I’ll cover how Attachment Parenting can instill parental confidence and the AP approach to discipline and health issues.
Please feel free to send me your thoughts or questions!