Introduction

API's Eight Principles of Parenting

The mission of Attachment Parenting International (API) is to promote parenting practices that create strong, healthy emotional bonds between children and their parents. API believes that Attachment Parenting (AP) practices fulfill a child's need for trust, empathy, and affection and will provide a foundation for a lifetime of healthy relationships.

Rooted in attachment theory, Attachment Parenting has been studied extensively for over 60 years by psychology and child development researchers, and more recently, by researchers studying the brain. These studies revealed that infants are born "hardwired" with strong needs to be nurtured and to remain physically close to the primary caregiver, usually the mother, during the first few years of life. The child's emotional, physical, and neurological development is greatly enhanced when these basic needs are met consistently and appropriately. These needs can be summarized as proximity, protection, and predictability..

The baby's crying, clinging, and sucking are early techniques to keep her mother nearby. As the child grows and feels more secure in her relationship with her mother, she is better able to explore the world around her and to develop strong, healthy bonds with other important people in her life.

To help guide parents along their journey, API created API's Eight Principles of Parenting. These guidelines are founded on sound research and are known to be effective in helping children develop secure attachments.

API acknowledges that every family has unique circumstances with distinct needs and resources. The Principles are intended to help parents better understand normal child development, to help parents identify their children's needs, and to aid parents in responding to their children with respect and empathy. By educating themselves about children's health and development, parents will become more conscious of and attuned to their children's needs when making decisions.

Developed to promote optimal attachment, these principles are developmentally appropriate and comprehensive enough to apply to a broad spectrum of family situations. These principles may be applied through the practices outlined in this document. The Principles addresses attachment–promoting behaviors that can be started during pregnancy and extend through a child's seventh or eighth year. Although the terms "mother," "father," and "caregiver" are used throughout the Principles, API embraces the diversity of family structures and values all people in a child's life who actively foster a strong attachment relationship with the children in their care.

API has also published a companion document addressing the preservation of attachments with older children.

Attachment Parenting is not a one-size-fits-all recipe for raising children, therefore API recommends parents use their own judgment and intuition to create a parenting style that fosters attachment and works for their family. Some practices listed in the Principles are inherently more attachment-promoting than others. Many API support groups start each meeting by saying "Take what works for your family and leave the rest." This sentiment also applies to Principles.

The following pages contain a condensed version of the Principles. If you have questions about these Principles or how to apply them to your family situation, please visit an API parent Support Group or contact an API leader, or post your comments and questions to API's Forum.

Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting

Become emotionally and physically prepared for pregnancy and birth. Research available options for healthcare providers and birthing environments, and become informed about routine newborn care. Continuously educate yourself about developmental stages of childhood, setting realistic expectations and remaining flexible.

Feed with Love and Respect

Breastfeeding is the optimal way to satisfy an infant's nutritional and emotional needs. "Bottle Nursing" adapts breastfeeding behaviors to bottle-feeding to help initiate a secure attachment. Follow the feeding cues for both infants and children, encouraging them to eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. Offer healthy food choices and model healthy eating behavior.

Respond with Sensitivity

Build the foundation of trust and empathy beginning in infancy. Tune in to what your child is communicating to you, then respond consistently and appropriately. Babies cannot be expected to self-soothe, they need calm, loving, empathetic parents to help them learn to regulate their emotions. Respond sensitively to a child who is hurting or expressing strong emotion, and share in their joy.

Use Nurturing Touch

Touch meets a baby's needs for physical contact, affection, security, stimulation, and movement. Skin-to-skin contact is especially effective, such as during breastfeeding, bathing, or massage. Carrying or babywearing also meets this need while on the go. Hugs, snuggling, back rubs, massage, and physical play help meet this need in older children.

Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally

Babies and children have needs at night just as they do during the day; from hunger, loneliness, and fear, to feeling too hot or too cold. They rely on parents to soothe them and help them regulate their intense emotions. Sleep training techniques can have detrimental physiological and psychological effects. Safe co-sleeping has benefits to both babies and parents.

Provide Consistent and Loving Care

Babies and young children have an intense need for the physical presence of a consistent, loving, responsive caregiver: ideally a parent. If it becomes necessary, choose an alternate caregiver who has formed a bond with the child and who cares for him in a way that strengthens the attachment relationship. Keep schedules flexible, and minimize stress and fear during short separations.

Practice Positive Discipline

Positive discipline helps a child develop a conscience guided by his own internal discipline and compassion for others. Discipline that is empathetic, loving, and respectful strengthens the connection between parent and child. Rather than reacting to behavior, discover the needs leading to the behavior. Communicate and craft solutions together while keeping everyone's dignity intact.

Strive for Balance in Your Personal and Family Life

It is easier to be emotionally responsive when you feel in balance. Create a support network, set realistic goals, put people before things, and don't be afraid to say "no". Recognize individual needs within the family and meet them to the greatest extent possible without compromising your physical and emotional health. Be creative, have fun with parenting, and take time to care for yourself.

© 1994-2014 Attachment Parenting International. All Rights Reserved. API is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. 


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