The Meat of AP

I first came to Attachment Parenting like most parents do – because it felt wrong to let my baby cry herself to sleep and it felt good to hold her all the time. And I came to Attachment Parenting International, because gosh, there are a whole lot of people in the world who feel compelled to criticize the way I raise my children.

It was through my membership to API, plus a whole bookcase full of parenting books and neuropsychology texts, that I learned exactly what Attachment Parenting is: that it isn’t just a feel-good approach to parenting. It is a set of eight parenting principles proven by science to raise our children to be well-adjusted, emotionally healthy members of society who are able to establish and maintain secure attachments with other adults and their future children. (Read Attached at the Heart by Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker to learn more about what the research says.)

We hear a lot about these attachments. What exactly are they, and why are they so important? Attachment is the emotional bond between two people in a relationship – in this case, between the parent and child. A relationship can either be healthy and stable, producing a secure attachment; or it can be stifling, violent, or otherwise dysfunctional, which indicates an insecure attachment. Relationships are absolutely vital to our individual happiness in life – they determine our success in school, our careers, our friendships, and our marriages – and our ability to attach to other people in a healthy way and maintain that attachment over the long term is absolutely vital to our relationships.

Humans are social creatures, and our ability to connect with others is what our lives are really about. We must know how to navigate our relationships in order to feel fulfilled in our lives. That’s why people who are unable to establish and maintain attachments fall victim to depression, anxiety, eating disorders, addictions, dysfunctional relationships, and other unhealthy behaviors in an attempt to avoid despair and loneliness as they seek happiness that they can’t find without first repairing their ability to form healthy attachments to others.

That’s the real meat of Attachment Parenting. AP parents don’t opt for a natural birth because they want to martyr for their child. They don’t breastfeed their babies simply as a way to transfer the health-boosting qualities of breastmilk. They don’t wear their babies in slings and wraps to make a fashion statement. AP parents don’t cosleep with their children because they’re afraid of bedtime battles. And they don’t decide not to spank or use timeouts as a way to get around having to discipline at all. On the contrary, we do all these practices and more because they are instrumental in guiding a child’s healthy emotional development (not to mention, their physical and cognitive development as well). We want our children to be happy, to be joyful, to be content. Wow! What a gift a parent can give to her child – the secret to true happiness.

But it doesn’t come without work, and as we know, it doesn’t come without criticism. We are salmon swimming upstream against the current of a parenting culture that advocates early independence, emotional detachment, and discipline through punishments. It isn’t that our culture doesn’t want our children to be happy but that it defines happiness in a different way: independence. The sad thing is, it is this striving for early independence – and consequently, rejection of emotional attachments – that leads so many people to live unfulfilled lives. AP allows parents to change the way they measure their child’s happiness – away from the culture’s standards and toward a sense of self worth that begins within the individual and the quality of his relationships – and gives parents the tools they need to be able to raise children into loving, empathic, compassionate, and nurturing adults who truly experience joy in their lives.

So, yeah, practicing AP does feel good but there’s a whole lot more substance to it. I enjoy cuddling with my children, but beyond that, I know that touch is crucial for babies and children to feel emotionally connected with their parents, and that connectedness – that is what I’m going for.

How about you – why do you practice AP versus another parenting approach?

Author: Rita Brhel

Rita Brhel, BS, CLC, API Leader, lives with her family near Hastings, NE, USA, where she works as a WIC Breastfeeding Counselor. She also writes for Mothering and La Leche League's New Beginnings.

9 thoughts on “The Meat of AP”

  1. I practice attachment parenting first and foremost because it feels right to me. I believe that my instincts (and my baby’s instincts) are an excellent guide to how we’re meant to parent. So instead of fighting against them I honour them. There are other reasons, too, but really that’s it. It feels right to me, and it works for our family.

  2. I totally agree. I always knew I would breastfeed and just thought babywearing made sense, but once i started reading about the science behind the practices it just confirmed my resolve. I will say that this is not an easy way to parent. And with a very spirited preschooler, I long for the simplicity of the baby days. For example, I still haven’t figured out how to discipline without ANY punishment and still maintain my sanity and my child’s safety. But the core principles remain. I love being emotionally “attached” to my little guy and I can truly see the benefits of this style of parenting already.

  3. Right on Rita!! You said it all so well. This will be my new article de jour whenever I get questions about what AP is all about.

  4. This is a beautiful, enlightening and profound post.

    I find it hard to understand how nowadays people can still criticize those parents who practice attachment parenting.

    In our societies we are always talking about human rights, respecting people, wellbeing, human dignity…And few would disagree on these fundamental values.

    Though, when it comes to children, there are still too many people who seem to fail to grasp that Attachment Parenting is exactly the way to raise little ones into the beautiful adults we would like people to be.

  5. Hi everyone: I am Priscilla from Ecuador south america. I am a nurse, childbirth educator ICCE, IBCLC, doula….but specially an inexperience 3 year mom… Even i am an educator, i just found API a year ago and i have been the tipical discipline mom, who wants to make the rules and didn’t aloud my lovely girl to do what she wants to do. Since i started reading about you, Dr. Sears, Dr. Carlos Gonzalez from Spain I reallyced that i want to change my mind, and totally the way i raised my child, it is not easy but i need all the help and want to help the moms who make the sames mistakes i made. Sorry for my english i speak spanish and it is not easy to exprese in the right way…. thanks

  6. I practice Attachment Parenting because I want to end the abusive cycle that has permeated in my family every single generation. I want my daugther’s generation to be the one that it has stopped with. The one that when we think of family, we think of love, kindness, support, and compassion; not one of disgust, shame, anger, and resentment. Following attachment parenting for these first five years has helped to not pass along the cycle and I just know that if I still remain rooted into attachment parenting or compassioante parenting that I will have truly accomplished this goal in our family, which means for a better future my daughter and her family.

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