Attachment Parenting Beyond Breastfeeding, Babywearing, and Cosleeping

It’s not so much that pediatrician and author William Sears, MD, has remade motherhood, as TIME magazine suggested, but rather that he has revived within mothers their own ageless intuition. He has helped women restore their own confidence in themselves as mothers, which has allowed them to live their motherhood out loud. But putting the focus on breastfeeding, cosleeping, and babywearing have unfortunately reduced Attachment Parenting to these three practices alone. These are not the heart and soul of Attachment Parenting.

Attachment Parenting is a concept much greater than physical closeness. A mature parent-child attachment means that the parent and child are connected at the heart: The child can share what is within his heart with his parent; the child seeks his parent’s advice and guidance and shares values. The relationship exists securely even without physical proximity. It takes years for a relationship to mature to this stage. It unfolds slowly as the parent takes the lead in providing what is needed for the relationship to develop and deepen.

In the beginning, the relationship is characterized by a drive to seek and maintain physical closeness. But physical proximity through the senses is only the first stage of this attachment relationship, and during the first year of life, it is the only way that babies can attach. Breastfeeding, cosleeping, and babywearing certainly stimulate the senses and keep babies physically close to their primary caregiver – Mama – but they are not the only ways that a parent can provide for the child’s attachment needs. If attachment through the senses and physical closeness remain the only way of attaching, the relationship will be shallow, insecure, and prevent the child from becoming his own person. Read more on The Attached Family online magazine…

Attachment Parenting, Illustrated

Attachment Parenting is an approach to childrearing, independent of a parent’s lifestyle. What this means is that instead of centering on specific rules, such as that a mother must breastfeed or bedshare or stay-at-home, the Attachment Parenting approach shifts the parents’ focus to meeting the individual emotional needs of each child, interdependent with the needs of the parent and the family as a whole. It is a family-centered approach to parenting through which children are responded to consistently and sensitively, depending on their development, but treated with the same respect and value as an adult, yet without sacrificing the parents’ needs for personal balance.

Attachment Parenting is not a label for the specific tools that parents use to care for and raise their children. Rather, Attachment Parenting is the attitude parents take when using the tools. This attitude is based on trust, empathy, affection, joy, compassion, forgiveness, peace, nonviolence, acceptance, understanding, patience, love. There is no room for control, coercion, and punishment because Attachment Parenting requires a different lens through which to see our children, ourselves, and our interactions. This does not mean that children in “attachment families” do not cry, have tantrums, lie, cheat on tests, hit, or do other behaviors that require discipline. Attachment Parenting gives an alternate approach to how parents deal with these behaviors, one that is shown by research to be more effective in the long term of teaching children limits to their behavior while preserving their self-worth – and parents’ sanity.

In a culture with a heavy emphasis on behavior modification – in other words, how do we get our kids to do something we want them to do or to not do something they’re doing? – it can be difficult to wrap our minds around what Attachment Parenting is. But while multidisciplinary research shows some parenting tools to have advantages over others, attachment research demonstrates that it’s the thought behind the action that matters when bonding with our children. Read more on The Attached Family online magazine…