Attachment Parenting

Parenting according to attachment theory

Attachment parenting refers to the parenting style that strives to foster a lifelong attachment with children. It starts by creating a physical attachment and then lovingly builds an emotional attachment that children can rely on in times of stress and trouble. Attachment parents use techniques like extended breastfeeding and co-sleeping in order to help their child remember that they are always there for him or her.

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While attachment parenting isn't for everyone, it's becoming a trendier practice these days. One good thing about this parenting style is that it isn't all or nothing – you can choose to use some techniques of attachment theory without practicing the entire parenting style.

The Techniques of Attachment Parenting Theory

The term attachment parenting was coined by Dr. William Sears. He has built up an entire theory around parenting with love and gentle discipline. The principles of attachment theory include:

  • Preparing for pregnancy, birth and parenting. Attachment parents strive for natural childbirth and gentle parenting. They do their research long before the baby appears so that they are ready.
  • Feed with love and respect. Breastfeeding is the ideal for attachment parents, and it is the best way to feed a child. However, Sears cautions against feeling like a failure if you can't breastfeed, and focuses more on feeding a child according to his or her cues as opposed to on a schedule.
  • Respond with sensitivity. Attachment parents practice positive discipline; that is, they don't spank or otherwise physically punish their children. Some attachment parents are even against time-outs or other non-physical disciplinary techniques, and prefer to focus on listening to their child to see what the problem is and come to an understanding to foster the parent/child relationship. This sensitivity can extend to other potentially problematic areas of development as well, such as when it comes time to potty train your child. Don't be frustrated, but be gentle, reassuring and encouraging.
  • Use a nurturing touch. Sears and other attachment parenting experts encourage wearing your child in a sling or other carrier for the first year of his or her life. Skin-to-skin contact and closeness can help your child know that you're always there for them.
  • Co-sleeping. This is the practice of sleeping in the same room or bed as your child until he or she is ready to "leave the nest." While family beds are popular and can ensure better sleep in the infant years, they are not recommended by all doctors and can be extremely unsafe.

Some other principles of attachment parenting include stay-at-home parenting and homeschooling, but these are not generally required to practice attachment parenting.