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Attachment Parenting 101

Updated on April 25, 2007

What is Attachment Parenting?

The term Attachment Parenting originated with pediatrician, Dr. William Sears to describe a philosophy of parenting based on creating a strong emotional bond between parents and children. This is thought to be the foundation for healthy adult relationships. This type of parenting was inspired by Attachment Theory, which basically states that a baby wants to be close to another person. The baby feels secure with this other person. So far so good. Sounds pretty simple. In essence, it is about opening up to your baby's expression and needs so that you grow a wisdom about how to react in a given situation in a way that is most positive for you and your child.

It has been said that Attachment Parenting is just a name for what a lot of us do instinctively. We pay attention to our kids. We get to know them. We do what we need to do for them as individuals. So maybe if you don't think you're practicing any kind of "parenting philosophy" you're doing Attachment Parenting. It's all about trusting your Inner Mama or Papa.

Eight Ideals

Dr. Sears put forth 8 ideals for parents to practice in order to have a close relationship with their child.

1. Childbirth preparation

2. Emotional responsiveness

3. Breastfeeding

4. Baby-wearing

5. Co-sleeping

6. Separation avoidance

7. Positive discipline

8. Balanced family life

Attachment Parenting Ideals

There are as many ways to interpret these ideals as there are parents who subscribe to the Attachment Parenting model. Some may interpret the first ideal, childbirth preparation, to mean attending Lamaze classes, while others may think it means natural childbirth or homebirth. Some will understand the sixth ideal, separation avoidance, to mean they must homeschool their children, while others may take it to mean that one parent stays home with small children. Ideals are practiced on a vast spectrum.

The Anti-Circumcision, Anti-Vaccination, and Natural Health movements have all been linked to the Attachment Parenting style, but none of these are specifically stated in the eight ideals. Dr. Sears was not interested in creating a set of rules for parents to strictly adhere to. He encourages us to be creative in responding to our children's needs. The idea is that you respond to your child in a way that brings him closer to you instead of pushing him away. Johnny, we walk in the house instead of How many times do I have to tell you not to run in this house!

Criticism of Attachment Parenting

Some believe Attachment Parenting is too strenuous and demanding, especially on mothers. Critics complain it fosters the unachievable ideal of motherhood and imposes unrealistic obligations on mothers and fathers alike. Some feel it discriminates against working mothers. Others feel it's just a wishy-washy theory with no basis that it does any good. It is practiced in so many different ways that it is difficult to say what ‘true' Attachment Parenting looks like.

Also, the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend sharing a bed with a small baby, which is the fifth ideal.

While it's true that early parenting can be an investment in your future relationship with a child, possibly making everything else easier, you need to use common sense and trust your gut. Maybe you like to follow a list and call it a parenting philosophy and that's fine. But beware of anyone who tells you she has all the answers. Just do what makes sense to you for your own child and situation. I'm pretty sure that's the spirit of the philosophy.

Read more from Lela Davidson

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  • Mari Koeck profile image

    Mari Koeck 5 years ago

    I love Dr. Sears! Even though we don't follow all of the principles, we have adapted what works for us and it has fostered an amazing relationship with my kiddos - even in the tough times.

  • double_frick profile image

    double_frick 8 years ago

    great hub! i agree with some of the critics though :/ as an attachment mommy i can say that it is very trying and a lot of work, but i couldn't parent any other way!

  • mmoruno2000 profile image

    mmoruno2000 8 years ago

    I liked your article. I consider family to be attached, but you are right, there is no one way to parent a child. All you can do is follow your mommy and daddy instincts.

  • Staci-Barbo7 profile image

    Staci-Barbo7 9 years ago from North Carolina


    I enjoyed your article.  Dr. Sears' work has had a incredible following that has inspired thousands of families to make the decisions they feel would provide the best environment in which to foster their children.  Often, the decisions they make cut against popular cultural norms in America, such as separate sleeping arrangements and the necessity of a second income in the family. These families usually find the sacrifices to be worthwhile in the results they obtain in parenting their children.

  • Ashley Ryan profile image

    Ashley Ryan 10 years ago from Canada

    Hi Lela,

    Yes, I agree there is no one way to parent...I like to take what works for me and leave the rest. What works with one child doesn't always work with another.

    Thanks for leaving your comment! Looking forward to hearing more from you.



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  • Ashley Ryan profile image

    Ashley Ryan 10 years ago from Canada

    Hi Lela,

    I read your post on orgins of Attachment Parenting and just wanted to give you some more info. I wanted to let you know because I found it interesting myself and didnt know until a few weeks ago when I was speaking with Jean Liedloff, the author of "The Contiuum Concept."

    Dr. Sears coined the term "Attachment Parenting" though the actual theory orginated from John Bolwby, later Jean brought the works to North America in her book, and Dr. Sears adopted it. I did research on this last week and wrote about it in detail: (origins of AP part one and two).

    Warmly, Ashley