Attachment parenting is the core feature of natural parenting, a style growing in popularity in recent years. This eight-step, child-raising process, invented in the 1980s, puts all the focus on a child’s wants and needs — without discipline or traditional milestones.
The all-natural attachment parenting style instructs parents to be in tune with their child’s needs, despite what doctors or teachers may say. Attached parents don’t let their babies “cry it out,” a popular sleep-training method. Instead, they respond to an infant’s demands immediately and respectfully.
In many ways, attachment parenting rejects the modern world and its child-rearing standards, claiming a loving parent is all a child needs.
The 8 Features of Attachment Parenting
- Natural Pregnancy and Birth: Parents-to-be maintain a healthy diet and active lifestyle, often choosing holistic pregnancy remedies, ending with natural birth. Circumcision, and any procedure that separates a child from their mother post-birth, are frowned upon.
- Respectful Feeding: Attached parents allow their child to breastfeed for as long as the child wants. Yes, that’s often well into the toddler stage. There’s no set time of day for breastfeeding either — the baby eats whenever they feel so inclined.
- Sensitive Response: Attached parents are supposed to respond sensitively to infant and child emotions. They guide their child to communicate gently at any age, never calling big emotions “tantrums.”
- Nurturing Touch: Close contact, like “babywearing,” is a popular feature of attachment parenting. It encourages skin-to-skin contact between parent and child. Hugs and physical play continue as a child develops.
- Safe Sleep: Attachment parenting describes “safe sleep” as both physical and emotional. This often involves bed-sharing and co-sleeping, as well as the much-debated practice of responding immediately to a crying infant instead of letting the child self-soothe.
- Consistent & Loving Care: This feature is twofold: one, parents are discouraged from putting babies on feeding or sleep schedules, allowing the child to eat and sleep when they want/need. The second part: parents should try not to leave their children with alternative caregivers, and if they have to, must make sure the caregiver respects the child’s needs. This is especially difficult for working parents, who may not have the time or resources to stay so attached.
- Gentle/Positive Discipline: Control, fear and punishment don’t exist in attachment parenting. Parents are encouraged to “gently guide” their child toward the right path, maintaining mutual respect in a relationship that acts more like friendship.
- Balance: Attachment parenting requires balance in personal and family life. Family is always the priority, and each member should be in tune with one anothers’ wants and needs.
Attachment parenting isn’t for everyone. And, while there is some research on specific elements, there are no studies proving it’s superior to other parenting methods.