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Baby-wearing, breastfeeding and co-sleeping

What is attachment parenting?
WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

What sort of parent you are is determined to a large extent by what you are like as a person. Some may adopt a disciplined, rule-based approach to parenting or others may choose a more touchy-feely, child-orientated style. There's no definitive manual for bringing up a baby but for most of us it's trial and error and doing the best we can.

Some parents though do have a clearer vision. A style of child-rearing that seems to be gaining popularity in the UK is attachment parenting. It was made popular in the US by Dr William Sears. The three main tenets of attachment parenting (AP) are baby-wearing, breastfeeding and co-sleeping.

Attachment parenting focuses on the nurturing connection that parents can develop with their children. That connection is viewed as the ideal way to raise secure, independent, and empathetic children. Proponents make the case those secure, trusting attachments to parents during childhood form the basis for secure relationships and independence as adults.

Eight principles of attachment parenting

Attachment Parenting International (API) identifies eight principles of attachment parenting. Parents have considerable leeway in how they interpret and put these principles into action. The eight principles are:

Prepare for pregnancy birth, and parenting. Proponents of attachment parenting believe it important to eliminate negative thoughts and feelings about pregnancy. Doing so, they say, readies a parent for the emotionally demanding work of being a parent.

Feed with love and respect. Breastfeeding, proponents say, is the ideal way to create a secure attachment. It also teaches infants that parents will listen to their cues and fulfil their needs.

Respond with sensitivity. With attachment parenting, parents consider all expressions of emotions, including repeated tantrums, as real efforts at communication. Those efforts are to be taken seriously and understood rather than punished or dismissed.

Use nurturing touch. Attachment parenting proponents advise maximum skin-to- skin touching. Ways to achieve that include joint baths and 'baby-wearing' - carrying babies during the day in a front-facing sling.

Engage in night-time parenting. Attachment parenting experts advise making co-sleeping arrangements. With co-sleeping, an infant sleeps in the same room as parents so they can feed and emotionally soothe the child during the night. Some parents practise 'bed-sharing' or sleeping in the same bed with babies. It's thought that this creates an even more secure attachment. Precautions are advised, though, to help prevent cot death ( sudden infant death syndrome).

Provide constant, loving care. Proponents of attachment parenting advise the nearly constant presence of a parent. That includes during walks, parents' nights out and work. They advocate against childcare for more than 20 hours a week for babies younger than 30 months old.

Practise positive discipline.
Parents are advised to distract, redirect and guide even the youngest of babies, and to model positive behaviour. Attachment parenting aims at understanding what a child's negative behaviour is communicating. Parents are encouraged to work out a solution together with a child, rather than smacking or simply imposing their will on children.

Strive for balance in personal and family life. Parents are encouraged to create a support network, live a healthy lifestyle, and prevent parenting burn-out.

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