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What is attachment parenting?

Attachment parenting is a parenting technique based around building strong bonds with your child that includes keeping a baby as close as possible.

Attachment parenting may include bedsharing and babywearing slings, as well as breastfeeding.

Attachment parenting: The eight principles

Attachment Parenting International (API) is a worldwide educational association for this style of parenting. 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 sudden infant death syndrome, also known as SIDS or cot death. The NHS warns against sharing a bed with your baby after drinking alcohol, if you take drugs or if you're a smoker. You should also make sure the baby doesn’t get too hot in the parents' bed.
  • Provide constant, loving care. Proponents of attachment parenting advise the nearly constant presence of a parent. That includes during walks, parents' night 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. And parents are encouraged to work out a solution together with a child, rather than punishing 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.


Attachment theory: the roots of attachment parenting

At the root of attachment parenting lies attachment theory. Attachment theory stems from psychologist John Bowlby's studies of maternal deprivation and from animal behaviour research in the early 1950s.

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