Attachment Parenting: An Explanation

The term “attachment parenting” is credited to Dr. William Sears, a pediatrician, and his wife, Martha Sears, a nurse. Attachment parenting, or AP, is a natural form of parenting, which means it will look different in different families. Because AP is more about a state of mind than a parenting method, it is not a “one size fits all” approach to parenting.


Nonetheless, there are some trademarks and characteristic of AP that help define and clarify what it is. But even these traits will vary among families.

Here are some of the elements of Attachment Parenting:

1. Gentle birth

AP advocates believe that attachment begins at birth – actually, before birth. Attachment parenting begins with research about birth, infant development, and as much information about how the process works as possible. AP parents try for a natural birth, with emphasis on the mother-infant bond.

2. Breastfeeding

This is one of the key components to AP. It is one of the major means by which an attached baby gets his needs met – nutritionally, emotionally, and physically. AP parents do not feed their babies on a schedule, but nurse their infants as the need arises. The benefits of this breastfeeding relationship are not just for the baby; the mother benefits greatly from the “happy hormones” secreted during breastfeeding, and from the knowledge that she is doing much to enhance her baby’s development.

Furthermore, research has shown that breastfeeding promotes both the mother and the baby from breast cancer and other diseases.

3. Responsiveness

AP parents do not believe that a baby is manipulative or that a baby can be “spoiled.” On the contrary, the AP mindset is one of responsiveness to the infant, responding to cries by meeting needs. Babies can’t talk, so crying is their only way to communicate a stress, need, or discomfort.

4. Closeness

It has been discovered among babies in orphanages that those who are not touched fail to thrive or even die. Touch is incredibly important for a baby’s development, and AP embraces that concept to the fullest, advocating keeping the baby nearby at night and in a sling during the day.

Co-sleeping, or sharing sleeping space, is part of the goal of closeness among AP parents. A baby’s night-time needs are most easily met when the baby is close by. This is a lot easier on the mother, too.

AP parents believe that forming strong attachments in infancy will give children a sense of security and set the stage for lasting, strong relationships later in life. The basic idea is that an attached child will learn to trust his parents and will therefore develop a sense of security. AP advocates claim that attached children are confident and socially adept, and are able to form strong relationships of their own. That is the basic goal of AP – a strong parent-child relationship.

Creative Commons License photo credit: N.R.

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Alexis Rodrigo