So what exactly is attachment parenting?
Regarded by many parents as a controversial and somewhat “hippie-ish” approach to parenting, attachment parenting, or “natural and instinctive” parenting, has been practiced in certain cultures for decades. More recently, a noticeable shift in western societies adopting a formal approach to this style of parenting prevails, as many discover the benefits of attachment parenting.
Originally formulated in the 1970s by American paediatrician Dr William Sears, the concept of attachment parenting promotes a healthy bond between parent and child, achieved by being available to the child on both a physical and an emotional level at all times. Basically, this means developing a deeper understanding of your child’s needs and then meeting those needs.
There are a number of ways in which this connection between mother and child is enhanced. On-demand and extended breastfeeding well into toddlerhood is thought to forge a stronger bond between mother and child, is naturally comforting, has nutritional benefits, and it’s suggested that children who have been breastfed for an extended period of time have a stronger bond with their parents and are easier to discipline.
Co-sleeping is another characteristic of attachment parenting. Considered a gentle means of getting a child to sleep, co-sleeping or sharing a family bed with the child establishes a secure and nurturing environment. New mums may find co-sleeping particularly helpful for night-time feeds, as they are able to respond quickly to a baby’s cries and are more in tune with their baby’s sleep habits.
Baby-wearing or carrying a baby around in a sling ensures close physical contact and is thought to improve a child’s physical and intellectual development. The constantly changing position of the mother wearing her baby acts as stimulation for the baby’s development, it has been suggested, and babies who spend more time in close physical contact with their mother generally cry less, as mothers are able to respond to non-crying signals quicker. Mothers will attest that baby-wearing is mutually comfortable, allows for more freedom of movement, and is convenient for breastfeeding.
The benefits of attachment parenting outweigh the negative, which critics put forward as encouraging children to be clingy and needy or spoiling the child. Instead, attachment parenting promotes building a strong and trusting relationship with the child, finding immense joy in parenting through a closer connection, and ensuring a confident, empathetic child, with a well-developed sensitivity towards others.
It’s important to remember that while attachment parenting provides an admirable guideline to nurturing the bond between parent and child, it should not be viewed as a set of rules to be followed to the letter. Depending on the needs of your child, certain principles of attachment parenting may work better than others. At the end of the day, it’s more important to find a parenting approach that works for both parents and children. Follow your intuition and remember each child is different.