Find Out What Attachment Parenting is All About

The effects of Attachment Parenting and what it is exactly

By Lucilia Pires
Find Out What Attachment Parenting is All About

Unfortunately, children do not come with an instruction manual, which makes it hard sometimes to understand their attitudes and reactions. We do know that children respond to the parenting style you choose to adopt, and that their growing personalities will absorb your guidance and react accordingly. However, with all the parenting theories you can find these days, ranging from strict and authoritarian to totally permissive or simply uninvolved, it is hard to pick one and stick to it when it comes to raising your own children. In this article we’ll discuss one of these theories, the Attachment Parenting Theory, taking into account its style of discipline, the benefits and effects it produces, and its most controversial aspect: sleep.

Attachment Parenting

Attachment Parenting Theory was coined in 1993 by pediatrician William Sears, MD, in his book The Attachment Parenting Book: a Commonsense Guide to Understanding and Nurturing Your Baby. Sears follows the 1969 Attachment Theory developed by psychiatrist and psychologist John Bowlby, and later extended by developmental psychologist Mary Ainsworth. This theory refers to 4 different types of attachment: secure, avoidant, resistant and disorganized. Ideally, all babies should be provided with secure attachment as this nurturing connection is the ideal when it comes to raising secure, independent and empathetic children and adults.

In child development, an attachment means the bond a baby forms with his/her primary caregiver, which is a biological instinct to stay as close to the caregiver as possible in order to feel safe and survive. This primary caregiver is usually the mother, but it can also be the father or any other caregiver who is sensitive and responsive to the baby’s needs.  Attachment parenting advocates promote breastfeeding as the best way to bond with your child; “baby-wearing” in order to maximize skin-to-skin touch; “co-sleeping” to promote safety and easy feeding; constant, loving presence of the caregiver; positive discipline and responding with sensitivity to your child’s attempts for communication through unwanted behavior, rather than punishing or dismissing said behavior. 

What is Attachment Parenting Discipline?

Discipline for the Attachment Parenting Theory is necessary in order to help the children learn the right and the wrong ways to behave, however it is always construed as positive and constructive, rather than negative and controlling. The first step towards this positive discipline is knowing your child, as discipline techniques will vary according to child needs and age. Attached parents are experts on their children, they know them inside out, and they know what behaviour to expect and how to convey those expectations to the child. In turn, attached children really want to please their parents, and are attuned to their expectations. 

The second step is realizing that children don’t think like adults, they haven’t yet developed their moral code, or are more inclined to act on impulse rather than reasoning out a behaviour and thinking about consequences. Their chasing after a ball into the middle of the street is not a reckless act of defiance, but simply the need to get the ball back. So, in order to discipline a child positively, you need to take your child needs and wants into account, and it all leads back to knowing your child through and through.

The third step involves boundaries and rules, as well as respect for authority. Children need limits, they won’t survive without them, however, parents must set wise, consistent, and easy to follow rules. Children need to be told no when their behaviour is conducive to danger, but still allowed to explore his/her limits in a safe controlled environment. We don’t want our children to climb onto walls, or bookshelves, as that is dangerous, but we’re ok with them going to a play area and climbing to their heart’s content, as that is a safe environment. Similarly, consider your children won’t know if the behaviour is right or wrong until you tell them, so communicate your expectations openly and listen to their questions and points-of-view.

The forth step involves setting a positive model for your children’s behaviour. Being a happy, trusting person will make your child become a happy, trusting person. One of your jobs as a parent is to provide good examples for your child to absorb and learn from. Do not strive to be perfect, though, as it is a goal set to failure, and it will set a standard neither you nor your child can achieve. We all make mistakes, but it is the overall picture you should focus on rather than those times you were not as good a parent as you would have liked.

The Benefits and Effects of Attachment Parenting

Babies benefitting from attachment parenting, are more trusting, learn languages more easily, grow better, feel good about themselves and act more appropriately. Parents become much more knowledgeable about their children, become more confident and respond intuitively to their children’s needs, and find discipline easier. The family becomes a safe haven and the feelings of trust, love and connectedness abound.

Children in future are said to be more attuned to their feelings and more empathetic and responsive to the feelings of others, more self-confident and overall better equipped to lead a healthy and happy life with meaningful commitments and higher moral standards.

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Attachment Parenting Sleep

“Co-sleeping” is probably the most controversial issue with this theory, as it states that the baby should sleep alongside the parents in bed or using a bedside bassinet. Dr. Sears lists several benefits from this practice, namely, it being safer than sleeping alone, and fostering a more peaceful sleep and promoting long-term emotional health.


Apart from the obvious lack of privacy for the couple,  other pediatricians refer to co-sleeping as a potentially dangerous situation, as a sleeping parent might endanger and even smother the child. They advise using the bedside bassinet that still allows for close proximity and safety. Discussing the subject with your own pediatrician might prove enlightening and help you reach a decision.

Top 5 Books on Attachment Parenting

For those looking forward to more information on the issue of Attachment Parenting, these are the Top 5 books on the subject.

1. The Attachment Parenting Book: a Commonsense Guide to Understanding and Nurturing Your Baby

The Attachment Parenting Book : A Commonsense Guide to Understanding and Nurturing Your Baby

This is the book that coined the term “attachment parenting”, written by husband-and-wife team Dr. William Sears, pediatrician, and Martha Sears, nurse. This commonsense guide clearly explains the theory behind this popular parenting style – The 6 “Baby B’s”

  • Bonding
  • Breastfeeding
  • Babywearing
  • Bedding close to baby
  • Belief in the language value of baby's cry
  • Beware of baby trainers.

2. Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way

Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way

Book written by Mayim Bialik, neuroscience PhD, mother of two, and the actress you probably know as Amy, Sheldon’s nerdy girlfriend in The Big Bang Theory, who firmly believes Attachment parenting to be the parenting approach that not only felt right emotionally, but also made sense intellectually and instinctually. Using her background as a mother and as a neuroscientist, she presents the major beliefs of Attachment Parenting, such as breastfeeding, babywearing and gentle discipline, in a delightful and uncomplicated way, showing that the core principles behind this theory are universal and can be appreciated no matter how you decide to raise your child.

3. Attachment-Focused Parenting: Effective Strategies to Care for Children

Attachment-Focused Parenting: Effective Strategies to Care for Children

Daniel A. Hughes, a noted practitioner, consultant, and educator of attachment-focused family therapy, gives us this parenting manual bringing theory and practice together to supply you with effective strategies to care for children. It provides parents, therapists and caregivers alike with practical parenting skills and techniques rooted in the proven therapeutic principles of attachment security and affects regulation, as well as his own practice. This book presents the techniques and practices that are fundamental to optimal child development and family functioning―how to set limits, provide guidance, and manage the responsibilities and difficulties of daily life, while at the same time communicating safety, fun, joy, and love.

4. Raising a Secure Child: How Circle of Security Parenting Can Help You Nurture Your Child's Attachment, Emotional Resilience, and Freedom to Explore

Raising a Secure Child

A panel of well-known experts in child development, Hoffman, Powell, and Cooper, founders of the Circle of Security International bring this self-help book to you go guide you through the hurdles of parenting. It provides you with simple yet powerful parenting strategies to encourage you to understand your children’s emotional needs in a secure environment and to tackle your own inadequacies as a parent, with self-assessment checklists that can be downloaded and printed for ease of use. Filled with vivid stories and unique practical tools, this book puts the keys to a healthy attachment within everyone's reach--self-understanding, flexibility, and the willingness to make and learn from mistakes.

5. The Attachment Connection: Parenting a Secure and Confident Child Using the Science of Attachment Theory

The Attachment Connection: Parenting a Secure and Confident Child Using the Science of Attachment Theory

This book by Ruth P. Newton, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in attachment and affect regulation in the developing child, helps parents understand the development of your child’s brain at each stage of growth, while emphasizing the need to be responsive to your child emotional needs so as to help him/her grow happy, secure and confident. It provides you useful guidelines, based on scientific research rather than commonsense or hearsay, to promote secure attachment, healthy social skills, and emotional regulation in your child.

Attachment parenting emphasizes above all the secure attachment you form with your children by being a constant, responsive and sensitive presence in their lives. You will still be able to form a secure attachment even if you don’t carry your child 24/7 (“baby-wearing”), or if you don’t co-sleep in the same bed. Being a safe haven for them, responding to their needs and allowing them to become their own persons, is all that matters.

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