“If we were all first time parents isolated on a deserted island without the advice of baby books, doctors, psychologists or in-laws – you would care for your child instinctively – breastfeeding, holding and carrying your baby during the day and sleeping with your baby at night.” Dr William Sears ‘The Baby Book’
Attachment Parenting Philosophy
Attachment parenting, a phrase coined by world renouned pediatrician William Sears is a parenting philosophy based on the principles of the attachment theory in developmental psychology. Attachment Parenting builds a strong emotional bond with parents during childhood, and is a precursor of secure, empathic relationships in adulthood.
The Attachment theory, originally proposed by John Bowlby,a British psychoanalyst, notable for his interest in child development, stated that the infant has a tendency to seek closeness to another person and feel secure when that person is present. In comparison, Sigmund Freud proposed that attachment was a consequence of the need to satisfy various drives. In attachment theory, attachment is considered a biological system and children are naturally attached to their parents because they are social beings, not just because they need other people to satisfy drives. Attachment is part of normal child development.
Attachment Parenting International (API) advocates 8 principles that foster healthy attachments between the parents and infant. While none of these principles are derived directly from original attachment research, they are presented as parenting practices that can lead to “attunement”, “consistent and sensitve responsiveness” and “physical and emotional availability” that research has found to be key factors in secure attachment.The Eight principles of attachment parenting
Per Dr. Sears’ theory of attachment parenting (AP) These eight principles are:
- Preparation for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting
- Feed with Love and Respect
- Respond with Sensitivity
- Use Nurturing Touch
- Engage in Nighttime Parenting
- Provide Consistent Loving Care
- Practice Positive Discipline
- Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life
These values are interpreted in a variety of ways across the movement. Many attachment parents also choose to live a natural family living (NFL) lifestyle, such as natural childbirth, home birth, cloth diapering stay-at-home parenting, co-sleeping, breastfeeding, homeschooling, unschooling, natural health.
However, Dr. Sears does not require a parent to strictly follow any set of rules, instead encourages parents to be creative in responding to their child’s needs. Attachment parenting, outside the guise of Dr. Sears, focuses on responses that support secure attachments.
Attachment parenting proponents value continuous attachment to a primary caregiver. However, many still engage childcare, regardless of whether a parent stays at home. AP-friendly childcare focuses on meeting the child’s needs first, but without denying the working parent of their duties outside of the home. Attachment parenting childcareis often found with private home care givers than daycare procenters, since the whole premise of attachment cargiving requires a more one on one relationship bewteen the child and caregiver.
Attachment parents seek to understand the biological and psychological needs of the children, and to avoid unrealistic expectations of child behavior. In setting boundaries and limits that are appropriate to the age of the child, attachment parenting takes into account the physical and psychological stage of development that the child is currently experiencing. In this way, parents may seek to avoid the frustration that occurs when they expect things their child is not capable of.
Attachment parenting holds that it is of vital importance to the survival of the child that he be capable of communicating his needs to the adults and having those needs promptly met. Dr. Sears advises that while still an infant, the child is mentally incapable of outright manipulation. Sears says that in the first year of life, a child’s needs and wants are one and the same. Unmet needs are believed, by Dr. Sears and other AP proponents, to surface beginning immediately in attempts to fulfill that which was left unmet.
AP looks at child development as well as infant and child biology to determine the psychologically and biologically appropriate response at different stages. Attachment parenting does not mean meeting a need that a child can fulfill himself. It means understanding what the needs are, when they arise, how they change over time and circumstances, and being flexible in devising ways to respond appropriately.
Similar practices are called natural parenting, instinctive parenting, intuitive parenting, immersion parenting or “continuum concept” parenting.