So what is Attachment Parenting?

Photography: HADAS Images

By Brandie Hadfield

Every so often a new blog goes viral that takes aim at insulting Attachment Parenting. When I dissect the post, typically more than half of what is written is actually not even what this back-to-basics philosophy is truly aiming for. Anti-AP articles are usually fodder, based on misinformation and misunderstanding, perpetuated in media and by parenting pundits who make their living training babies to sleep through the night.

I teach a class on “Busting the myths of Attachment Parenting”, and I thought it is timely to share with you what the most frequent comments and questions have been during my talks over the last two years:

Isn’t AP a bit of an extreme way to parent?

Many are surprised to find out that the 8 Principals of Attachment Parenting are pretty common sense. I have even been asked by a mum if she could join my Meetup group (Attachment Parenting Toronto), if she didn’t sleep with her kids. While some parents who call themselves “attachment parents” may make choices that not every parent would feel comfortable with, there are no pre-requisites in this approach to parenting. I love the phrase, “there are as many parenting styles as there are parents in the world”. 

The 8 tools of AP are set out as a way to raise children responsively, based on psychological evidence. The goal of Attachment Parenting is to foster young hearts and minds with a developmentally appropriate approach, which does look different than the behaviourist methods of yesteryear. The goal is a more compassionate world, as our children mature into adulthood feeling secure and confident.

I didn’t realize I was AP!

There have been many parents in my class who respond to their children with sensitivity, do not resort to corporal punishment when disciplining, and who ensure safety for their kids (both physically and emotionally), who are surprised when I tell them they are “Attachment Parenting”. As Dr. Sears says, all it is, is the natural way you’d be if you were on a desert island with no books or unsolicited advice. 

The goal of Attachment Parenting is to foster young hearts and minds with a developmentally appropriate approach, which does look different than the behaviourist methods of yesteryear.

Attachment Parenting was not a name meant to label parents, it was a name given to a non-profit so parents all over the world would have access to free support and education. There are many groups and forums you can find who use the term “Attachment Parenting” but are in no way affiliated with the API non-profit organization.

But if you don’t “Sleep Train” your baby, won’t they be dependent on you for YEARS to soothe them?

As I help parents with a non-cry-it-out approach to getting a good night’s rest, I spend much of my time educating them on having realistic expectations of their baby, and reminding them to make decisions out of love and not fear. “It’s not a problem, unless it’s a problem” is an often quoted statement I borrow from Dr. Sears. 

I used to get told all the time that if I kept dancing or rocking my son to sleep, he would become too dependent on motion for sleep. But I LOVED rocking and swaying and dancing him. It was a zen time for me, where I gazed into his eyes and got lost in the moment watching him get sleepier and his lids get heavy. 

Oh ya, I was also warned not to make eye contact during the bedtime ritual, as it would be too “stimulating”. Both of these were nonsense fears, and I am so grateful I drank in these tender moments as it truly goes by much too fast.

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