William Sears, pediatrician and author of more than 40 books on pediatric care, coined the term “attachment parenting” to describe a child-rearing method that focuses on natural and organic techniques. Many attachment parenting advocates object to unnatural birthing methods — such as the use of Pitocin to stimulate labor — and to moms leaving their newborns to go back to work. Attachment parenting helps moms bond with their children through breastfeeding, co-sleeping, baby wearing and positive discipline.
Because of the popularity of bottle-feeding with formula during the 1950s and 1960s, when physicians deemed it a safe substitute for breast milk, breastfeeding experienced a decline. But breastfeeding has always been regarded as the medically preferred way of feeding babies. The Ask Dr. Sears website points out that breast milk contains substances crucial to the optimal development of babies. Attachment parenting includes not only breastfeeding, but breastfeeding on demand. Instead of feeding on an arbitrary schedule of every two or four hours, for example, you feed whenever your baby wants to.
Parents who practice attachment parenting co-sleep with their babies. They do that to reassure their babies that they are there for them during the night. Some babies might become lonely or fearful otherwise. Advocates of attachment parenting don’t believe in letting babies cry it out or self-soothe because they say it causes too much stress for babies. Co-sleeping entails sleeping in the same bed as your child (called bed sharing) or placing your child in a bassinet with one open side adjoining your bed. When a child is ready for his own bed, those who practice attachment parenting often lie down with the child in his bed until he falls asleep.
3. Baby Wearing
Attachment parents wear their babies in a sling so they can provide the nurturing touch babies need. If the baby doesn’t care for the sling, simply holding the baby will do. Attachment parents believe that babies experience more of the world when worn than babies who sit in a stroller or car seat do, says Marie Spadaro, curriculum director at Attachment Parenting International. Wearing the baby also makes breastfeeding on demand more convenient. Spadaro said that she wore her baby until after he was 2 years old, and that they both enjoyed it. Baby wearing allowed Spadaro to go back to her job as a teacher at a community college — just five days after the birth of her second son.
4. Positive Discipline
Attachment parents use positive discipline, which entails no physical punishment, such as spanking, and no timeouts or consequences. Positive discipline uses the methods of distraction, substitution, play and problem solving. You don’t set rules, either. What you do is to constantly teach or coach your child. Attachment parents act more as cheerleaders than as disciplinarians. They expect their children to develop their own moral compasses based on the examples they set as parents.