Attachment parenting, a term coined by Dr. Sears, is a child-centered parenting approach that is said to promote a secure bond between parents and their children. Dr. Sears underlying contention is that modern parents have become emotionally detached from their children, paying more attention to their own desires and circumstances, than those of their baby.
Attachment parents are encouraged to trust their instincts, respond to their baby's cues, and to remain as physically close to their baby as the baby desires. This often manifests itself in babywearing, co-sleeping, breastfeeding, and responding to cries immediately.
Now, let's face it, most well-adjusted adults are easily able to form a secure bond with their baby. In fact, it's rare that a parent is unable to bond with their child. According to Attachment Parenting International, what differentiates attachment parenting from other childrearing approaches, is the parent's desire to treat children with equal dignity, love, and respect as they would afford another adult.
Related: 10 Must-Have Attachment Parenting Books
The topic of attachment parenting has not been without controversy. Naysayers argue that parents who focus too much on their children's needs may inadvertently neglect themselves. As a result, parents become sleep-deprived, resentful, and even angry.
As with all philosophies, there are a handful of people who take it to the extreme. These attachment parenting "fanatics" are often judgmental, inflexible, and self-righteous.
However, the majority of parents who ascribe to this philosophy do not believe that attachment parenting is a fixed approach. In fact, many people who practice attachment parenting techniques do not even know that there is a term describing them.
Today we dispel some of the biggest attachment parenting myths:
1. You are a total hippie.
It's not a requirement to own Birkenstocks, listen to Bob Dylan, or to have long hair, although those traits are entirely awesome. Many attachment parents enjoy shaved armpits and designer clothes. In fact, you would have difficulty picking an attachment parent out of a crowd.
2. All of your friends are crunchy parents too.
Parenting is so much easier when surrounded with supportive, like-minded people. While attachment parents may want to share their views, most have all different kinds of friends. Like most people, attachment parents realize that it takes all kinds to make the world go around. Despite what you may have heard, it's not a cult!
3. You are a stay-at-home mom (or dad).
Out of desire or need, many women (and men) in this day and age work outside of the home. Working does not preclude a parent from practicing attachment parenting. In fact, attachment parenting may be more useful for working families, as babies may benefit from additional closeness. Also, many attachment parents enlist the help of their caregivers to practice similar attachment approaches.
4. You must breastfeed.
The attachment parenting philosophy promotes not only breastfeeding, but breastfeeding on demand. This means that instead of feeding your infant on a set schedule, you feed your baby according to their cues. However, not all women can breastfeed, and gasp… not all women may want to breastfeed. Further, if breastfeeding were a requirement, it would preclude many parents in the world - like fathers - from bonding with their children.
5. You love cloth diapers.
Attachment parenting is not a list of required tasks, but rather a set of principles. While many attachment parents are all about saving the environment, some are equally concerned about time and convenience. Indeed, many parents care about the chemicals and fabrics that come in contact with their baby's skin; this is not unique to attachment parents.
6. Your baby sleeps in your bed.
If co-sleeping works for you and your baby, that's fantastic. However, there are many families for whom this arrangement does not work. There is a difference between letting a baby cry-it-out and using gentle techniques to teach a baby to sleep in his or her own bed. There is a broad spectrum of sleeping arrangements, and not all attachment parents share a bed with their newborns.
Related: We Asked Dads What They Really Think of Attachment Parenting
7. You don't vaccinate your baby.
Attachment parenting has absolutely nothing to do with medical decisions. In fact, vaccinations and medical decision-making are not topics that are listed in the eight principles of attachment parenting. There are many parents who do not practice attachment parenting and yet they still choose to keep their children vaccine-free. On the flip-side, many attachment parents vaccinate their children.
8. You own several baby carriers.
Some studies show that babies who are "worn" cry significantly less than infants who are not carried. Most attachment parents do own a sling or two. However, attachment parents still own swings, strollers, and bouncy chairs.
9. You are very tired.
Okay, so this is not a myth, it's entirely accurate! However, attachment parents are no more exhausted than every single other parent trying to figure it all out. Some attachment parents would argue that they actually get more sleep than the average.
10. You have no time or space to yourself.
Parenting is not for the weak of heart, and raising a child is an enormous commitment. Parenting is also a sacrifice, and there is no debating the fact that you lose some of yourself when you have a child. Still, there are ways to ensure that you continue to fill your own cup. Attachment parents are no different than all parents, and finding time and space to oneself after having a baby is a challenge that many new parents face.