Attachment Parenting

There's nothing new about Attachment parenting; parents have been doing it naturally for as long as humans have existed. Attachment parenting is based on responding to a baby’s needs, which in infancy include staying in very close proximity to the parent. Once the baby learns that her caretakers are reliably nurturing and protective, she builds on this internal security as she proceeds to the next developmental tasks of exploration, mastery of the environment, and forming relationships with others.

Attachment parenting is now supported by an impressive body of academic theory and research, but the basic idea is simple and intuitively obvious. Human babies are born helpless because of their big brains. To survive, they need parents to keep them from harm’s way for many years, and to teach them survival skills. So all humans are born seeking close attachments.

Our brain development, our emotional development -- even our later ability to control our tempers and delay gratification -- all depend on having our innate relationship needs met as infants.

The Attachment Parenting philosophy arises from actual research; both longitudinal studies of children and their parents, and advances in understanding infant brain development. But Attachment Parenting is not a set of rules, and every parent uses it a bit differently. Parenting is an art, not a science. As always, use your own deepest wisdom to decide what's best for you and your family.

In This Section

Attachment Parenting Q & A

Okay, so you're interested, but you have some reservations. Check here for the most frequently asked questions and see if your questions are answered.  (If not, post your question in the Ask the Doctor section.)

Should You Attachment Parent?

Research shows babies thrive when their attachment needs are met, so the answer is clearly yes, if we define Attachment Parenting as responding to the baby’s need for connection.  But as a psychologist, I'm concerned by how controversial the idea of Attachment Parenting has become.  Of course you want a Securely Attached child, but are there specific rules that will her your child develop into one?  And does that mean you can't set limits? Let’s define our terms.

Attachment Parenting Basics

So how do you get started with Attachment Parenting?  There are no rules, just a few guidelines to help you make the minute to minute decisions as you meet your baby's needs. Contrary to some opinions (from folks who don't practice it!), attachment parenting is actually easier than parent-centered parenting, because it creates a happier, healthier baby who is more connected to parents, and therefore more cooperative, throughout his childhood.  Here, 7 easy steps to get you started.

How to Raise a Securely Attached Child: The Research

Is "Attachment Parenting" a science?  Yes, actually.  Decades of research, including longitudinal studies, have shown that as securely attached babies get older, they form better relationships with others, have higher self esteem, are more flexible and resilient under stress, and perform better in every aspect of life, from schoolwork to peer interactions. A very brief review of the basic research that gave rise to Attachment Theory.

The Continuum Concept

The Continuum Concept, explained by Jean Liedloff in her book of the same name, is the idea that in order to achieve optimal physical, mental and emotional development, human beings — especially babies — require the kind of experience to which our species adapted during the long process of our evolution.

"The more the child feels attached to the mother, the more secure he is in his acceptance of himself and the rest of the world. The more love he gets, the more he is capable of giving. Attachment breeds self-control, self-esteem, empathy, and affection, all of which lead to an increasing ability to develop literacy. We don't know why, but it seems to be true. Attachment is as central to the developing child as eating and breathing."
-Robert Shaw, M.D.

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