Attachment Parenting Basic Principles and Criticisms

Mother holding baby boy (2-5 months)

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The goal of attachment parenting is to raise children who can form healthy, emotional connections with other people throughout their life. Attachment parents believe this must begin by forming a respectful, compassionate connection between parent and child.

Practices Associated With Attachment Parenting

All right, that sounds great, but how do attachment parents practically achieve the goal of raising emotionally and socially rich kids? There are several parenting practices closely associated with attachment parenting. These parents believe that certain methods increase the bonds between parent and child and thereby set the stage for secure relationships later in life.

Let's take a look at a few of the most common practices among attachment parents.

  • Breastfeeding: Attachment parents acknowledge the known benefits of breastfeeding. They believe that, in most cases, breastfeeding encourages healthy physical, emotional, and mental development.
  • Babywearing: Increased concern that babies spend too much time in car seat carriers, strollers, portable play yards, has prompted attachment parenting advocates to investigate the importance of carrying your baby in your arms as much as possible. Slings and front carriers are a common accessory to those practicing attachment parenting.
  • Co-sleeping: Refers to the practice of sleeping within arm's reach of your baby. It is believed that it encourages responsive parenting and parent-child bonding.

Attachment Parenting Is a Mentality, Not a Method

However, be cautioned that above all, attachment parenting is not so much about practices parents must do and more about an attitude they must have. It is a peaceful approach to parenting that stresses connecting with your child on a deep emotional level. Though attachment parenting is associated with the methods above, how those practices are applied is open to interpretation.

For example, one family may choose to breastfeed. Another family might choose to bottle feed but to pace the timing and amount of formula given to mirror breastfeeding.

Attachment parents are encouraged to adopt practices to best address their family needs. However, what should not change is the overriding principles of attachment parenting.


Attachment parents recommend treating children with kindness and with respect so as to encourage a sense of dignity and mutual admiration. Attachment Parenting International identifies eight principles of their philosophy. They can be boiled down to this:

Attachment parents:

  • Strive to make informed decisions throughout a child's life, beginning with pregnancy. Example: An attachment parent might seek out multiple opinions on a child's medical issue and would be open to learning about alternative methods of treatment. They would use the knowledge they learned to make a decision with which they are comfortable.
  • Are prompt and consistent in their responses to their child's needs for nutrition, sleep, discipline, and physical/emotional connection. Example: Attachment parents would endeavor to respond to their child's needs quickly and predictably. Misbehavior would be corrected promptly with a punishment that "makes sense" to the child.
  • Avoid aggressive, calloused techniques in favor of gentle, responsive ones. Example: Spanking and sarcasm are better replaced with gentle discipline and sincere correction.
  • Value consistency in care from both parents and a few carefully-chosen caregivers. Example: Parents are a joint force in parenting and unite in their parenting practices. Division among parents and other caregivers can be perceived as lacking harmony.
  • Balance their personal needs with their family responsibilities. Example: Attachment parents understand the need to nurture their own individuality. By taking time for themselves, they can re-energize. Example: Having a date night or time for a personal hobby is a matter of self-preservation.

Common Criticisms

Attachment parenting has come under fire by various people and groups for a few reasons.

Some believe that attachment parenting is very demanding on the parents and could be mentally, emotionally, and physically draining. There is little research available to support or refute their ideas.

The American Academy of Pediatrics does not support co-sleeping, though it does strongly encourage room-sharing due to the risk of SIDS.

Ideas Related to Attachment Parenting

Sometimes people mistake natural parenting methods to be a tenet of attachment parenting. However, this is not the case. Aside from some of the above similarities, attachment parents do not define themselves by other parenting choices.

That being said, you might discover that parents who identify their parenting style as attachment parenting, may also be interested in cloth diapering, organic foods, and making their own baby foods. However, these practices in no way define attachment parenting.

A Word From Verywell

Parenting is truly an individual decision. As a parent of caregiver, it is easy to become confused and overwhelmed by the conflicting information you read.

Keep in mind your parenting approach will likely change with the needs of your child, based on their age, stressors, diagnoses, and life challenges. Focus on a genuine parent-child connection, reaching out for support, doing your research, and making informed decisions.

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