GUEST POST: Demystifying Attachment Parenting: It’s About Meeting Your Child’s Needs

Written by Sheryl Senkiw

I am a mother of a wonderful, energetic three year old boy.  When he was a year old, I found a useful tool, a philosophy of child rearing called “Attachment Parenting.”

To this day, my husband has never heard of “Attachment Parenting.”  He has gone with me to gatherings in a room full of parents who follow, to some degree or another, the Attachment Parenting philosophy.  All he saw was families. There was no special label on them.  Yet, surprisingly, it was my husband who led me to find Attachment Parenting.

When our son was about a year old, I was advised by a family member of how to get him to sleep through the night in his crib.  Put him in his crib, close the door, and make no contact with him until morning.  No matter how much he cries, do not communicate with him.  I fully intended to try it.  But my husband said “No.”  He heard our son’s cries, and said, “Don’t let him cry like that; you are traumatizing him.”  Thanks to my husband, I found an approach that felt better to me.”

I did some online reading, spoke with other parents, and found that there was a style of parenting that was different that what my family member and TV nannies had been teaching. It was called “Attachment Parenting.”

Attachment Parenting is a parenting philosophy.  Dr William Sears, a pediatrician, father, and parent educator came up with the term “Attachment Parenting.” It is meant to be a style of parenting that focuses on doing something parents naturally want to do: be responsive to the needs of your child. It is a way we can think about and look at how we raise our children, and make choices about how we interact within our families each day.

Attachment Parenting International ( is an organization that “promotes parenting practices that create strong, healthy emotional bonds between children and their parents.”

There are 8 basic principles as outlined by the Attachment Parenting International (  I am listing their principles, and giving my own examples of what the principles mean to me.

Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting

Before your baby is born, and if possible before you get pregnant, read a book or go to a class.  Inform yourself about good nutrition for mom and baby.  Find out about different birth options.  Read about breastfeeding, or better yet, find a friend who is breastfeeding and watch how it is done.  Get different viewpoints about raising children, and know that regardless of how you go about it, it will be challenging.

Hold your baby as soon as possible after birth, talk to your baby, connect with your baby, and learn how your baby communicates with you.

Feed with Love and Respect

Breastfeed if possible. Breastfeeding is nutritionally better for the baby, and can have hormonal benefits for mother and baby.  Whether you breastfeed or formula feed, feed your baby when he or she is hungry. Hold your baby and interact with him or her while feeding.

Respond with Sensitivity

From the first day of life, your baby is learning about the world.  You want your baby to be able to trust you, so it is important to respond to your babies needs.  As your child grows older, this means responding to your child, treating him or her with respect, and treating him or her as you would like to be treated.

Use Nurturing Touch

Hold your baby frequently.  Wearing the baby in a carrier is one way of doing that, and can make it easier to go through your day with the baby close.  Give your older child hugs.  Physical contact is good for children.

Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally

Keep your baby within arms reach at night.  This may mean a crib next to your bed. Respond to your baby’s needs to be fed and soothed during the night.   For an older child, continue to pay attention to their needs, even at night time.  Crying it Out, which means having them cry alone in a room until they fall asleep from sadness, fear, and exhaustion, is discouraged.

Provide Consistent and Loving Care

Make sure there is always a trusted, loving person taking care of your child.  If it can be one of the parents, that is best. However, children will attach to other adults and substitute caregivers that a child feels close to can serve as another trusted, loving person.

Practice Positive Discipline

Learn about gentle ways of disciplining your child that don’t involve hitting.

Strive for Balance in Your Personal and Family Life

Know that the physical and mental health of everyone is important.  Ask for help from friends and family members, house cleaners, babysitters…Try to get enough sleep.

Pretty simple, basic stuff, right?  I think so.

The Attachment Parenting philosophy is a tool.  It is something parents can use as a guide for making daily decisions about how to raise their children.  There is a lot of good science behind some of the soecific practices, and a lot of loving, nurturing ideas.  The Eight Principles are pretty basic, and many families already use them, without knowing they are part of the Attachment Parenting philosophy.  Take from the toolbox what works for your family.