Attachment parenting is becoming more and more common. It’s not right for some, and not everyone agrees with it. Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions out there about attachment parents and their practices. This is mainly due to the media’s focus on only extreme examples. Most attachment parents aren’t very extreme, yet the attention in the media isn’t placed on balanced examples. There are a lot of mistaken ideas about attachment parenting and its tenets. The truth is that attachment parenting produces happy, healthy, well-adjusted and independent children, and the parents are usually happy, too. These myths need to be debunked.
If you don’t do everything recommended, you’re not an attachment parent. Attachment parenting is a general philosophy and approach towards child-rearing. It is not a checklist of practices that you must do in order to qualify as an attachment parent. While certain aspects of attachment parenting are practiced by most who identify with these style, the tenets aren’t universal. Some use cloth diapers, and some use disposables. Some wear their babies, and some prefer strollers. Some solely breastfeed, and some supplement with formula. Some bedshare, and others just cosleep. Some wean at 1 or 2, and some practice child-led weaning. We’re all different.
Eating organic food is part of attachment parenting. Attachment parents are generally drawn to a more natural lifestyle. Many do acknowledge the benefits of organic food. Many cannot afford it or simply are unconcerned with that topic. You don’t have to eat organic food or make your own baby food to be an attachment parenting. Organic food has nothing to do with the attachment style of parenting.
Attachment parents never leave their children alone or with a sitter. Attachment parenting is about building a strong bond between parent and child. Attachment parents do try to limit their separations from their babies, especially in the early weeks. However, many are in situations where both parents work, and daycare is needed. Attachment parents may use a sitter less often than mainstream parents and may be more prone to leave their baby with a relative or close friend than stranger, but they are not at their children’s sides 24/7.
Attachment parents believe in giving their kids constant attention. Most have a child-led approach to parenting, feeding on demand and letting the child wean when they chose. We do not believe in allowing a child to cry it out or cry for prolonged periods, when there is something we could be doing to comfort them. Responsive parenting is a part of this approach. We simply do not let our babies cry if we can help it. Of course, all babies will cry at some point. We try to anticipate signs of hunger or distress before screams erupt. We also try to respond to their cries as soon as possible. We believe this promotes security and health. We prefer to be close to our children as often as possible, but we don’t all have our eyes directly on them at all times. We do have work, chores, errands, and hobbies!
Back to sleep and waiting to introduce solids are part of attachment parenting. Back to sleep is a program started to reduce the risk of SIDS, which it has done quite wonderfully. The digestive systems of babies are not fully ready for solids until 6-9 months. Attachment parents typically believe in being informed, doing no harm, and limiting their baby’s risk of danger. This means that we follow the recommended ‘back to sleep’ guideline and wait to introduce solids until we know the baby is ready. These are not, however, tenets of attachment parenting. They are simply recommendations of the AAP that informed parents follow.
All attachment parents have a family bed. This isn’t true. Many of us keep our babies in bedside bassinets. Some keep them in cribs down the hall. Most of the time, the children are in their own beds by the age of 5, so those with older children rarely have a family bed. Remember, we don’t all parent the exact same way. We’re not all the same.
Attachment parents don’t believe in discipline. Positive discipline is a generally-accepted tenet of this style of parenting. Most of us do not believe in spanking. We believe in parenting in a loving and gentle way that sets a good example for our children. We have also read the studies linking it to behavioral problems and violence later in life. Spanking isn’t the only form of discipline. We believe in redirection and explanations. Some don’t believe in punishment at all, and some do. Many raise wonderful kids without ever punishing them. Moreover, we try to be knowledgeable about child development, so we know what to reasonably expect of our children at different ages. We try not to expect more than our children are capable of doing. We also pick our battles. We definitely don’t believe in punishing when a child is obviously sick, bored, tired, or hungry; instead, we solve the problem. We simply don’t believe that hitting and yelling are effective disciplinary tools.
Not vaccinating or circumcising are part of attachment parenting. Most attachment parents have done the research and decided that these things are unnecessary and harmful. These are not, however, tenets of attachment parenting. There are many attachment parents who vaccinate and circumcise their children. Attachment parenting is more to do with how you interact with your children than health decisions, with the exception of breastfeeding.
Attachment parents look down on mainstream parenting. While we think it is sad when a baby is left to cry it out all night, spanked or yelled at, or given formula when breast milk is available, we don’t look down on other parents. We may offer information or our viewpoint, but we try not to judge. Different things work best for different families. We don’t feel smarter than or superior to other mainstream parents, though we wish people would make more of an effort to do the research and inform themselves before making decisions. We all have different views about risks associated with our choices. Two people can read the exact same information and come to a different conclusion. We respect that. There are some things we will not yield on, such as the fact that breast is best. However, we make no judgements in general to those who parent differently than us. It is only when a parent is harming their child that we become concerned.
Attachment parenting creates dependant, spoiled children. On the contrary, our children tend to be more independent. We don’t push them into developing autonomy; we let them develop it on their own when they’re ready. We have worked hard to build a strong bond and foster self-esteem and security in our children. Therefore, they are more apt to explore their world and pull away from us. The harder you hold onto something, the harder it will try to pull away. We keep our children close usually, and they are often hungry to get away once they can. They will always return to us, however, because of the bond between us and their complete trust in us. Our children may take longer than others to do other things, but they often grow up to become leaders amongst their peers and to have very pleasant, strong personalities.
This is a new approach to parenting. People have been parenting this way since the dawn of time. Before the invention of formula, all babies were breastfed. In many cultures, especially where women must work in the fields, babies are worn. All kids were home schooled until the opening of public schools. These natural parenting practices are making a comeback but are not new. Even in America, this approach to parenting has been around forever; it’s only just now been given a name. More and more people are identifying with this style, but it is not new.
As you can see, the common myths about attachment parenting are false. It’s not a checklist, just a philosophy, a style focussed on building a strong bond between parent and child, fostering security and self-esteem, and meeting the child’s needs to the best of your ability. Many of us are also into a more natural life-style and may have special diets, recycle, or use cloth toilet paper, but not all of us. Attachment parenting is becoming much more mainstream, as more people identify with it, learn about it, and begin educating themselves. Hopefully in the future these rumors will die down, and the misconceptions will fade due to its newfound popularity. Is the attachment parenting approach right for you? Only you can decide.