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Frequently Asked Questions
General Attachment Parenting

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What is Attachment Parenting ("AP")?

Attachment Parenting, or AP, is a philosophy based in the practice of nurturing parenting practices that create strong emotional bonds, also known as secure attachment, between the infant and parent(s). This style of parenting encourages responsiveness to the infant or child's emotional needs, and develops trust that their emotional needs will be met. As a result, this strong attachment helps the child develop secure, empathic, peaceful, and enduring relationships.

Who started Attachment Parenting?

Dr. William Sears, a practicing pediatrician in California, coined the term "Attachment Parenting" over twenty-five years ago. Dr. Sears did not start Attachment Parenting but simply observed that mothers in other cultures cared for and raised their children in a very natural, loving way as they had done for thousands of years. This type of care helped the parents and baby form a strong, secure attachment. It has long been recognized by research in the field of psychology that babies and children with secure attachments grow up to be loving, trusting and empathic adults.

Dr. Sears and his wife Martha, who is a nurse and is involved with La Leche League (a breastfeeding support organization), have not only raised their eight children with this style of parenting but have written many books on the subject. Their books have been instrumental in educating the public in Attachment Parenting methods.

How current are your studies and articles?

We have a wonderful Bibliography Review Committee which continuously reviews the materials in our Bibliography and continues to add new material all of the time. A handful of our approved materials, books in particular, were originally published in the 1960's or 1970's, while many books and most of the articles, are more recent. Each and every approved piece of material needs to have met a standard set by our organization, and that standard is represented by Attachment Parenting International's Eight Principles of Attachment Parenting (see http://www.attachmentparenting.org/artwhatis.shtml). The Principles themselves are written based on the most current research on attachment theory.

Our approved materials and their publication dates are available to the public on the API Web site. If you go to http://www.attachmentparenting.org/booksarticles.shtml, you will find API Bibliography: Recommended Books and Other Media for Parents, Leaders, Professionals, and Group Libraries, and the API Bibliography: Recommended Articles for Parents, Leaders, Professionals, and Group Libraries. From there, you can check the dates of publication for each of the individual materials.

If I disagree with your attachment parenting philosophy does that mean I'm a bad parent?

We call the eight methods of Attachment Parenting "ideals". We understand that not all parents are able or willing to implement these methods for a variety of reasons. These are ideals that we all strive for. None of us are perfect. The real point here is that we want to help parents to learn their baby's cues and needs. When they do, they are able to follow their instincts to meet those needs. Our goal is to educate parents in the methods and the science so they can make educated decisions but also trust in their instincts. To disagree with our philosophy does not brand parents as "bad". It's doubtful, however, that most parents could not agree with at least some of the attachment parenting ideals.

We are very supportive of parents in nurturing their children in the way they feel best. We know that children who are nurtured are not likely to develop mental health problems or be violent later in life. Parents are often confused by differing opinions on childcare. It's no wonder parents are at a loss of what to do. Others know they want to raise their children differently than the way they were raised, yet aren't sure how. We offer suggestions in parenting to help parents learn to connect to their baby. These parenting methods are research-based. It has been scientifically demonstrated that babies have certain physiological and emotional needs that have previously gone unrecognized in our western society.

Likewise, mothers also experience physiological reactions when nursing and nurturing that help them become more motherly. The needs of human babies are very similar to those of most other mammals. Science has learned a tremendous amount from observing the interactions of mammals and their babies. Our human intelligence seems to have distanced us from very basic human needs.

Do I have to practice all of the attachment parenting ideals to be an attachment parent?

No. We recognize that families have various circumstances in their lives that may preclude them from practicing all the Attachment Parenting "ideals". We also want parents to know that AP is not a "one size fits all" formula for parenting. What we want parents to understand is the core emotional and psychological needs babies have, even before birth. Parents who recognize these needs will make decisions based on what their child needs, not on what the parenting books or other experts say you must do. Attachment Parenting comes from the heart. As a sensitive parent, you will be sensitive to what your child needs, regardless of your life circumstances.

Can parents do too much attachment parenting?

No! Because the cornerstone of attachment parenting is being responsive to the child's physical and emotional needs, it is virtually impossible to "overly" attachment parent. However, many confuse a responsive parent with a "smother" parent, an "enmeshed" parent, or an "indulgent" parent, as all four have similar characteristics -- the parent is very involved with the child. It is important to understand the difference between these, as they are nothing like a responsive parent.

A "smother" parent is not being responsive to the child's needs, but instead is imposing their own will on the child, regardless of the child's needs. The "smother" parent tells the child "when to eat, what to eat, when to sleep, what to play, what to think". The "responsive" parent follows the child's lead, and feeds the child when he is hungry, puts him to sleep when he is tired, helps him to follow his interests and passions, etc.

The "enmeshed" parent is trying to live their life through their child, and is not being responsive to the child's needs. It is not the child's dreams and wishes that are being considered, but those of the parent. However, it is easy to distinguish an "enmeshed" parent from a responsive parent, as they are not looking at what is best for the child, but what they want.

The "indulgent" parent is one who does not know how to set limits and is not being a responsive to the child's needs. Children need limits and direction, and an adult helping them to grow up into being responsible adults. Many parents confuse "indulgence" with Attachment Parenting, but it is not the same at all. Attachment Parenting would involve setting limits in a warm loving way, without the threat of physical violence or cruelty.

Remember that there is no such thing as being too responsive to your child's needs, as it requires doing what is best for the child rather than what is best for the parent. However, it may involve learning more about what the real needs of children are.

Will I spoil my child if I always respond to his cries and hold him a lot?

Your child will learn to trust others because his mother or father was always there when he needed them. He will learn empathy and be able to empathize with others because his parents listened to him and validated his feelings. He will learn that to be touched and held is a wonderful experience. It makes him feel secure and loved. He will then be able to touch and hold others in a loving way. To spoil a child is to not teach these valuable lessons in the first years of his life.

Some of my friends who are not practicing Attachment Parenting use "lovies", such as stuffed animals, blankets, etc., with their children. Can a lovie fit in to an Attachment Parenting household?

Certainly we need to stress that a parent or other attached caregiver would be the best "lovie" a child could have. There is no substitute for the warm, loving arms of a caregiver and the security that they provide for the child. However, we realize that sometimes a lovie (such as a stuffed animal, blanket, etc.) can be an appropriate tool, and as long as it is not overused, it can be comforting to some children. Some high-need children can require almost constant contact with a parent or caregiver. Sometimes this level of contact is not possible, especially in a household with multiple children. For instance, if you need to lay the baby down to take a nap but the baby wants you to lie with him/her and you are not able to, a lovie might be an acceptable fill-in. If the lovie carries the scent of the primary caregiver (usually mom), it can be that much more soothing to the child. Additionally, for a child who is in a daycare, a lovie can be a comfort from home while he/she is not able to be there.

Introducing a lovie to a young infant could be as simple as tucking it into the sling with you while you carry them, or tucking it in with them as they sleep contentedly in bed with or without you. This should set up the lovie/sleep association. For an older toddler, introducing a lovie could be a bit more challenging since they will be more resistant to the caregiver substitute. It still may be possible though. Showing interest in it yourself would be likely be enough to spark some curiosity for them. Some children might enjoy being surprised with one, while others may prefer going to pick one out.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that the lovie should be associated with positivity to the child. Putting a child in a room to cry it out with a lovie sets up a negative association and is unfair to the child. Try to be understanding in the process of introducing a lovie and realize that it may take time and gentle persistence for your child to accept one.

To my delight, my two year old toddler continues to nurse and co-sleep with me. Is your organization right for us?

I am so happy to hear about your success with the extended nursing of your two year old! You are responding very sensitively to your little one by meeting their needs throughout the day and at night. I absolutely see our organization meeting your needs for support as a parent who believes in breastfeeding and co-sleeping.

We have many API Support Groups the world over where you can find others that share the same love for Attachment Parenting, will offer support and encouragement, and will present the opportunity for you to make many likeminded friends! Support Groups tend to meet monthly and some also offer other family friendly events such as playgroups, enrichment meetings, etc.

Please click on the following link to find a Support Group in your area: http://www.attachmentparenting.org/groups.shtml

You can also read Attachment Parenting International's (API) philosophy here: http://attachmentparenting.org/about.shtml

If you like what you read about API and find that there is not a Support Group in your area, you can also start your own! Here is a link to the Leadership Application process: http://attachmentparenting.org/groupstart.shtml

Is it possible to Attachment Parent two children very close in age?

You ask a question that many parents wonder about. The short answer is, "Yes, it is absolutely possible to practice Attachment Parenting (AP) with more than one child, even when they are close together in age!"

As for the longer answer, of course things are different with more than one child and it is true that your attentions are divided. This is true for any parent whether they are practicing AP or not. In fact, many devoted parents worry if they will be able to love their second child as much as their first child. But when the baby arrives, they find that they do. Human beings are naturally "programmed" to respond to new babies if they will let themselves!

So while things will not be exactly the same for the second baby as the first, that doesn't mean that everything will be worse. Some things will actually be better! Keep in mind, too, that many things are much easier the second time around. With the first baby you were learning how to do things and deciding what to do. With the second child, you already know so much more than you did with the first so many things will go more smoothly.

Also, as the second child grows, he or she will have a sibling to watch and be entertained by. Likewise, each child has his or her own temperament. Even if the older sibling needed much more from you, the younger may be more easy-going. The whole situation is different from child to child. The main thing to remember is that in Attachment Parenting there is a basic underlying attitude of responding to and meeting the child's needs in order to create a secure loving attachment. Even when there are differences in the situation from child to child, this underlying attitude can remain the same and guide your parenting choices. You will find your own balance and find how to meet both your children's needs as long as you keep the basic attitude and purpose in mind.

My husband abandoned me while I was pregnant. Our daughter is now two weeks old and he wants to take her for every other weekend 200 miles away. I am filing for divorce, but the courts here still allow dads to take infants. Do you have anything other than your web site info (which is great) or a professional or doctor in the area we could contact?

I would like to start by suggesting that you contact Kenneth Friedman at www.compromisesolutions.com. He is located in Florida and I think he is your best bet. It sounds like you need an attorney and/or a psychologist who is knowledgeable about the importance of attachment and could testify on your behalf, if needed. Also, Kenneth Friedman has compiled a helpful list of recommended readings that can be found on his web site listed above. I would also like to suggest that you contact Dr. Isabelle Fox at foxbethere@aol.com. She is located in California, and may offer more ideas.

Would the father be willing to talk to someone about this situation? If someone could talk to him in a non-threatening way about what his baby needs in the early weeks and months for healthy emotional development, and also be supportive of his willingness to be involved in the baby's life, maybe he would be more patient.

I don't know why he left you while you were pregnant and I do not know his true intentions. I have to assume that he had a change of heart and wants to develop a relationship with his baby. I certainly understand your feelings of betrayal that he left you but for the sake of the child, you both will have to find someone to help you work together on this.

We will continue to expand the resources available on our web site, so please visit there often for updates.

updated May 10, 2007 10:28 AM


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