You may have heard of attachment style parenting before, but it has many bad stigmas, and it also may not have been explained properly. Many people think of attachment style parenting as a parenting style that is exclusive breastfeeding, holding baby most of the time, and sharing a bed. While this is a version of attachment style parenting, it’s not the only version. Basically there are four things that classify attachment style parenting: 1. co-sleeping, 2. feeding-on-demand, 3. responsiveness to crying, and 4. holding and touch. You don’t have to do the extreme and breastfeed on demand until your child is 5 or share a bed with them if it makes you uncomfortable.

Versions of Attachment Style Parenting (AP)

Attachment style parenting consists of keeping your child close and responding to their needs. As babies (newborn and infants), responding to their crying and feeding on demand. When they get older, this includes helping them redirect their fears as they begin to develop, as well as comforting them as they experience the fear. For the purpose of this post, I’ll be focusing mostly on children under the age of 2, but these concepts can be applied to different eras of parenting.

mom holding newborn infant

Now as a parent, you may think – how do I keep my sanity while feeding on demand, following my child’s sleep schedule, never letting them cry, and holding them all the time? This is a very valid concern, and one that is not taken lightly. Babies are demanding and certain times, this can take an emotional toll on the parent. While this is the case, following this parenting style can also pose many benefits.

First off, children raised under some form of attachment style parenting (AP) are known to cry less. This is because when they cry, mom or dad typically respond to their needs. They learn to communicate better their needs at an early age, and know that their caregiver is there for them. Children that are raised under this parenting style are also tend to experience less stress and feel more comfortable with people. These benefits pay off in the long haul.

breastfeeding baby laying with mom

As children get into the period of development, demonized as the ‘terrible twos’, different methods of parenting can be taken that still fall under the class of attachment style. This is because all toddlers will behave differently and react differently to discipline. Parents, you’ll need to find the line of authority as well as providing your child safety and security that they need, while allowing them to be independent. The practice of positive discipline is one that fits within the attachment style parenting.

Positive discipline is a method of taking your child’s attention and diverting the negative behavior to something else. Say your child is slamming a cupboard or door. In a calm voice, explain we don’t slam doors, it can break things. Then divert their attention to a toy or other activity that will help them forget what they were doing. If this doesn’t work, try to better understand what their behavior is communicating. At this age, children will often be acting their feelings, so many times they are conveying the need for attention or frustration. Also realize that children learn by example, so as a parent it is important to be displaying the type of behavior you want your children to learn. It’s also important to realize their surroundings also impact this, so if you have them around behaviors outside the house that you don’t want them to pick up, you should change this environment.

Responding to tantrums is also important for attachment style parenting. As children hit the toddler age and begin to learn emotions and behaviors, these can oftentimes be too big for them to understand and handle. This will often lead to a temper tantrum, but as a parent you should take this seriously. To them it’s overwhelming and your job is to comfort them, not punish.

Mom and baby bonding

Working with AP style is also a transition that is not easy and can cause strain on mom and dad. The biggest concepts with this include striving to maintain a balance of work and life. The dredged work-life balance that everyone talks about and many never seem to achieve. As much as you can, try to put your family first. Even if this is a struggle, continue to take the time you spend with your child and make it loving time, giving them your full attention. It’s suggested to try and adjust work schedules or arrangements to allow baby to be cared for by parents at all times. In real life, this isn’t always an option.

  • Find a caregiver that will provide attachment style care. 
  • Make a gradual transition so that baby has a chance to adjust to another caregiver.
  • Take plenty of time to bond with baby or your older child when you are reunited after a long day. Cuddles and attentive play time are great options.
  • Try to limit the amount of time you are apart as much as possible.

Much dreaded sleep topic. Infant sleep and the overall concept of sleep is such a taboo topic, as it seems everyone has their own opinions of what’s right and best. In attachment style parenting, babies co-sleep (in close proximity to their caregiver). This does not mean bed-sharing, though that is up to the parent. This can mean a ‘side-car’ on the bed, crib in the bedroom, or a bassinet or bed sleeper such as baby nests.

Why co-sleep?

  • Reduced risk of SIDS
  • Continues the attentiveness to baby’s needs throughout the night
  • Reduces the ‘cry it out – CIO’ need, which recently some research is showing that it is linked to increased stress hormone cortisol levels. 

Why wouldn’t you want to sleep train and allow your child to self soothe? As state above, there is research that links crying it out and self-soothing to increased levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. At this young age, babies brains are not developed enough to calm or soothe themselves to sleep, and it typically isn’t developed enough until the child is 2.5-3 years old. The dependence on mom and dad to calm down and learning to regulate their emotions and feelings is normal until this ate. 

sleeping swaddled newborn

Feeding on demand is another major factor of attachment parenting. Nursing is the optimal feeding for an infant as it not only provides custom nutrition, but also the bonding piece. Nursing can calm a worked up baby, as well as allow for comfort sucking. If you cannot or choose to not breastfeed, there are things you can do to mimic the breastfeeding positions and behaviors to get some of the closeness benefits that nursing mothers get. This includes holding baby close to the breast and positioning the bottle close as well. Switch sides similarly to how a mother switches the side they start on. Continue to feed on demand, avoid schedules but look for cues. You can also use the pacifier similarly to how comfort sucking is done, by holding baby while allowing them to comfort suckle.

If you have an older child and you are still breastfeeding but either need to wean or are pregnant and not sure how to proceed, check out this information from Attachment Parenting International.

Related Posts

All About Baby Led Weaning
Weaning A Breastfed Baby
Breastfeeding 101: 10 Reasons to Breastfeed

This post is not all inclusive information about attachment style parenting, but does contain information Psychology Today as well as a variety of information from API. As with anything regarding your children, make the decision that is best for you and your family. 

I’d love to hear any of your questions/comments/or concerns in the comments below. Thanks for reading