what the hell is attachment parenting anyway?

May 25, 2010

since jude's arrival i found myself fitting into a select community out here on the internet:  attachment parenting.  it wasn't the plan, we've just fallen into it and it feels right.  but several people have asked me, what the hell is 'attachment parenting'?  what is 'natural' parenting?  what the hell are you talking about?

i can't define it for everyone but i can tell you what it means for us.

attachment parenting means being an active birth participant.  for us, this meant pursuing a medication and intervention-free labor and delivery.  but what it really meant to me was being involved in my pregnancy and birth- learning, reading, caring.  not just being a passive patient of my physician, questioning the choices for my child.  it's what brought us here in the first place.

4234984674_ecf16b6624_oattachment parenting is breastfeeding.  and i'm not saying this to knock people who didn't or couldn't breastfeed, i'm just being honest.  there are people who parent "attachment" or "naturally" without nursing but- they go hand in hand.  the peanut butter to the jelly, the coffee to the donuts.  it's eco-friendly, is economical, it's comforting for mom and baby.  it is nursing on demand, getting skin to skin contact, and...

attachment parenting is cosleeping.  again, not something everyone has to do, but it is a partner to the nursing relationship.  i've heard people say over and over again that cosleeping makes breastfeeding possible.  safe cosleeping and family bedsharing are an integral part of the natural parenting pantheon.  but can i tell you a secret?  we aren't cosleeping right now.  jude is happy as a clam sleeping in his bed in his room because...

sleepersattachment parenting is following your instincts and breaking the rules.  there isn't going to be a set way that works for every family or every child.  go with the flow and have faith in your choices, unpopular (or popular) as they may be.  i adored cosleeping and i'm embarrassed to tell my lovely natural parenting friends that we aren't- but it's really really working for us right now, so i'm going with the flow.

attachment parenting is babywearing.  i choose to wear my child rather than push him in a stroller, or when he was smaller, carry him in a car seat.  i want to be close to him, in physical contact.  he can see me, we can interact, and he feels comforted while still exploring the outside world.  car seats are for cars. ARMS are for loving babies.

attachment parenting is baby-led eating and extended nursing.  the WHO recommends at least two years of breastfeeding and i plan to nurse until jude and i... decide we're done.  breastfeeding continues to be valuable nutrition, comfort, and a parenting tool long after the first year.  along the same lines we are in no rush to introduce foods.  if he is curious he can try whatever he wants!  but there are no purees and there is no pressure.

babywearingattachment parenting is providing consistent and responsive care.  to me, this means building up jude's trust.  his needs are met and responded to.  he knows that if there is an issue someone will assist him and not ignore him.  we choose not to let jude "cry it out" (different to me than "fussing it out" because he is very much a five-minute-fusser before bed) and during the day we try to respond to his emotions with patience and understanding, even when he is being CRAZY BABY.  patience.

attachment parenting is positive discipline.  rather than reacting to a bad behavior, discover the needs leading to the behavior.  we haven't gotten in to too much discipline yet, but our goal is to do it in a way that preserves everyone's dignity and trust.  staying calm, staying rational, taking ten minutes to deal with my emotions and helping the jude learn how to express his.

when i hear the words "attachment parent" these are the things that float through my head.  how does "natural parenting" fit into this? i use them pretty much interchangeably. the only difference (to me) is an added focus on environmental issues like cloth diapering, healthy/organic foods, buying homemade/homegrown, chemical additive awareness, etc.  they really seem like shoots off the same branch.

attachment parenting is trendy trenderson right now which has given it kind of a bad name.  the truth is people have been parenting with these same techniques for decades.  holding your baby, paying attention to it and feeding it?  not exactly groundbreaking.  generations of parents have been doing this before us without putting some fancy-fance name on it.  i don't think we're doing something new or revolutionary, but it is something different than what is currently in fashion in the mainstream.  not new, just... good.

{You know, in retrospect this is really one of my least favorite posts I've ever written. Months later I was so over being lumped in with a particular parenting "group," even though I still believe all these things. Judgmental much? Probably so. Maybe I'm getting smarter.}



EXCELLENT post. I was very much into attachment parenting when Aidan was a babe. One of my favorite paragraphs in here is the babywearing one. Love it!


I have a lot to learn from you ladies. :)

Mama Ash

Great post!

wrestling kitties

As we do not have a kid I am unfamiliar with all the parenting styles out there, but I always say you have to find what fits you, your child and your lifestyle. And like you said, not everything can be so black and white when it comes to this stuff, there as to be some grey area based on what feels right.

I do agree that it seems like in today's society there is a lack of true involvement and being fully aware of how you are parenting. so KUDUS to you for taking an active and sincere interest and finding what is the best for little Jude and not just taking how you raise your child so light hearted like it seems many people do when they have a child.


I'm going to be the ugly duck here - and not because I disagree with everything you do - but I'm so confused as to why we have to label all this?

I respect the choices you make as a parent. I enjoy reading your blog and truth-be-told I have learned things from you. No, I don't agree with every choice you have made, but I respect them.

Putting labels on the way people choose to parent just seems judgmental to me. I mean, I in no way fit into any one category, so what does that make me?

I kinda feel that sometimes we read so much, we try to learn so much about things (like becoming a parent) that we end up giving up the natural instincts that we might have. Honestly, I have not read one single book about discipline or sleep (the only one was breastfeeding)...and right now, I'm just doing what seems right - regardless of what label someone has given it, or which scientist proved that it was the right way.

Just because we don't subscribe to a certain parenting "way" doesn't mean that we are not aware of what were are doing, it doesn't mean that I'm not fully committed to raising Joss to be the best person she can be. It means that me and Ryan are doing what comes natural to us, what seems right for Joss and us.

Like using a car seat to carry my baby into the house or a doctor's appointment? That it no way means I'm not loving her. (I am very offended by that part). I love her with my whole entire being - not just my arms. Just because I choose to use tools to help in my day-to-day routine doesn't mean she is loved any less. And it certainly doesn't mean that she doesn't feel loved.

Don't get me wrong - I don't know you personally, but my judgment of you is that you are a GREAT mom and a GREAT person. I just don't like that you think you need to put yourself into a category. Especially when you choose to do something that differs from the ideals of that category makes you embarrassed - that doesn't seem right. (the cessation of co-sleeping).

That's all.

Happy Parenting to everyone. However you choose to do it.

the grumbles

the benefit (for me) for finding my "label" was finding other people who shared similar parenting views. i had no idea what "attachment parenting" was and it didn't matter what it was called- but it did help me find a community of people who i could discuss/learn from. so yeah, i understand that labeling is stupid but at the same time it... isn't. it's natural to gravitate towards people who think similarly. those kinds of labels help us do that.

i don't think at all that you need a group or a "way" to belong to. i just accidentally found one that i mostly agree with. definitely not all the time, there are some issues that i pretty firmly disagree with. and as i mentioned in the last paragraph, this all these fancy names for parenting trends are bullshit. all of this has been done before ages and ages ago. it's just... parenting. the names are for convenience, so i don't have to sit around and tell people the same things over and over.

i've spoken numerous times about parenting with your heart and feelings and instincts and mentioned it again above. and it has nothing to do with labels. i think maybe i misrepresented my point, because i don't read books or anything like that. i just follow my instincts, exactly like you're talking about, and i try to encourage others to do the same, and my instincts just happen to align with some friendly faces i've found associated with a name.

Sarah i definitely wasn't trying to offend you with the car seat bit, that's just what WE chose to do. i don't CARE what you do. i know you are a caring mom and so you should make the choices that feel best to you, just like i do. i stated in the beginning that this was what it means to ME. i'm not out to judge anyone else, whatever their choices.

in stating specifically what I want to do with MY baby i was not trying to attack you in any way.

i go out of my way to tip toe happy dance around things here so we can all feel fuzzy wuzzy about each other and support decisions different from our own. apparently i failed with this one. it wasn't my intention. but this is, you know, an opinion column so... ?


I completely understand what you are saying, and I TOTALLY respect that this is an opinion.

What got me the most was when you said, "car seats are for cars, people"...that IS an attack on those of us who choose to do things differently than you. And that kinda set off my mood. It really kind of accuses us of doing something wrong, of using something for purposes it wasn't intended for. If those car seat/carriers weren't intended for or safe to carry a baby in, outside of the car, they wouldn't have handles.

(and please don't stop. Like I said, I enjoy you, this blog, your opinions. I just kinda felt like this one was kind of an attack. hey, I like debate too!)

the grumbles

good point– i think we agree about that. i didn't phrase it well. it was more me trying to be flippant/cutesy than supposed to be me judging others. writing fail!

i'm glad you came back to discuss, it makes me feel better that we can have open lines of communication about this stuff.


Since the baby wearing comment was one of my favorites, I'll toss in my two cents. Not to stir the pot, but to say that I absolutely carried my baby in both a car seat and on my person. And there is NO DOUBT in my mind he was a happier, more content babe when he was snuggled up next to my skin, my smell and the sound of his mama's heart beating.

Did I love my boy any less when I carried him from Point A to Point B in a safe car seat? Nope. Was he happier when I carried him on me? Absolutely.


I agree. With the natural parenting definition and how it just encompasses a few more things too. I definitely see myself in the natural parenting category but otherwise use them almost interchangeably myself.

emily bilbrey

lovely to attachment parenting broken down in simple terms like this! i think i've confused my fair share of people in telling them i'm an attachment parent. i often get a raised eyebrow and a slow nod... i think your descriptions here are thoughtful and very well-stated. now that my daughter is a little older, and she has led me to change some practices from when she was an infant (for example, she only tolerates being worn a small percent of the time now that she can walk) i tend to think of my mothering style as "unconditional parenting" - i follow her lead, and always try to be ready to meet her needs as they change. i love your statement about flexibility & following your instincts! i think that's a very valuable idea to keep up as a parent...

fantastic post. again, so excited to have found you! (;


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