Is attachment parenting good for children?

“Attachment parenting” (AP) is based on the work of well-known pediatrician and author William Sears, MD. AP is well known for its insistence that the attachment between infant and mother is essential to the development of a healthy baby, both physically and emotionally. However, their key tenets are only based loosely on well-known child development research, and attachment parenting certainly has its critics.

One of the things I do like about attachment parenting (AP) is its understanding of the cultural differences that exist in families around the world, and the promotion of various ways of raising a family that can resonate more fully with various non-Western cultures. For instance, many Asians traditionally-and happily-share a family bed, or a family bedroom, as is suggested by AP. I also like the fact that AP promotes the reliance on the family’s own resources to know what is best for their children; we don’t have to rely on outside “experts” for everything.

The problem I have with AP is that its adherents often tend to be quite orthodox in their beliefs. I myself have been sternly lectured for simply using a stroller (as opposed to “baby-wearing”, another AP belief), as well as for using a bottle to feed my baby in public. Of course, this is the opposite of the intolerant demagogues who criticize breastfeeding in public-it’s their shared judgmental strictness that bothers me most.

The other concern I have is that it takes a blanket, “one-size-fits-all” approach to all children. Some babies don’t want to be held all the time. Some babies need time without physical contact to “decompress” from all that physical stimulation. Some babies don’t do well breastfeeding either, and many babies sleep better when they’re not disturbed by the direct physical contact of their parents. And your approach to raising your babies has to be dependent, at least partially, on the unique constitution of those babies. I know far too many babies who have these quirks and preferences to be comfortable giving a blanket statement about “baby-wearing”, breastfeeding, or co-sleeping.

It remains the responsibility of the family to determine what’s best for them-and for their child. I certainly don’t promote Attachment Parenting as the “be-all, end-all” guide to what’s best for your child. Only you can decide that!

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