What is attachment parenting?
The idea behind attachment parenting methods is that they promote a greater sense of attachment between a parent and an infant. There are seven so-called Bs behind the theory which are birth bonding, breastfeeding, babywearing, bedding close by, belief in crying as language, beware of baby trainers and balance. Together, the approach is supposed to offer greater synergy between a baby and its principal caregiver. For example, adherents of the theory point out that oxytocin, a bodily hormone, is usually released when breastfeeding, which, in turn, should lead to closer bonding. Although child attachment theories have been around for decades, attachment parenting styles have only been popularised since the 1980s. The idea is not without its critics.
Where did ideas about attachment parenting originate?
As mentioned, ideas about attachment theory have been around since the middle of the twentieth century. Certain theorists, such as the developmental psychologist Aletha Solter, began to ask how good attachments could be formed in infancy. The American author, Jean Liedloff first coined the term attachment parenting in the 1970s, and it was taken up by William Sears, an American paediatrician, to describe his ideas, including the seven Bs. His 1982 publication, Creative Parenting, outlined these concepts more fully.
When does attachment parenting end?
Although there is lots of advice from Sears and other advocates of attachment parenting about what mothers should do after birth and during their baby's infancy, there is little about transitioning to less close bonding during the toddler years, for example. Nor is there much advice for dealing with more than one child when so much time and closeness is supposed to be devoted to an infant. According to some, the move away from attachment parenting simply feels intuitive as the baby matures.
Can attachment parenting be bad?
Some people believe that it can be a bad thing to conduct attachment parenting models of behaviour for too long and others go further still by challenging the scientific nature of the theory completely. Certainly, the parenting style has been described as a fad, as something that can make mothers feel unduly stressed for trying to fulfil an unattainable level of commitment and of not taking into account other demands on new parents' time. Some feminists have argued that the focus on traditional motherhood roles is incompatible with women's modern workplace commitments, and the whole theory is, therefore, retrogressive. Overall, the focus on attachment parenting in some areas has led to worries over depression and anxiety among mothers.
Where do fathers stand in attachment parenting?
Although the term attachment parenting seems to imply a role for fathers, Sears' writing does not offer much for men other than to support the primary caregiver who, in his view, is the mother. Sears has stated that infants have a preference for females in their early development but provides little evidence as to how this has been measured. Although attachment parenting can apply to men in certain aspects like co-sleeping, there is little in the theory to advise fathers on what to do about feeding.