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Attachment Parenting: Instinctive Care for Your Baby and Young Child

Attachment Parenting: Instinctive Care for Your Baby and Young Child

5.0 4
by Katie Allison Granju, Betsy Kennedy, Katie A. Granju

Grow a secure attachment with your children by listening to your heart
Popularized by bestselling pediatrician Dr. William Sears, "attachment parenting" encourages mothers and fathers to fully accept their babies' dependency needs. According to the growing numbers of attachment parenting advocates, consistent parental responsiveness to these needs leads


Grow a secure attachment with your children by listening to your heart
Popularized by bestselling pediatrician Dr. William Sears, "attachment parenting" encourages mothers and fathers to fully accept their babies' dependency needs. According to the growing numbers of attachment parenting advocates, consistent parental responsiveness to these needs leads to happy and emotionally well-balanced children.
This practical, comprehensive, and first-ever guide to today's most talked-about nurturing style, Attachment Parenting shows how some conventional childrearing advice can be detrimental, and urges you to trust your instincts on such important matters as:

  • Responding attentively to your baby's cries
  • Minimizing parent-child separation
  • Avoiding "sleep training" for infants
  • Breastfeeding according to your baby's cues instead of a schedule
  • "Wearing" your baby in a cloth carrier rather than relying on "baby gadgets" such as plastic carriers and carriages.

In addition to expert advice from pediatricians, lactation consultants, and anthropologists — as well as words of wisdom from hundreds of real parents — Attachment Parenting includes an exhaustive list of print, Internet, and support-group resources. It's an indispensable, hands-on reference that allows you to confidently and joyfully develop a secure and loving bond with your young children.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Drawing on the literature of Dr. William Sears, who provides the book's introduction, Granju (with the help of Kennedy, R.N., M.S.N.) offers a mother's insight into the concept of attachment parenting. Rather than the typical child care approach that provides a list of generic "do's and don'ts" during certain phases in a baby's development, the attachment theory posits that parents know their child better than so-called experts. Granju examines breast feeding, baby wearing, and the family bed as natural concepts conducive to raising healthy children. She relates numerous experiences of mothers pulled from Internet listservs. Patrons may be well served by using these addresses to engage in their own Internet discourse, but, unfortunately, these rather flat anecdotes, along with extensive lists of attachment parenting resources, comprise the bulk of the book. Attachment Parenting adds nothing that Sears hasn't already covered in more detail in his many respected and groundbreaking works. Purchase for public libraries where demand warrants.--Lisa Powell Williams, Moline Southeast Lib., IL Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

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Atria Books
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One: What Is Attachment Parenting?

"From all we know, every primate baby is designed to be physically attached to someone who will feed, protect and care for it, and teach it about being human -- they have been adapted over millions of years to expect nothing less."
-- Anthropologist Meredith F. Small, From Our Babies, Ourselves

New parenthood can be pretty overwhelming. Eager to provide the best possible care for the little person you have created, you may find yourself calling your pediatrician's office frequently with questions about how best to interact with your baby. Maybe you have turned to one of the scores of childcare experts whose works crowd the bookshelves, magazine racks, and airwaves in search of information regarding your many parenting concerns. Perhaps you have picked up this book looking for further instructions and step-by-step advice on "what to expect" or how to become "babywise."

If so, you will be disappointed. Why? Because the parenting book you now hold in your hands is fundamentally different from the others you may have seen. It isn't going to tell you exactly how often you should nurse your baby, or how many hours he should sleep each night because we don't know you, your child, or your family. Our philosophy is that you yourself -- in partnership with your child -- are the real "parenting experts" when it comes to your own family, even if you don't realize it yet. What, then, does this book offer in place of the usual laundry list of parenting "do's and "don'ts"? We are going to introduce you to a wonderfully adaptable parenting style that really works for today's famint parenting!

Why Is It Called Attachment Parenting?

"There is no such thing as a baby; there is a baby and someone."
-- British psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott

This parenting style is called attachment parenting in recognition of both the beauty and the critical importance of a secure attachment between parent and young child. Many of the ideas and practices to which you will be introduced in this book -- such as long-term breastfeeding and sleeping with your baby -- easily and naturally assist in the development of this crucial love-bond. Numerous studies -- as well as common sense and personal experience -- tell us that the early relationships that babies and young children form with their parents play a pivotal role in the development of the adults they will later become. The attachment parenting style produces securely attached children, not to mention confidently responsive parents. When mothers and fathers stay physically close to their babies and learn to intuit their unique cues, babies are assured that they are being heard and understood. As a result, they are encouraged to continue trying to communicate with their parents. This delicate give and take teaches your child that she can trust you, and it empowers you in the knowledge that you truly understand her needs. Attachment parenting is a gift you give to your child that will serve her well in all her subsequent relationships.

What's in the Attachment Parenting Toolkit?

Although the precise way in which these concepts work will vary from family to family, the following practices are the core nurturing tools for attachment parents. We will be exploring them in great depth as you make your way through the book, but here is a brief introduction to the "basics" of attachment parenting:

1. Bond with your baby in the early days.
The first hours and days that parents and baby spend together constitute a unique "sensitive period" during which both are exceptionally open to falling in love with one another. A gentle birth, followed by close, relaxed physical contact with your new baby provides the best context in which to get attachment parenting off to a great start. With supportive caregiving for the new mother, you have the ideal setting for a group of individuals to begin the process of becoming a family.

2. Breastfeed your baby.
Breastfeeding is a centerpiece of the attachment parenting style. For starters, it's one of the most important things you can do as a parent to safeguard your child's health. But breastfeeding is about much more than nutrition. In fact, the nursing relationship is like no other in the human experience. For both baby and mother, breastfeeding enhances their interaction with and enjoyment of one another. Attachment parenting encourages "cue-feeding" (sometimes called "breastfeeding on demand"), as opposed to parent-directed scheduled feeding. With cue-feeding, parents trust babies themselves to know when and how much they need to nurse. In addition, many attachment parents breastfeed far past the first year and respect their nursling's own unique timetable for weaning. Throughout the following chapters, you will be introduced to the very best in resources for nursing families -- at the bookstore, on the Internet, and in your own community -- all from the attachment parenting perspective.

3. Practice responsive c aregiving.
Parents who are in close physical contact with their babies and young children and who remain open to their cues find that they are better able to figure out the "how" of parenting. On the other hand, parents who have been convinced that they should let their babies "cry it out" or only nurse for nourishment (as opposed to comfort) can often feel out of sync with their young children. When you allow yourself to get to know your own baby's special cues and routines you will feel more connected and comfortable with him. While it's true that this process of getting in tune with your child comes more easily for some parents than for others, consistently responsive caregiving eases the way for every parent-child pair.

4. Sleep with or very near your baby or young child.
Although "family bedding" is the cultural norm over much of the planet, it has misguidedly become something of a taboo in modern, western parenthood. However, parents who sleep with their babies and young children nestled nearby enjoy both restful nights and enhanced family closeness. Additionally, properly prepared family bedding is safer for babies than being left alone in a crib down the hall.

5. Carry, hold, or "wear" your baby.
In many cultures all over the world, parents believe that it is beneficial to keep their little ones safe and healthy by carrying them close to their own body in some type of soft, cloth carrier. Of course, many other mammals also carry their "velcro babies" close to the warmth of their bodies until their offspring are ready to venture forth on their own. Attachment parents utilize one or more of the various types of modern baby carriers -- as a cloth sling frontpack o r backpack -- in order to "wear" their children. This allows busy parents more freedom to get things done while still offering their little ones the physical closeness that they need. Research has confirmed that carried babies cry less and are more content than others.

6. Respect your child as an individual right from the start.
Although many parents today push their babies and very young children to become "independent" as quickly as possible, attachment parents respect each child's own special timetable for growing out of their early (and healthy) dependency needs. Children who are allowed to enter each new developmental stage as they become ready, as opposed to when parents deem it "time" to wean, sleep through the night, or stay alone without parents, are ultimately more self-confident and independent as older children and adults. You can't force a flower to bloom before it's ready. Trying to do so will only damage the petals.

"Every stage in a child's life is there for a purpose. If we can respect and respond to her needs fully during each stage of her life, she can be done with that stage and move on."
-- Naomi Aldort, Family counselor and writer

Attachment Parenting: The Rest of the Story

"...you may be thinking that attachment parenting is all giving, giving, giving. Well, to a certain extent, that is true. Mothers are givers and babies are takers -- that is a realistic expectation of a mother-baby relationship. The baby's ability to give back will come later. Better takers usually become better givers."
-- Dr. William Sears

Now that you have an understanding of the basics of attachment parenting, you may be left with some questions about how this parenting style actually works with real parents just like you. Here are some points to remember:

1. Attachment parenting is flexible.
The basic philosophy and practices of this style of parenting can mesh with a wide variety of family configurations and lifestyles. Married, single, adoptive, foster, working, and at-home parents all find attachment parenting to be a wonderful way to nurture their children and grow as parents. Attachment parenting is also adaptable to your child's unique temperament. Mothers and fathers of fussy, high-need children usually discover it to be an especially good fit.

2. Attachment parenting is about mothering...and fathering.
Although attachment parenting does emphasize the seminal role that mothers have in breastfeeding their babies, this doesn't leave fathers out. A willing, involved father or other partner has many important roles in attachment parenting a baby. So, as you read this book, assume that, with the exception of actually putting baby to breast, the attachment parenting concepts and practices that we describe will work well for both men and women.

3. Attachment parenting doesn't turn mothers and fathers into "martyrs."
Initially, the parenting style we advocate may sound tiring or overwhelming. The idea of spending so much time simply being with our children -- in our arms, at our breasts and in our beds -- may seem daunting. This is because most of us come to parenthood steeped in the sterile, detached, put-the-baby-down-with-a-propped-bottle parenting culture with which we were raised. But babies and young children thrive better -- and develop into healthier adults -- with the attachment parenting style. A great deal of the much-discussed burden of guilt that modern parents seem to carry around comes from the fact that deep down, perhaps unconsciously, we know this. We sense that -- no matter what some parenting expert has told us -- we should hold our babies more, should be there for them during the night, and should nurse them when they simply need our loving touch. This internal struggle between what we intuitively know our young children need and how we have been told we should behave toward them really exhausts parents. On the other hand, parenting in a way that we can be sure meets our children's needs is actually very liberating. As Dr. William Sears has said, "There is great comfort in feeling connected to your baby. Attachment parenting is the best way we know to get connected."

4. Attachment parenting can be "the easy way" for busy, modern parents.
Parenting is hard work, no doubt about it. And parents should adapt their lives to their children rather than expecting a baby to fit conveniently into an already overscheduled adult life. However, in many ways, attachment parenting allows parents to more easily combine caring for a baby or young child with continuing to enjoy their "old" life. For example, by "wearing" your baby in a sling, you can simply take him along when you go shopping, to a restaurant or even to work. By sleeping with your baby, you avoid much of the legendary sleeplessness of new parenthood, thus allowing you to be more alert and productive during the day. Breastfeeding offers you the spontaneity to get out of the house quickly, easily and without the advance planning o f packing (and then lugging around) bottles, sterile water, formula, pacifiers, etc. You will discover many other ways in which attachment parenting can make your life easier as you read through the chapters ahead.

5. Attachment parenting is family-centered, not child-centered.
Perhaps you worry that caring for your child in this way will place your child "in control." This isn't the case. Although most parents naturally find that their beloved children are indeed the center of their world in many ways, attachment parenting takes everyone in the family's needs into consideration. Other parenting styles emphasize parents' needs over baby's or occasionally, vice-versa. With attachment parenting, parents and children find their needs in cooperation with one another, thus creating a family-centered lifestyle. A key benefit of this responsive style of caregiving is that both parents and their children feel that they are getting their "cup filled," as some parents say. Children feel whole and secure, while parents feel more relaxed and confident. When the inevitable stresses and strains of daily family life come calling, everyone is better equipped to deal with them...together.

6. Attachment parenting assists with your gentle guidance (aka: discipline) of your child.
Meeting your child's needs through attachment parenting doesn't "spoil" her; it allows your child's natural independence, self-control, and ability to delay gratification to develop. When babies and young children feel secure and nurtured, they have less cause to engage in behaviors that many parents find annoying, such as whining, crying, and clinging. When you feel bonded with your baby and you have learned to read her cues, you are better able to respond to what she is trying to tell you through her various behaviors.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember about attachment parenting is that it is much more than the sum of its parts. It isn't just a simple list of parenting tools. Some women who breastfeed do not practice attachment parenting, while many parents who have never used a baby sling do. Attachment parenting is a way of thinking about your child and your relationship with her. It is a belief that your child is to be trusted, and that she knows what she needs at each developmental stage. It is a willingness to be truly present for your child, both physically and emotionally. It is a respect for the value of your role as parent and for the sensitive bond that the two of you share. Experienced attachment parents who have seen their children through early childhood and beyond describe this gentle nurturing style as a completely fulfilling way of life.

The Very Best Attachment Parenting Resources

Books (In addition to this one, of course!)

Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent. Small, Meredith F. New York: Doubleday, 1998.

Bonding: Building the Foundations of Secure Attachment and Independence. Klaus, Marshall, H., Phyllis H. Klaus, and John H. Kennell. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1995.

The Discipline Book: Everything You Need to Know to Have a Better-Behaved Child -- From Birth to Age Ten. Sears, William M., and Martha Sears. New York: Little, Brown & Co., 1995.

The Vital Touch: How Intimate Contact with Your Baby Leads to Happier, Healthier Development. Heller, Sharon. Ne w York: Henry Holt and Co., Inc., 1997.

Giving the Love That Heals: A Guide for Parents. Hendrix, Harville, and Helen Hunt. New York: Pocket Books, 1997.

Untouched: The Need for Genuine Affection in an Impersonal World. Caplan, Mariana. Prescott, AZ: Hohm Pr., 1998.

The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby -- From Birth to Age Two. Sears, William M., and Martha Sears. New York: Little, Brown & Co., 1993.

Children First: What Our Society Must Do -- And Is Not Doing -- For Our Children Today. Leach, Penelope. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc, 1995.

Growing Together: A Parent's Guide to Baby's First Year. Sears, William. Schaumburg, IL: La Leche League, Intl., 1997.

The Continuum Concept. Liedloff, Jean. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1985.

The Complete Book of Christian Parenting & Child Care: A Medical & Moral Guide to Raising Children. Sears, William M., and Martha Sears. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1997.

Twenty-Five Things Every New Mother Should Know. Sears, Martha, and William Sears. Edited by Linda Ziedrich. Boston: Harvard Common Press, 1995.

A Secure Base. Bowlby, John. New York: Basic Books, 1990.

A Ride on Mother's Back: A Day of Baby-Carrying Around the World. Bernhard, Emery. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Children's Books, 1996.


Mothering Magazine
Mothering Magazine
P.O. Box 1690
Santa Fe, NM 87504
Phone: (505) 984D8116
Subscriptions: (800) 984D8116
Mothering is the best and best known magazine for families who are interested in attachment parenting concepts. Describing itself as "the natural family living magazine," Mothering tackles parenting topics -- from breastfeeding your toddler to cloth diapering to family bedding -- in a thoughtful, thought provoking way.

Breast & Belly
P.O. Box 395
Dover, NH 03821
Breast & Belly is a magazine of birth stories, gentle parenting, and breastfeeding advocacy.

Hip Mama
P.O. Box 9097
Oakland, CA 94613
Phone: (510) 597D1610
Hip Mama is the most provocative parenting magazine in existence. Unlike many other parenting periodicals, Hip Mama doesn't leave out nontraditional and low income reader families.

Compleat Mother
P.O. Box 2009
Minot, North Dakota 58702
Compleat Mother provides readers with support and information for the attachment style of parenting. Its views tend toward the radical.

New Beginnings
La Leche League International
1400 N. Meacham Rd.
P.O. Box 4079
Schaumburg, IL 60168D4079
New Beginnings is the official magazine from La Leche League International, the world's foremost breastfeeding support volunteer organization. In the magazine you will find articles relating to every aspect of La Leche League's philosophy of "mothering through breastfeeding."

The Mother Is Me
64 Voorhis Road
Lincoln Park, NJ 07035
E-mail: Colleen@kjsl.com
The Mother Is Me is an innovative feminist quarterly chronicling both the extraordinary and the everyday experience of mothering.


La Leche League Internationa l
1400 N. Meacham Rd.
P.O. Box 4079
Schaumburg, IL 60168D4079
La Leche League provides mother-to-mother support for breastfeeding families (see the expanded discussion of La Leche League on page 141).

I Am Your Child Foundation
P.O. Box 15605
Beverly Hills, CA 90209
This exciting organization has a goal of making sure that all parents are aware how critical the first three years of their children's lives are. They have a strong emphasis on encouraging responsive parenting.

Northwest Attachment Parenting (NAP)
P.O. Box 2433
Port Orchard, WA 98366
E-mail: info@northwest-ap.org
NAP is a grassroots, nonprofit organization offering a growing number of attachment parenting support groups around the country, a newsletter, and attachment oriented mentoring and parenting classes for young parents.

Attachment Parenting International (API)
1508 Clairmont Place
Nashville, Tennessee 37215
Phone or Fax: (615) 298D4334
E-mail: ATTParents@aol.com
With the slogan "peaceful parenting for a peaceful world," API works to educate the public about the importance of parent-child attachment. API offers local attachment parenting support groups, an educational web site, a speaker's bureau, and more.

Apple Tree Family Ministries
P.O. Box 2083
Artesia, CA 90702-2083
Phone or Fax: (888) 925D0149
E-mail: ATFM@aol.com
Apple Tree Family Ministries provides family life education from a Christian Biblical perspective. They offer books and study materials, training and certification for Christian childbirth educators, and one-on-one support on issues ranging from marriage to childbirth and early parenting. Their approach incorporates attachment parenting principles. Dr. William and Martha Sears are members of their board and recommend their materials.

The Liedloff Continuum Network
P.O. Box 1634
Sausalito, CA 94966
E-mail: editor@continuumDconcept.org
Jean Liedloff, an American writer, spent several years living among a group of South American Indians, an experience which led her to write her book, The Continuum Concept. After observing the way in which this traditional culture raised their children, she became an advocate of attachment style parenting. Through her organization you can learn more about her views and connect with other "continuum" parents from around the world.

Internet E-Mail Lists

The ParentDl List is a forum for discussing issues related to parenting the nursing baby or child. The topics for discussion vary widely, and include subjects related to life with a nursing toddler or baby, nursing during pregnancy, tandem nursing, societal attitudes towards breastfeeding, weaning, and any other related topics. To subscribe to parentDl, send the following command in the body of an e-mail message to: parentDlDrequest "subscribe parentDl" (no quotes).

The Attachment Parenting List
This list provides a gentle introduction to the attachment parenting style. You will find many expectant, new, and experienced parents here who can answer your questions and share your daily parenting joys and challenges. To subscribe, go to: http://www.onelist.com/subscribe.cgi/At tachment-Parenting

APW is for parents who combine a career with attachment parenting. If you are interested in issues such as working and breastfeeding or finding attachment parentingDfriendly caregivers, this list is the right place for you! To subscribe, go to the APW web page at: http://www2.cybernex.net/~gene/ap-works.html

This is a list for feminist attachment parents. You can subscribe by sending mail to: listproc @listproc.bgsv.edu containing the line "subscribe Fem-APMas YOUR FULL NAME" (no quotes)

The SAH-AP mailing list is a support and learning forum for moms or dads who make attachment style parenting a way of life. Many are stay-at-home parents. To subscribe send the command "subscribe" (no quotes) to: sah-ap-request@kjsl.com

For parents interested in natural pregnancy and birth and attachment parenting. To subscribe, send an email to: pgap-request@kjsl.com and in the body of the message, put "SUBSCRIBE" (no quotes)

A support group for attachment parenting working mothers contemplating a move to stay-at-home mothering. To subscribe send the command "subscribe woh2sah-ap" (no quotes) to: majordomo@nursingbaby.com

A list for attachment parents (of children past babyhood) who wish to continue to raise their kids in a respectful, gentle way. Send the command "subscribe res-par firstname lastname" (no quotes) to: listproc@listproc.bgsu.edu

Alternative Parenting Styles is for anyone who does not fit in with "mainstream" parents. Can be anything from unschooling, to vegetarian kids, attachment parenting, living off th e land, etc. Send an e-mail message reading "subscribe APS" (no quotes) to majordomo@nurtured.com

A list for Christian attachment parents. You can subscribe automatically at the web page: http://www.mailing-list.net/redrhino

A discussion list for attachment parents offered by Northwest Attachment Parenting. To subscribe, send email to naplist-request@mylist.net and in the body of the message, put "subscribe" (no quotes)


There are literally hundreds of attachment parenting oriented Web sites on the Internet today and the number grows each month. Here are a few of the best to get you started:

The Nurturing Parent

The Attachment Parent

Wears the Baby

The Breastfeeding and Parenting Resources Page

Laura's Parenting Page

The Nursing Baby

Kelly's Attachment Parenting Page http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Prairie/3490/parenting.html

The No-Spanking Page

The Natural Child Project

The Attachment Parenting WebRing Homepage http://www.members.tripod.com/~JudyArnall/ring.html

The Willendorf Pages

The Kidz Are People Too Page



The Nature of Nurturing

Attachment Parenting at Suite 101

The Natural Parenting WebRing Homepage

Copyright © 1999 by Katie Allison Granju and Betsy Kennedy

Meet the Author

Katie Allison Granju is a writer whose work has appeared in The Chicago Tribune, Disney's Family.Com, Microsoft's Underwire, and Salon's very popular "Mothers Who Think" column. She is the mother of three attachment-parented young children.

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Attachment Parenting: Instinctive Care for Your Baby and Young Child 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ever wonder why your instinct is to run to your baby when he cries? Ever wonder why you and your baby both want to fall asleep after nursing? Ever feel guilty for bringing your baby to bed with you? Ever hear information about babies or breastfeeding that seems wrong, but you don't know why? Ever wonder why crying it out to sleep doesn't sound right to you? This book will give you everything you need to know to feel confident in following your instincts with your baby. Buy this one and also Dr. Sears The Baby Book and The No-Cry Sleep Solution and you'll have a perfect library for the first two years of your baby's life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was so impressed with Katie's book, I finished it in one night!! My husband and I are working on starting a family and I have been doing a lot of reading on parenting and different birthing methods and such, and this book jumped right out at me, and I am so glad it did!! In my heart I always knew that I wanted to keep my babies close to me, to have them in my bed, in a sling and breastfeed, but many of these natural things are shunned by today's society. Katie's book has shown me that there are others who feel the way I do and that no matter what negative feedback they receive from family and friends, they stick to it because in their hearts they know it is right. This would make a great gift to a pregnant mom, I just wish one of my friends was pregnant right now so that I could share this treasure with them!!! Enjoy!
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you love your child, read this book! It is the kind of book that puts you in touch with the true art of parenting. I read it in one afternoon while holding my little one month old in my arms. We are BOTH greatful for this book.