Attachment parents, at least from my point of view, get a bad rap. We're smug and smothering and science-adverse and just generally insufferable, they say. And yet, strangely, the people who would make such claims can't even really tell you what attachment parenting even is. But I can, and will go so far as to say there are definitely things every parent can learn from an attachment parent. Just like, you know, you can learn something from pretty much anyone you are willing to sit down and actually talk with them.
OK so, yes, some attachment parents are miserable human beings. But I think attachment parenting has very little to do with that fact. Certainly you can run across someone who will confirm every one of your negative perceptions of a particular group, but one person does not represent a whole.
So, what is an attachment parent? Well, to quote Pirates of the Caribbean, attachment parenting is more "guidelines than actual rules." The term was coined about 35 years ago by Dr. William Sears, but since then has been modified, adapted, and used by a number of different experts, groups, and organizations. In other words, it depends. In general, it is a parenting philosophy that puts a premium on immediate attentiveness to a child's needs (physical and emotional) and promotes continuous physical touch in order to develop a close parent-child bond. The goal is to bring up independent and empathic children. Breastfeeding, close-sleeping, and unmedicated birth (among other things) are often included under the umbrella of attachment parenting, too. Some people find a definition of the term that resonates with them and follow every point emphatically. Other people (yours truly, for example) take more of a generalized approach.
Whether or not this kind of parenting is for you, there are things attachment parents often subscribe to that might be useful to incorporate into your own unique brand of parenting. Or, you know, maybe not. In my opinion, it never hurts to see alternatives, right?
The Number Of A Good Doula
Again, not all people who consider themselves attachment parents do all the things on the list, but lots of attachment parents start their whole parenting "journey" by giving birth with as few medical interventions as possible.
Now, from experience, birth hurts. And if I had found myself in the "not having any painkillers" camp during the process (I was not), you bet your ass I'd have needed a dedicated person to distract me from the pain, or at least have some expertise in helping me manage it. So lots of attachment-moms to be give birth with the assistance of a doula, who are basically assertive, soothing, supportive, magical birth cheerleaders. More often than not, an attachment mom can likely hook you up with one.
Breastfeeding is big among attachment moms, but that's not to say it's any easier for attachment moms than anyone else. They face all the same struggles and challenges everyone else does. So if you're having trouble, there's a decent chance attachment moms have been there, too, and have found techniques, products, or mantras that have helped them through some rough spots.
Good Babywearing Options
Attachment moms put a premium on physical closeness with their baby which, if you want to get literally anything done, means babywearing. There are lots of great options out there, from different styles to different brands, and attachment moms are fountains of wisdom on this topic. They may even be able to help you master that really long, seemingly impossible-to-wield baby wrap that you got as a shower gift but are completely confused about how to use.
Whether Co-Sleeping Is Right For You
Whether we're talking room-sharing or bed-sharing, attachment parents are super into this. They can tell you about their experiences, thoughts, and research on the topic to paint a picture that can help inform your own choice if you're on the fence about it.
How To Safely Co-Sleep
If you've decided to room share — where the baby has their own sleep surface but is in the same room as you — there's not much you need to read up on that you wouldn't have otherwise. Rules of engagement are pretty much the same as if they were in their own room. But if you've decided to give bed-sharing a whirl, there are some things you have to know to ensure that this is a safe decision for your baby. Limiting the number of pillows and blankets, for example, or making sure your baby won't either fall off the bed or get wedged between the mattress and a wall.
Ask an attachment parent who bed-shared and, more often that not, they can fill you in on all the details
How To Handle Feeling Touched Out
Regardless of whether or not you're an attachment parent, all parents are going to feel touched out at some point. There's only so much you can be needed without going a little batty, you know? Sometimes you just need to be able to swing your arms out wide and not have to worry about hitting anyone.
Attachment parents can be particularly prone this touched-out feeling, which is perhaps why "balance" is a key component to the whole attachment parenting philosophy. Yes, being uber-attentive to your baby's needs is important, but so is your wellbeing as a mother and a person. Attachment moms are mindful of this fact and many have ways to cope with the constant physical demands. And even if they're still figuring that out, at the very least they can definitely commiserate with you!
Oh, who am I kidding. In my experience, all moms learn this at some point. Attachment moms can give you some pointers on multitasking while wearing your baby, though, so there's that.
Attachment parents couldn't successfully do what they do without a support system. Seriously, they would burn out in about a week! Having friends and family to help you, an understanding with employers about work/life balance, and the ability to work successfully with involved parties are clutch.
"That sounds pretty privileged," you may say skeptically. And it is. Tremendously. At the very least it's lucky, which is just a less systemic version of privilege.
Attachment parenting often requires levels of privilege many people do not have, including maternity leave, regular work hours, time and space to pump. Many attachment parents understand that and therefore work to promote family-friendly policies and legislation for everyone.
That We're Not All Living Stereotypes
Believe it or not, attachment parents are the same kind of nuanced humans as literally all other parents. I myself enjoy a fun poke at attachment parent stereotypes, but to believe that people are these black and white caricatures is just a bit silly. Generally speaking, it only takes meeting an attachment parent to realize that.
That There Are Countless Ways To Raise A Child
Maybe talking to an attachment parent will make you interested in the method yourself. Maybe talking to an attachment parent will make you literally run away screaming. Either way, it's cool. There are so many different ways to raise a child into a happy, healthy, fully-developed human. Formula-fed, breastfed, ring sling, stroller, bed-sharing, crib — the possibilities are endless. We're all just out here doing our best, and for some women that takes the form of attachment parenting.
But however we raise our kids, there are things we can learn from one another. So, from this attachment mom to whoever you are: let's chat, I'm here for you, and I hope you're there for me, too, because goodness knows we could all use a helping hand and a sympathetic ear.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.