Parenting styles are usually pretty polarizing topics. No one wants to think they are parenting incorrectly or the "wrong way," but there are so many ways to parent (because people, circumstances, and children are different) that there simply isn't a "right way." It really and truly doesn't exist. Attachment parenting, for example, draws a lot of fire and criticism, so it should come as no surprise that there are plenty of things you don't have to do when attachment parenting, even though everyone says you do.
When I was pregnant with my now 4-year-old, I had my nose buried in parenting and pregnancy books. To my surprise, they all freaked me out. I was not satisfied with the answers I was finding or what my extensive reading and research was suggesting. Nothing seemed right to me or sounded like it would fit my life or my family's life, until I read about attachment parenting. I had never heard of this specific method before, but by the time I finished that book I knew my specific questions were answered and the source of my anxiety had disappeared. The recommendations and practices advocated via attachment parenting just made sense to me and resonated with me. From that moment I was an avowed attachment parent and while it hasn't always been easy, it's always been right for my family.
Attachment parenting can seem overwhelming or scary or hard from the outside, but like everything else, you take what works for your unique situation and leave the rest. So, if you're responding to your baby's cues and needs with love and empathy, you're an attachment parent. While that might mean certain things to certain people — and it might open you up to some criticism because hello judgment — you can make attachment parenting work for you and your unique family by doing what you need to do, and choosing not to do the following:
Be A Permissive Parent
It is a common misconception that attachment parenting (AP) automatically means permissive parenting, and that AP families let their children rule the roost with no discipline.
Being responsive to your children is not the same thing as being permissive. AP families treat their children with respect and set boundaries with respect. No punishment is not the same as no discipline. No spanking does not equate no discipline.
Put Your Own Needs Last
Just because you respond to your child's needs, doesn't mean you put your own needs last. There is a widely-accepted image of the AP mom as a long-suffering martyr, haggard and neglected. Let me be the first to tell you, that's just not the case (at least, most of the time).
Mothers practicing any type of parenting must care for themselves or they won't be able to care for their baby. Thankfully, attachment parenting advocates self-care as an essential part of parenting.
Be In A Constant State Of Exhaustion And Misery
Just like the standard image of an attachment parent mom is that of a "martyr," most assume AP mothers are exhausted and miserable and run themselves ragged while consistently meeting the needs of their children.
I'm not going to lie, this isn't entirely untrue, but it's true for everyone who parents an infant, not just AP parents. Babies are hard, regardless of how you parent, so you don't have to forgo self-care or some much-needed, much-deserved breaks in order to live up to some standard of attachment parenting. Every parent is exhausted. Trust me.
Breastfeed For A Certain Amount Of Time (Or At All)
Breastfeeding is not a requirement if you're attachment parenting. It's recommended, sure, but it's not an all or none thing.
If you don't breastfeed, you're not automatically out of the club (or you shouldn't be, so make sure you pick a moms' group that believes the same). You can exclusively breastfeed, exclusively pump, supplement with formula, or exclusively formula feed. As long as you feed your baby with love, it's fine.
Be A Helicopter Parent
Attachment parenting is not about hovering. Instead, it's about trusting your children to let you know when they need you and responding with kindness and empathy. You react appropriately to your child's cues. If baby cries, you figure out why and meet the need he or she is voicing.
Be All In Or Nothing At All
It's easy to make a big deal out of the seven "Bs" of attachment parenting: birth bonding, respond to baby's cries, babywearing, breastfeeding, bedding near baby, balance and boundaries, and beware baby trainers. However, while the aforementioned are precepts of attachment parenting, they're not carved in stone.
Like any other aspect of parenting, it's best to just take what you want and apply what works for your family, and leave the rest. Unable to have skin-to-skin right after birth? That's OK, you can still practice attachment parenting. Unable to breastfeed? You can still practice AP. Can't babywear? Again, you can still practice AP.
Attachment parenting does not mean that you automatically use cloth diapers, are anti-vaxxing, and brew your on kombucha. While many parents who identify as AP also cloth diaper or take an anti-vaccine stance, these things are outside the realm of AP. One does not mean you must do the other.
I vaccinate my children and use disposable diapers. Do I still consider myself to be an AP mother? Absolutely.
Get It Right Every Time
Parenting, regardless of how you choose to do it, will always be hit or miss. We learn as we go along and we all make mistakes and we all grow in our parenting style and philosophy. In other words, parenting is fluid, not rigid.
Don't beat yourself up if you slip. Don't stop trying. Just learn what works best for your unique situation and go from there.
Be A Stay-At-Home Mom
Attachment parenting is not just for stay-at-home moms (or dads). You can work outside the home and still follow the tenets of AP. There are childcare facilities that will respect your parenting style and, to the best of their ability, provide the same kind of care that you do at home.
Neglect Your Partner
No really, it's true.
You do not have to sacrifice your relationship to be an attachment parent. In fact, part of attachment parenting is meeting your own needs and nurturing your romantic relationship (or relationships).