While there are many parents who identify as practicing “Attachment Parenting,” this philosophy, known also as AP, isn’t formally a program or a defined set of rules (see my related article, “What is Attachment Parenting”). For many AP parents, their approach to parenting isn’t really something they “choose” and apply, but an identity assume after they have already been doing at least one or more AP practices. Instead, parents may find books, doctors, or other parents that describe attachment parenting and find that it that describes, validates and supports their already existing instincts and practices.
Those who consider attachment parenting to be a fringe or extreme parenting style may be surprised to find out that AP practices are more common than they might think. For example, breastfeeding, babywearing and co-sleeping are all practices that are commonly considered AP. I’d venture to say that most parents do one of more of these things, at least at one time or another. So is everyone an “attachment parent?”
Again, I stress that a parent doesn’t have to do any particular thing to “be AP.” There are those in the AP community who would consider certain activities “not AP,” such as formula feeding or cry-it-out sleep training. While these practices are uncommon among AP parents, I would caution against having any particular “litmus test.” I, like many AP parents use strollers and car seat carriers along with my mei tei carrier and sling, and my second daughter slept in a crib after about 4 months, despite my wish to co-sleep because the proximity to breast milk made her unable to sleep at all.
I once heard an AP mother in an email group make an incredibly well-written explanation of why cry-it-out was exactly what her child needed to be able to sleep. It was a decision that she fought for a long time, because she did not consider it compatible with her parenting approach. However, what AP is really about, at its core, is being attached to and aware enough of your child that you are able to fulfill his or her needs at the stage they are in. This mother understood her child well enough to realize that her child was hypersensitive to the stimulation of being around others, and this was causing the baby’s sleep difficulties – only in this way was she able to meet the needs of her exhausted child. While many AP parents might quickly judge and dismiss this explanation, I found her choice to be incredibly well thought out, heartfelt and frankly, painful – it was the very definition of attachment parenting while employing a practice often considered 100% in opposition.
I’ve heard many more parents say that they only discovered and identified attachment parenting after already doing it than those who tell me that they read about it first and decided to choose the philosophy. As such, it is important for those who want to share and promote attachment parenting to remember that AP is about meeting the needs of children, which is much more important than any sort of philosophical mock-purity.
Two great books that support or explain Attachment Parenting practices: