When you think "attachment parent," you might think of some kind of hippie martyr mom who wears her baby in a sling, breastfeeds on demand, and co-sleeps with her 3-year-old. She's the type of mom who quit her job, gave up girls' nights for washing cloth diapers, acts judgy, and lives only for her kids. You'd be partly right. The latter (the judgy mom who sacrifices everything for her baby) is an urban legend. But the stuff about the sling, the breastfeeding, and the co-sleeping -- those things might be true. But, and this is well worth noting, you don't have to do all of that or even any of it to be an attachment parent. Attachment parenting, a term coined by William Sears, is all about creating a close bond with your baby.
"A myth has developed in our society that attachment parenting requires parents to live by self-sacrificing rules," says Laura Markham, Ph.D, author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting. "It's just not so. You don't have to wear your baby constantly or to co-sleep to create a secure attachment bond. The only core guideline is that healthy attachment requires being in tune with and responsive to the cues of your unique infant. And what parent doesn't want, in her heart, to do exactly that?"
More importantly, practicing attachment parenting has important long-term benefits for your child that go well beyond a strong emotional bond with mom. Here are 5 reasons to consider attachment parenting.
- You Won't Have a Cry Baby. And mom sleeps more! You're liking attachment parenting (AP) already -- are we right? Many of the practices associated with attachment parenting (cosleeping, babywearing, and breastfeeding) help keep babies calm. Of course babies like to be cuddled and held, but the main reason AP babies don't cry as much is because they trust Mom and Dad, and a secure attachment has been established. "Research has shown that in societies where babies cries are responded to more promptly, babies cry less," says Markham. But wait a minute, won't responding to your baby's cries turn him into a spoiled monster? Not a chance. "It's impossible to spoil a baby," says Robyn Strosaker, MD, and Medical Director of Inpatient Services at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio. "If a child is crying, it's better for the well-being of both the parent and the baby if the cries are tended to."
- Your Baby Will Be Chill. Long bouts of crying are stressful for babies, and early exposure to stress can be detrimental to your child's emotional and physical health. In the long-term, this could mean learning and developmental delays and an inability to process emotions. The touching and interaction emphasized by attachment parenting has been shown to help babies stay calmer in stressful situations. One study showed babies to be significantly less stressed during medical procedures when a parent was there; and another showed toddlers placed in scary situations didn't stress out when their AP mom or dad was there.
- Your Child Will Be Popular. Kids who have strong bonds with their parents tend to be kinder and more social. "People who have close, trusting relationships from a very early age tend to have an easier time with relationships later on in life," says Dr. Strosaker.
- He'll Cut the Apron Strings Sooner. One persistent myth about attachment parenting is that these kids become too dependent on mom when actually the opposite it true. "Securely attached children are more independent and less clingy," says Dr. Markham. "However, these children are usually closer to their parents, so they might not appear to be as independent when they are little." Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, but research has shown that kids who are securely attached to their parents tend to feel more confident to explore the world on their own, since they trust that their parents will be there for them.
- She'll Go to Harvard. Okay, so maybe not Harvard. (But maybe!) Research consistently shows that children who come from close-knit homes score higher on IQ tests than those who don't. Experts argue it's because attachment parenting fosters learning at the most crucial time -- during infancy, when your baby's brain grows more than it does at any other time. When infants feel securely attached to their moms and dads, they are relaxed, less stressed, and are in an optimal position to learn and thrive.
More From The Stir: Attachment Parenting -- What It Really Means to Be AP
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