Attachment Parenting: Create a Connection

Laura Markham's picture

by Dr. Laura Markham

Attachment Parenting: A Great Start

Attachment parenting is a parenting style that focuses on meeting the infant's need for a close relationship with his parents.

baby asleep in slingWon't you spoil her? If spoiling is "ruining" a child so that she's not developing optimally and may end up being difficult, then leaving her to cry uncomforted is what will "spoil" her. Your goal is to raise a cheerful, well adjusted, adaptable child, who becomes increasingly independent and able to handle age-appropriate developmental tasks, right?

What do babies need? Their parents. Not the cute baby clothes you got at the shower. Not the baby swing, or seat, or crib. Not even diapers. You may need all that. But your baby needs his parents.

What do parents need? Your job is to love, protect, nurture and guide your baby from infancy to adulthood. But what do you need to do that effectively, to love doing it? Even more than a good night's sleep, what you need is a great relationship with your child.

Connection Parenting: Creating a relationship

But attachment parenting is only the beginning. Connection parenting takes over as your baby becomes a toddler, exploring her world and testing her wings -- but still fiercely needing her connection with you to provide a secure base. Connection parenting builds a close parent-child relationship that will take you and your child from toddlerhood through the teen years, and way beyond. Connection parenting helps you create the relationship you want with your son or daughter, for the rest of your life.

But right now, I assume, you're reading this because you have a baby. Even toddlerhood probably seems very far off. Right now, you just need to know about this parenting style and whether it's right for you.

Connection-based parenting has many devotees and certainly some who disparage it. The articles listed below explain what it is and how to put it into practice. You'll read about criticisms and defenses, the myths and the most commonly asked questions. You'll learn strategies and techniques that have worked for other parents. And if you want, you can learn more about the scientific research that has convinced me it's the best thing for babies, and for their parents.

The Executive Brief

There's nothing new about attachment parenting; parents have been doing it naturally for as long as humans have existed.

AP is based on responding to a baby's needs, which in infancy include staying in very close proximity to the parent. Once the baby learns that her caretakers are reliably nurturing and protective, she builds on this internal security as she proceeds to the next developmental tasks of exploration, mastery of the environment, and forming relationships with others.

AP is supported by an impressive body of academic theory and research, but the basic idea is simple and intuitive. Human babies are born helpless because of their big brains. To survive, they need parents to keep them from harm's way for many years, and to teach them survival skills. So all humans are born seeking close attachments.

Our brain development, our emotional development -- even our later ability to control our tempers and delay gratification -- all depend on having our innate relationship needs met as infants.

The AP philosophy arises from actual research; both longitudinal studies of children and their parents, and advances in understanding infant brain development. But attachment parenting is not a set of rules, and every parent uses it a bit differently. As always, you are the final decision-maker about what's best for you and your family.

Each link below takes you to an article with more specifics about how AP can help you become the parent you've always dreamed of being. I hope they help you to strengthen the most rewarding relationship you'll ever have...the one with your child.

As both a mom and a Clinical Psychologist with a Ph.D. from Columbia University, Dr. Laura Markham offers a unique perspective on raising kids. Her relationship-based parenting model has helped thousands of families across the U.S. and Canada find compassionate, common-sense solutions to everything from separation anxiety and sleep problems to sass talk and cell phones. Dr. Markham is the founding editor of AhaParenting.com, where she regularly takes on challenging questions from parents who struggle with "the toughest, most rewarding job on earth."

Dr. Markham is the author of the Q&A e-book series, Ask Dr. Markham, with editions for all ages from birth to teens, and of the soon-to-be-released, The Secret Life of Happy Moms, which lays out her relationship-based approach to raising kids who turn out great. Dr. Markham lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, New York, with her husband, 13 year-old daughter, and 17 year-old son.

Copyright © Laura Markham. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org.