The Basics of Bonding through Attachment Parenting

You may think that just because you don’t breastfeed that you’re unable to utilize the methods of Attachment Parenting, Think again! Every parent can adopt these methods to raise independent, secure, well-adjusted children.

When my children were newborns, the term Attachment Parenting (AP) had not yet been coined by Dr. William Sears. When I had my first baby, co-sleeping was frowned upon and “Ferberizing” was the technique moms were discovering as a way to get their babies to sleep. I could not bring myself to let my babies cry it out, and at that time I didn’t know about the benefits of The Happiest Baby on the Block‘s Seven Baby B’s and how those could have made my time with my newborns so much more enriching.

But of course I bonded with my babies, nonetheless; I cuddled with them, talked to them, and made eye contact as I bottlefed all three of them. I carried them arounda lot, but there was probably so much more I could have done to strengthen the amazing bond that occurs between a parent and child.

Now, though, parents are learning the approach of Attachment Parenting and why it’s so good—not only for Baby, but also for Mom and Dad. Co-sleeping, baby-wearing, attending to your baby’s cries immediately … many parents agree that practicing the philosophies of AP helps parents raise more self-sufficient and independent children by being available for their every waking need as they learn and grow. Robin Nolan, of Raleigh, North Carolina, first heard about Attachment Parenting when her husband brought home Dr. Sears’ The Baby Book when she first became pregnant. “I had never heard of Dr. Sears and I didn’t have any idea how to parent,” says Nolan. “Reading the book gave me incredible tools for rearing our children.” Nolan gained the confidence to proceed with AP, and after discussing the different aspects, she and her husband decided they would use the approach.

Cozy Feedings

Everything about AP made sense to Nolan. Why should she have to disrupt her and her baby’s sleep for feedings in the nursery when it was so much easier to reach over and pull her co-sleeping baby in closer to nurse? “It’s crazy to get up and go to another room to do all of this when being a mom is so exhausting to begin with,” Nolan says.

If you’re not breastfeeding, you can still utilize the philosophies of AP. Elizabeth Pantley, mother of four, and author of Gentle Baby Care and The No-Cry Sleep Solution offers ways to connect with your baby if you’re bottlefeeding. Like an AP breastfeeding mother, hold your baby in a “loving, close embrace, maximizing bodily contact,” says Pantley. “[The AP mom] is unlikely to use any kind of bottle prop or holder. She uses feeding time to nurture and connect with her baby, making bottlefeeding a pleasant bonding experience for all involved.”


While feedings are easier when co-sleeping, it’s important to take some precautions if you and your spouse choose to have your baby in bed with you. Nolan always had a bed rail and slept close to her husband, keeping her son, Jamie, between the bed rail and her. “I could protect Jamie and not worry about my husband rolling over onto him,” Nolan said. She also notes the obvious, but it deserves repeating: Never use drugs, alcohol, or sleep aids when you are co-sleeping with your baby.

Conversely, if you choose not to co-sleep with your baby, you can still practice a modified AP sleeping method. If your child is in a crib in his own room, make yourself available at his first cries. Use a baby monitor, keep his door open, and listen for your baby when he needs you. Pantley says AP parents go into action at the first whimpers. “They go to their little one when he awakens, whether in the morning or the middle of the night.”

Keeping Baby Close

Another aspect of AP is keeping Baby close—literally. Baby-wearing is a major tenet of the philosophy: AP parents understand and acknowledge their baby’s need to be held. “Physical closeness fosters healthy emotional and physical growth,” Pantley says.

Whether you use a sling or baby carrier, having your baby nearby is a constant reassurance to him, and will probably make you feel happy, too. (How can you not feel good with a warm baby snuggled up against you?) And not to worry: When you graduate from a baby sling to a stroller, you can still practice AP. The point is to keep your baby nearby, to meet his needs when he needs you, and to reassure him that you’re not going anywhere.

Pantley describes baby-wearing as a “grand circle of deliberate design”:

  • When Baby is content, he cries less.
  • A parent enjoys the non-crying baby more than if he were crying.
  • Happy parents are more likely to want to hold and cuddle their babies.

Yes, you may not get the vacuuming done or the dishes put away while wearing Baby, but in the grand scheme of life, wouldn’t you rather have a happy baby than a clean house? Believe me, as a mother of a 10- , eight- and six-year-old, you won’t be holding your babies forever, and the kitchen dishes will still be there! If I could bring back some of those snuggly close moments now, I definitely would.

Creating the Bond

There is a fine line of balance when it comes to Attachment Parenting. On one hand, you may fear smothering your child; on the other, you may be afraid you will raise a child who will not grow up to be independent. But meeting the needs of your baby as he grows will only reassure him of his place in the world.

Nolan describes her experience of Attachment Parenting like this: “You respond to your child’s needs and foster an environment of love and affection that leads to developing successful communication skills between parents and children.” She says by responding to her children and giving them what they need, they learn trust.

Nolan says her children are empowered and smart; soon, they “will be confident, and they will know they are included … they are part of a team.” That team includes herself, her husband, her son Jamie (four), and her daughter Holly (almost two). She’s thrilled with the results from the decision she and her husband made to parent using the AP method. “We are growing our children into grown-ups and this is the recipe for success!”

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