Debate over attachment parenting

Maintaining physical closeness is at the core of the new attached parenting model. Will a baby be more emotionally attached if their parent carries them in a sling wherever possible, shares their bed and breastfeeds for longer?

Those who are following the attachment parenting (AP) trend believe physical closeness will ensure a child’s long-term wellbeing.

But could it cause more harm than good?

Attachment parenting is a controversial child-rearing movement gathering momentum, though its principles are far from the groundbreaking observations made by psychologists as early as the 1950s.

The new model of AP is based on the three Bs: breastfeeding, baby wearing and bed sharing.

However, the original attachment theory developed in the late 1950s by British psychologist John Bowlby highlighted the importance of interactions – not simply physical closeness – to create emotionally healthy children.

Psychologist Belinda Jones, of Quirky Kid Clinic in Austinmer, said the latest trend seemed distant from the original observations.

“They [AP advocates] have taken this model and turned it into something else,” Jones says.

The crux of Bowlby’s theory was that to create emotionally healthy children is for infants until the age of three to be looked after by one constant care-giver.

At the extreme end of AP, some parents see it necessary to carry their babies around like tribeswomen.

Jones questions the need for such parenting, using the example that adopted children and those with gay parents still form normal attachments despite not being breastfed.

“It’s not the actual breastfeeding, it’s more how the mother reacts to the baby while they are feeding,” she says.

“Attachment theory doesn’t state that you have to wear your baby or sleep with them.”

Jones says the bed sharing practice is the most controversial, with SIDS research clearly indicating it was not advisable.

“Ideally when a relationship is positive, just because your mother isn’t in your presence doesn’t mean you don’t hold her on the inside,’’ Jones explains.

“The attachment model indicates that a secure attachment means the child doesn’t need their parents to be physically present.”

Facebook sites for AP have sprung up and celebrities such as Alicia Silverstone and The Big Bang Theory’s Mayim Bialik have become advocates for the new model.

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