In the 1960's, a woman named Jean Liedloff traveled to South America and spent time living with a tribe of Stone Age Indians called the Yequana. She actively observed the behaviors of these unusually happy and well-adjusted people, specifically those behaviors related to childrearing. What she found and relayed in her book, The Continuum Concept, helped to lay the foundation of attachment parenting. The Yequana people practiced the following behaviors:
The terms "attachment parenting" and the "continuum concept" are new, but the concepts have been around for as long as we have existed, making them time-tested parenting styles.
- There is constant physical contact between child and mother (or another familiar caregiver as needed) from birth.
- The child sleeps in his parents' bed until he is ready to make the step to his own bed (often at about two years). *Note: Co-sleeping remains a controversial topic in the U.S. and among pediatric experts. Co-sleeping should be discussed with your child's pediatrician.
- The child is allowed to breastfeed on cue, rather than according to a schedule.
- The child is constantly carried in arms (or in some kind of carrier) until he is ready to move about on his own (often at about 6-8 months).
- The child has his needs met immediately and matter-of-factly, without judgment or criticism, yet also without undue concern and without making him the center of attention.
The roots of the philosophy of attachment parenting lie in the attachment theory of developmental psychology. The attachment theory states that children are best able to learn, explore, and develop when they feel a secure attachment to a primary caregiver. Attachment parenting follows practices that create and promote this secure attachment between the child and parent. As the parent responds to the child's needs, the child develops trust that his or her needs will be met. Some common attachment parenting practices include:
To practice attachment parenting, parents need not follow every single practice. Rather, they should view the practices as ideals to strive for while maintaining balance in their lives and incorporating what works for their own families. Even working parents can practice attachment parenting. Adapting the common practices to your situation is a great way to create and maintain a connection to your child even when you are away. Attachment parenting followers subscribe to the following concepts:
- Breastfeeding and extended breastfeeding
- Co-sleeping *See note above
- Baby wearing
- Positive discipline
- Emotional responsiveness
- Avoiding frequent and prolonged separations from your baby
- Being knowledgeable about pregnancy, childbirth, and your child's developmental stages
- Promoting health through proper nutrition and physical activity
- Being available for your children
Babies who have formed and maintained secure attachments grow up to be loving, trusting, and empathic adults. Attachment parenting is an investment that definitely pays off! To learn more about the continuum concept and attachment parenting, see these resources:
- Making a commitment to spend as much time as possible with your child. The amount of time you have available will vary, but your commitment to being there when you can and making the most of it should remain constant.
- Including your child in your life as much as possible.
- Respecting your child as an individual, not an inconvenience.
- Tuning in to your child's needs and focusing to meet them.
Book: Attachment Parenting: Instinctive Care for Your Baby and Young Child, by Katie Allison Granju
Book: The Attachment Parenting Book, by Dr. William and Martha Sears
Book: The Continuum Concept, by Jean Liedloff
Website: www.AttachmentParenting.org (Attachment Parenting International)