The practice of attachment parenting has made a large impact in the 20 years since its founding text, The Baby Book, was published. Dr. Bill Sears, the book’s author, champions close relationships with parents, especially mom, and their children.
There are three major tenants associated with attachment parenting: prolonged breast feeding, co-sleep (sleeping in the same room or bed with your baby) and “baby wearing” which involves putting your baby in a sling as opposed to things like a stroller.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends breastfeeding exclusively for a baby’s first six months. After that, breastfeeding should continue as complementary foods are introduced, until weaning as mutually determined by the baby and mother. Some of the reported health benefits for the child are reduced risk of lower respiratory tract infections in the first year, of nonspecific gastrointestinal tract infections, and of obesity later in life.
Extended Breast feeding is when a child continues to breastfeed after their first birthday. Attachment parenting advocates breastfeeding in terms of years, and not months. This is a hotly debated issue. While the AAP suggests that solid foods should be introduced after six months, they say that the decision on when to stop all breastfeeding is between the child and the parent.
Bed sharing has been linked to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), but Attachment Parenting International has put out guidelines for safe bed-sharing.
A major point of contention in Dr. Sears’s work is the advice to respond to a baby’s cries and not let them “cry it out.” To some, responding to all of a baby’s screams seems as extreme as responding to none of them. Sears says, however, that each cry is an attempt at communication, and should be treated as such. Sears claims that successive crying can cause brain damage, but that claim has not been verified by science.
On the other hand, Dr. Benjamin Spock, author of The Common Sense Book of Bay and Child Care, suggests that once a child is three months old, it is a permissible to let a child cry themselves to sleep. Again, the jury is out on the long term effects of this practice with arguments for both sides.
The main point of contention is a matter of timing; when is a child old enough to be taught a level of self-sufficiency? The general consensus is that the parents will have an intuitive feeling of what might be best for their child. A lot of it, however, is still trial and error.
Attachment Parenting International: http://www.attachmentparenting.org/
American Academy of Pediatrics on breastfeeding: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/129/3/e827.full
Ask Dr. Sears: http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/attachment-parenting
Dr. Spock Website for Parents: http://www.drspock.com/
Excerpt from Dr. Spock’s book The First Two Years: http://www.enotalone.com/parenting/5677.html
The Baby Center: http://arabiaenglish.babycenter.com/baby/sleep/throughthenight/