Attachment parenting 101
Author: Dr. Betty Richardson

Q. We’re expecting our second child in August, our daughter Sierra is three years old. My wife has recently become interested in attachment parenting. She went back to work after Sierra was six weeks old, so we bottle fed her, and now she sleeps independently in her own bed. It’s hard for me to imagine us doing something totally opposite with our second child compared to our first. What is attachment parenting and what advice do you have for us?

A. Pediatrician William Sears coined the term “attachment parenting” in the 1980s. He has appeared on TV and has written many articles and books, including “The Attachment Parenting Book: A Commonsense Guide to Understanding and Nurturing Your Baby” (2001).

In addition to reading books and other research on attachment parenting, you could look into Attachment Parenting International and hopefully attend some of the local chapter meetings. Austin has chapters in both central and south Austin, which can be found online at and, respectively.

So far none of the books or organizations revolving around attachment parenting that I’ve researched seem to be excessively prescriptive. They offer ideas about what babies and children need and how parents can meet those needs in a variety of ways and still take care of themselves. You don’t have to co-sleep, breastfeed or even hold the baby next to you all the time to do attachment parenting and be part of an attachment parenting group. The basic ideas of attachment parenting seem to be centered on raising a secure and confident child and taking what works for your family and leaving the rest. As Sonya Fehr, the leader of the south Austin API chapter explains, “Attachment parenting happens on a spectrum. What’s most important is that children are respected as people who deserve to be treated kindly and have their parents honor and meet their needs.”

As you think about how you will parent your new baby, keep in mind what practices will actually meet the baby’s needs. Every child is unique, so it’s important to base some aspects of your parenting on your individual child’s needs. Parents with two or more children will relate to the idea of babies and children having different personalities and requirements. My own preference is to use good common sense and to generally avoid extremes of behavior in raising children. The goal is to facilitate the earliest bonding and ongoing attachment by doing what works for your family and meets the needs of your child while recognizing the worth and needs of all family members.

Betty Richardson, PhD, RNC, LPC, LMFT, is an Austin-based psychotherapist who specializes in dealing with the problems of children, adolescents and parents.

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