The truth about attachment and baby's sleep

Are you a parent who uses attachment parenting? 

Are you afraid of sleep training your baby? Please read this!

         By definition, attachment parenting(AP) is defined as a parenting philosophy based on the principles of attachment theory in developmental psychology. As an advocate of attachment parenting, I believe that developing attachment with caregivers (including parents, grandparents, early childhood educators or anyone who takes care of babies) is the most important achievement for children in their first three years of life. From birth, babies start developing relationships with caregivers based on interaction between them. In most cases, parents who are primary caregivers are the driving force behind what type of attachment styles their babies receive. Babies, whose parents are responsive and nurturing, develop more secure-based attachments. Unfortunately, others develop insecure-based attachment grounded in negative relationships (e.g., caregivers are neglectful, they reject the baby, or the relationships are unpredictable). Many studies have shown that secure based attachment is positively correlated to babies’ social and emotional development as well as their readiness to learn which can greatly impact their life further down the road. In addition, secure based attachment results in better sleep among babies in terms of both duration and quality. Also, many recent longitudinal studies have shown that parents reported their babies sleep patterns and parenting quality as predictors of infant-mother attachment. 

          One problem is that many parents do not clearly understand the meaning of attachment parenting. They consider that old school style which is strict and structured is the opposite of attachment parenting which is responsive and gentle. Leaving a baby in the crib and allowing him to cry out for sleep training is an old school style while responding to all the small mumbling and movements is the new approach, attachment style.  Can this be true?

          What attachment parenting truly means is being in tune with your babies’ needs, but at the same time providing opportunities for them to reach their potential but only, when they are ready. You can be responsive and gentle as much as needed so that your baby feels comfortable and safe but you also must consider limits to this and provide guidance. Sensitivity from parents is a key component of attachment parenting. The level of sensitivity can determine what type of attachment their child will display. Sensitive parents, who are in tune with their child, know what they want, and respond appropriately, will more easily develop secured-based attachment. Having said this, we need to be careful not to over respond because it can take away opportunities that teach babies new skills, including how to sleep independently. It is important to find balance between being responsive and trusting what your baby can achieve independently. In fact, studies have shown that depressed mothers usually tend to over-respond to their children, which can cause sleep issues with their children. Babies are given the opportunity to develop good sleep habits within the boundaries determined by parents, based on what they know about their babies. When you are teaching your baby how to walk, you need to wait until he is ready. Once you see that his leg and core muscles are strong enough, you start encouraging him to walk by paying attention, moving harmful objects that are in his way, holding his hands, cheering, and complimenting. However, you know that at some point, you need to let go so he can take some real steps by himself. 

           The same goes for sleep. You can create a lovely nursery with a safe and cozy crib followed by a developmentally appropriate routine and wait until he is ready. For him to master how to sleep independently, you need to step back and give him a chance to succeed. This can be stressful and difficult but it is essentially just like learning any other new skill. At this point, you need to use attachment-based parenting again. Tune into your baby to see if the stress is manageable. Many studies have shown that manageable stress is necessary in order to acquire new skills. Based on your baby’s tolerance (and your tolerance), you can control your sleep guidance methods and tempo (That’s why I use an individualized plan for each family). I encourage all parents to be involved in this process to discuss how you should guide your baby for better sleep since you know your child the best! Most healthy babies are capable of learning healthy sleep habits while you continue to maintain your attachment parenting.


If you want to get an individualized plan that is the best fit for your family, please contact us, CDA Baby Solution via