What is Attachment Parenting Australia (APA)?
Attachment Parenting Australia (APA) is a
non-profit association that aims to
provide information and support for parents interested in or practising
attachment parenting. It also aims to provide information
about attachment parenting for health professionals
The APA website provides
information about attachment parenting; attachment parenting support
groups within Australia; online discussion groups within
Australia and beyond; links to useful websites; a list of useful books,
publications and research articles.
On this page you will find answers to the
Attachment parenting (also called “natural
parenting” or “instinctive parenting”) is an approach to parenting that
has been practised widely for thousands of years. There has recently
been a renewed interest in this approach to parenting in Western
societies. Attachment parenting is based on the principle of
understanding a child’s emotional and physical needs and responding
sensitively to these needs. The focus of attachment parenting is on
building a strong relationship between parents and child.
A strong and trusting relationship with your child
can be developed by following your intuition; responding to your baby’s
cries; “demand” breastfeeding for an extended period; carrying or
“wearing” your baby; using gentle ways to help your baby sleep;
co-sleeping with your baby and minimising separation from your baby
during the first few years.
However, attachment parenting is not a set of
rules and does not necessarily mean following all of the above. These
practises simply help to develop a close, empathic relationship with
your child in order to better understand your child’s needs and
feelings. Children are not seen as manipulators who must be controlled.
Attachment parenting extends beyond the early infant period and
involves a life-long desire to know your child and to parent in an
understanding and nurturing way.
- fosters a strong and trusting relationship with
- increases your joy in the experience of
- helps your child to become confident in
themselves and able to form good relationships with others.
- develops your child’s sensitivity towards
themselves and others. Children learn empathy and caring from parents
who show empathy and caring.
- improves your child’s physical and intellectual
development. Many aspects of attachment parenting such as
breastfeeding; close physical contact and affection; and nurturing
sleep practices have been shown to improve a child’s physical and
- makes discipline easier. Children that have a
strong relationship with their parents are more easily disciplined
because they trust what their parents say and want to please them.
Following your intuition.
Follow your intuition rather than a strict set of
rules about when to breastfeed or when to respond to a cry.
Learning to read and respond to your baby’s cries
Responding sensitively to your baby's cries and
cues builds trust between babies and their parents. The more parents
respond to their baby the more they learn about how to respond
and the better the baby becomes at communicating her needs.
For more information about responding to your baby’s cries and cues go
Breastfeeding your baby for an extended period
without schedule feeding (that is, extended breastfeeding “on
Breastfeeding helps you get to know your baby,
provides the best nutrition for your baby, provides comfort for your
baby, and creates a loving and nurturing bond between mother
and baby. The Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) recommends
that babies are breastfeed exclusively for six months, with
continuing breastfeeding for 2 years and beyond. For many mothers the
experience of breastfeeding is not easy at first. Mothers who
are not able to breastfeed can practise attachment parenting by holding
their baby when feeding and feeding “on demand”.
For more information and support about breastfeeding go to the Australian
Breastfeeding Association (ABA).
Using gentle ways to help your baby
Night-time parenting or responding to your baby’s
needs at night is as important as your day-time parenting. Babies need
to be “parented to sleep”, not just put to sleep. Some babies
can be put down while drowsy yet still awake and drift. Other babies
need parental help by being held and rocked or breastfed to
sleep. Attachment parenting does not involve leaving your baby to cry
alone in order to teach your baby how to
For more information about gentle ways to teach your baby how to sleep
see our links
and our list of useful books
Co-sleeping with your baby (that is, your baby
sleeps in your bed or in your bedroom close to your bed).
Sleeping close to your baby creates a secure and
nurturing environment for your baby. This reduces your baby’s anxiety
about separation from you. It also means that you can respond
more quickly to your baby’s needs and minimise sleep disruption for
you and your baby. Co-sleeping helps you get to know your
baby. It also assists breastfeeding and helps you to develop a strong
bond with your baby. It is common for babies to co-sleep with
their parents for the first few years of their life. Babies who
co-sleep with their parents do not have a higher risk of
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or “cot-death”. In fact,
co-sleeping reduces the risk of SIDS.
For more information about SIDS and how to co-sleep safely with your
baby go to Attachment
Parenting International (API).
Wearing your baby close to you, such as, in a
sling or backpack.
Carrying or “wearing” your baby creates a safe and
loving environment for your aby and fulfills his need for close
physical contact. Babies cry less when worn or being held.
Carrying or wearing your baby also helps you get to know your baby
because your baby is so close to you.
See our links to for more information about
slings and backpacks.
Minimising time away from your baby during the
first few years of your baby’s life.
A strong bond is developed between a mother and
her baby. Being together most of the time, helps develop this bond and
helps support “demand” breastfeeding. With time, the mother
understands more about her baby and her confidence in responding to
her baby’s needs grows. Most babies will want their mothers
quite frequently. This means that it may be difficult for a mother to
be more than a few minutes away in the early period, which may
include the whole of the first year of her baby’s life. Minimising the
time you spend away from your baby in the early period will
make breastfeeding easier and strengthening your attachment with your
With time, the baby becomes less dependent on the
mother and the baby’s needs will be fulfilled by other people the baby
is strongly attached to, such as, the baby’s father or a
Many aspects of attachment parenting are easier if
a mother remains at home for the first few years of her baby’s life.
However, for many women this situation may not be possible or
desired. A mother can still practise attachment parenting and go back
For more information about attachment
parenting and returning to work see How can a mother return to work and practise
Finding balance in your family life.
The early years in your baby’s life are the most
intense and demanding for a family. However, it is possible to find a
balance it which the needs of other family members are met
without compromising the needs of your baby. You can still maintain a
close relationship with your partner and your baby, especially
if both parents nurture an attachment with the baby. Being mutually
attached with their baby can bring the parents closer
together. Communicating well with your partner and finding creative
solutions to satisfying the needs of all family members will
help to create balance in your family life.
Unrealistic expectations can also create stress in
families. Parents, particularly with their first baby, may hold
unrealistic expectations about their lifestyle; what they can
achieve day-to-day; how much time they need with their partners without
their child, and how much time they need to themselves without
their child. Having realistic expectations and goals helps create
balance with the inevitable change in your life. There is some
loss but so much is to be gained through the joy of parenting. Try to
focus on how important the nurturing and love you give your
baby is and remember that this demanding period will pass.
The early years in your baby’s life are the most
intense and demanding. The time when you carry your baby, breastfeed,
and sleep with your baby in your bed lasts relatively a very
short time. However, the love and nurturing your baby receives last her
whole lifetime and will help to create a happier world.
- Developing the father’s relationship
with his child - During the early infant period the child is
dependent on his mother for lots of his needs. During this period,
fathers have an important nurturing and supportive role. After
this period, the child gradually become less dependent on his mother,
and the father will be able to fulfil more of his needs.
- Developing good communication with
your child - Listen to your child and help her learn to
express her feelings.
- Keeping your expectations of your
child appropriate to his development and understanding.
- Maintaining an affectionate
relationship with your child appropriate to her wishes.
- Developing positive sleep practices
- Young children often go to sleep more willingly and have less anxiety
about sleep when their parents lie down with them in their
bed until they go to sleep. This is common until school age.
Older children may also enjoy some time to discuss their day before
going to sleep.
- Spending as much time as possible with
- Using positive discipline -
Explain to your child the natural consequence of his behaviour rather
than using punishments. For more information about
positive discipline see our links and list of useful books and
The attachment parenting approach to parenting has
been practised for thousands of years. It is common in non-Western
societies. There has recently been a renewed interest in this
approach in Western societies.
Many people practicing attachment parenting have
not heard of the terms “attachment parenting” or “natural parenting”
but have followed their intuition about how to sensitively
respond to their child’s needs.
Attachment parenting is not a strict set of rules.
Parents may find some aspects of attachment parenting more suitable
than other aspects of attachment parenting.
Parents who practise an attachment parenting
approach come from diverse backgrounds in terms of their financial
situations, level of education, political views and ethnic
backgrounds. People parenting in this way also have different family
situations, for example, sole parent families, extended
families, lesbian families, mothers that do not work during the child’s
early years and mothers who do work.
People practising this approach also have had a
range of positive and negative childhood experiences. Parents who were
not adequately nurtured in childhood may practise this
approach out of an awareness of the negative impact of a lack of
nurturing. Likewise, parents who were well nurtured in
childhood may practise this approach out of an awareness of the
positive impact of positive childhood experiences.
Mothers may return to work for various reasons,
- financial reasons, for example, if there is
partner unable to work; if their partner is unable to work enough hours
to meet expenses; if they do not have a partner; or if two
incomes are needed to meet expenses
- their interest in work
- a concern about losing their work skills
- wanting support and friendship from
- a lack of support and friendships at home
- their under-valuing of the importance of
parenting as compared to paid work
Many aspects of attachment parenting are easier,
for example, breastfeeding ‘on demand’, if a mother remains at home for
the first few years of her child’s life. However, a mother can
still practise attachment parenting and go back to work. An attachment
parenting approach is especially beneficial to mothers who
return to work in the first few years of their child’s life. Aspects of
attachment parenting such as breastfeeding her baby after
work, carrying or “wearing” her baby, co-sleeping with her baby and
responding sensitively to her baby’s cries can help a mother
to re-connect to her baby after a workday.
Your child’s father or a grandparent may be able
to care for your child while you are at work. Having a person that your
child is strongly attached to will help create a secure and
nurturing environment for your child and will reduce separation anxiety
for your child. The child’s father or grandparent should also
try to practise an attachment parenting approach to caring for your
child, for example, feeding your baby without schedules; using
gentle ways to put your baby to sleep; responding sensitively to your
baby’s cries and carrying or “wearing” your baby.
The following are some suggestions for mothers
about returning to work:
- It may be possible for you to bring your baby
to work with you. This will make breastfeeding easier and minimise your
baby’s separation from you. You may also be able to carry your
baby in a sling while you work.
- It is possible to continue breastfeeding and
return to work by expressing breast milk. For more information about
expressing breast milk and returning to work go to the Australian
Breastfeeding Association (ABA).
- The person who cares for your baby while you
are working may be able to bring your baby to visit you during the day.
This can create an opportunity for breastfeeding and a time to
re-connect with your baby.
- If possible try working part-time- either with
shorter days or fewer shifts a week.
- Having a child may be present an opportunity to
change the type of work you have done previously to better accommodate
the needs of your child. For example, some mothers may start
their own business from home or use the first few years of their
child’s life to study.
- It may be possible to live off one income, or
an income derived from both parents working part-time, by living more
simply. Attachment parenting support groups can be a great
source of information about how to work less and live more simply, also
known as “downshifting”. See our list of attachment parenting
- If isolation at home is involved in a mother’s
decision to return to work, attachment parenting support groups can
provide not only an opportunity to meet with other parents to
discuss parenting issues but can provide friendships with other parents
and children. See our list of attachment parenting
For more information about returning to work see
and our list of useful
books and publications .
Although an attachment parenting approach is
becoming more popular in Western societies, most parents’ approach to
parenting in Western societies is less child-centred. Because
attachment parenting is not as frequently practised as other
approaches, some aspects of attachment parenting are not well
understood and can be challenging for some people. The following are
common misconceptions about attachment parenting. Each
misconception is linked to useful information which may assist
parents in communicating to others about attachment parenting:
Every parent tries to do the best he or she can to
love her child. It can be very difficult for any parent to be
criticised about his or her parenting practice. It is
important not to criticise others about their parenting. The following
are suggestions about how to deal with criticisms of your
- Try to focus on how important your parenting
approach is to you. Remind yourself that nurturing your child will help
to create a happier child and a happier world. See What are the benefits of attachment parenting?
- Surround yourself as much as possible with
friends and family who value what you are doing. Parents practising
attachment parenting may also be a great source of information
about how to deal with criticisms about parenting. See our list of attachment
parenting support groups and attachment
parenting online discussion groups.
- It may be helpful to explain to the people who
are criticising your parenting the reasons why you are doing certain
things to help them to understand.
- In some circumstances, explaining to people
about the reasons why you are doing certain things can make you feel
more vulnerable and stressed. It may be better to simply say
“it works for us”.
Robin Grille has written an interesting
article about this kind of criticism.
Attachment Parenting International (API) is a
non-profit member organization whose members network with parents,
professionals and members of other like-minded organisations
around the world. In addition to providing assistance in forming
attachment parenting support groups, API develops and provides
educational materials, research information, consultative, referral and
speaker services to
promote attachment parenting.
API promotes The
Eight Principles of Attachment Parenting.
Recognizing that every family is unique, these ideals are guidelines to
help parents understand their child’s needs to develop a