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Attachment parenting (AP) is often succinctly defined as “Parents focus on forming strong emotional bonds with their children as they grow, using techniques such as co-sleeping, baby wearing and extended nursing”, and there was recently a picture of a woman breast-feeding a three-year old on the cover of Time Magazine (Time Magazine, May 21, 2012) raising AP as an issue for discussion. AP is generally attributed to The Baby Book by Dr. Bill Sears and his wife Martha.

There has been a lot of controversy about the story and cover picture. Some of the comments are along the lines of “people's reactions seem to indicate almost everyone agrees that it's not natural, it looks absurd, it's insane, it's terrible and it's wrong!”, per TIME Magazine breastfeeding cover shines spotlight on Attachment Parenting (no, it's not crazy) (NJ.com)

The author of that article linked above goes on to say:

From what I have read, AP isn't bad at all. It seems pretty cost-effective (using cloth diapers may seem gross but think about how much money you save not having to buy packs of disposables) and it looks like it does help parents develop a close and positive bond with their children from an early age.

Ignoring cost-savings from cloth diapers, are there any known long-term benefits to AP? Are there any detriments? Have there been any solid studies on some or all of the effects (positive or negative) of the tenets of AP: (a) co-sleeping, (b) extended nursing, and (c) baby-wearing?

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    Isn't there a parenting.SE that may have this answer? My initial reaction would be that this appears to be a pretty new fad, and as such there hasn't been time to observe for long term effects (if there are any). – JasonR May 11 '12 at 16:49
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    While the fad is new, attachment theory stems from the 70s, and is based on a lot of experimental data. My impression however was that the point of the theory is to be sensitive to the constantly changing needs of a child, not to insist on a certain type of diaper, etc. Bizarre. – Ana May 11 '12 at 18:41
  • There is a question on co-sleeping on parenting.SE - parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/197/… and many questions on breast feeding including this one - parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/799/… – Tom77 May 16 '12 at 16:57
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(a) Research in co-sleeping reveals that it may reduce stress in children.

Children who had coslept in their parent's room had lower cortisol levels, as did children who had attended less daycare in the first 4 years of life Waynforth 2007.

An early history of co-sleeping contributes positively to cortisol regulation in 12-month-olds and after controlling for maternal sensitivity, infant attachment status, feeding, and sleeping arrangements at 12 months of age and other confounders, more weeks of co-sleeping predicted lower infant cortisol reactivity to the psychological stressor (Strange Situation Procedure-SSP) Beijers et al 2013

Infants with a solitary sleeping arrangement in their first month of life showed a heightened cortisol response to the bathing session at 5 weeks compared to infants that co-slept regularly Tollenaar et al 2012

(b) Extended nursing improves children's cognitive development and provides nutrition, growth, and complementary feeding of infants.

Based on the largest randomized trial 'Breastfeeding and Child Cognitive Development New Evidence From a Large Randomized Trial' ever conducted in the area of human lactation, strong evidence is provided that "prolonged and exclusive breastfeeding improves children's cognitive development". Michael S. Kramer, 2008

Breast milk continues to provide substantial amounts of key nutrients well beyond the first year of life, especially protein, fat, and most vitamins. Dewey KG, 2001

(c) Baby-wearing: Baby wearing may be associated with higher rates of secure attachment.

Significantly more experimental than control infants were securely attached to their mothers. For low-income, inner-city mothers, there may be a causal relation between increased physical contact, achieved through early carrying in a soft baby carrier, and subsequent security of attachment between infant and mother Anisfeld E, 1990

  • Much better. Now only make sure that there is no space between "]" and "(". I will correct this. – George Chalhoub Jun 17 '15 at 10:08

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