Skip to main content

Infants & Toddlers

The mission of Attachment Parenting International (API) is to promote parenting practices that create strong, healthy emotional bonds between children and their parents. API believes that Attachment Parenting (AP) practices fulfill a child's need for trust, empathy, and affection and will provide a foundation for a lifetime of healthy relationships.

Rooted in attachment theory, Attachment Parenting has been studied extensively for over 60 years by psychology and child development researchers, and more recently, by researchers studying the brain. These studies revealed that infants are born "hardwired" with strong needs to be nurtured and to remain physically close to the primary caregiver, usually the mother, during the first few years of life. The child's emotional, physical, and neurological development is greatly enhanced when these basic needs are met consistently and appropriately. These needs can be summarized as proximity, protection, and predictability..

The baby's crying, clinging, and sucking are early techniques to keep her mother nearby. As the child grows and feels more secure in her relationship with her mother, she is better able to explore the world around her and to develop strong, healthy bonds with other important people in her life.

To help guide parents along their journey, API created API's Eight Principles of Parenting. These guidelines are founded on sound research and are known to be effective in helping children develop secure attachments.

API acknowledges that every family has unique circumstances with distinct needs and resources. The Principles are intended to help parents better understand normal child development, to help parents identify their children's needs, and to aid parents in responding to their children with respect and empathy. By educating themselves about children's health and development, parents will become more conscious of and attuned to their children's needs when making decisions.

Developed to promote optimal attachment, these principles are developmentally appropriate and comprehensive enough to apply to a broad spectrum of family situations. These principles may be applied through the practices outlined in this document. The Principles addresses attachment–promoting behaviors that can be started during pregnancy and extend through a child's seventh or eighth year. Although the terms "mother," "father," and "caregiver" are used throughout the Principles, API embraces the diversity of family structures and values all people in a child's life who actively foster a strong attachment relationship with the children in their care.

API has also published a companion document addressing the preservation of attachments with older children.

Attachment Parenting is not a one-size-fits-all recipe for raising children, therefore API recommends parents use their own judgment and intuition to create a parenting style that fosters attachment and works for their family. Some practices listed in the Principles are inherently more attachment-promoting than others. Many API support groups start each meeting by saying "Take what works for your family and leave the rest." This sentiment also applies to Principles.

The following pages contain a condensed version of the Principles. If you have questions about these Principles or how to apply them to your family situation, please visit an API parent Support Group or contact an API leader, or post your comments and questions to API's Forum.