Regarding the readiness to respond to the cries of the baby under eighteen months old, proponents of attachment parenting refer to Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development, specifically the trust versus mistrust theory, which claims that this period is the most critical period in a person’s life, during which time the child learns whether or not they can trust the people around them to attend to his needs and comfort him when he is frightened. If a child successfully develops trust, they can learn to feel safe and secure in the world. Caregivers who are inconsistent, emotionally unavailable or rejecting during this critical period contribute to feelings of mistrust. Failure to develop trust will result in fear and a belief that the world is inconsistent and unpredictable. This theory disputes that it is possible to spoil an infant less than one year of age by timely responses, though, I have to admit, I have my strong doubts.
Regarding the issue of fathers feeling robbed of a wife, they propose that attachment parenting should not be exclusionary for the father, but rather that he plays an important role in the new triad that the birth of the child has created. Instead of feeling replaced by the baby and being perceived as an outsider, his support and presence is critical as he participates in the baby-wearing and timely responses that the infant requires as well, giving his wife a reprieve from the continual needs of the child. As he supports her as only he can, he strengthens and bolsters her so that she can have energy to give him as well, in the context of their marital relationship. In addition, what is created by his participation as well is a sharing of the new bond with the child as a threesome, enhancing the new identity, expansion, and strengthening of the growing family as a unit, which is a collection of individuals who cohere to comprise something larger and more special than themselves.
Regarding the issue of the impact of attachment parenting on intimacy in the marriage, proponents of attachment parenting claim that sexual liaisons need not only occur in the bed, and that in fact, being “evicted from the bed” for sexual contacts creates new and exciting opportunities to enjoy sex in new locations and at unconventional times, that actually fuel eroticism. Erotic barriers create lust, and the kitchen floor or countertop can begin to be reframed as a sexy spot in the house. If the marital bond is strong, and the father assists the mother with meeting the increased demands of the infant instead of it all falling on her shoulders, she will be more interested in devoting energy and time to their own intimate needs as a couple, further enhanced by the bonds of new shared experiences of parenting their baby.
Attachment parenting supporters encourage parents to make special time together during baby nap times or dates (using babysitters armed with expressed breast milk to care for the infant) so that their marital connection remains strong and that their relationship consists not only of parenting, but also of lovers, husbands and wives, and adults who need adult time to nurture that component of their relationships. A marriage that eventually loses that component will not serve the infant well, as an infant not only needs his needs taken care of, but also parents who are whole individuals, as well as a healthy and vibrant couple, which is the foundation of the whole family. If that foundation deteriorates, the whole family’s integrity is in jeopardy, in addition to that of the child.
Proponents of attachment parenting believe that the shift from being closely attached to the parents as an infant to successfully separating and individuating from them to form their unique identities is a gradual process that occurs naturally over time, and if the child knows the parents are there as “home plate” to safely retreat to at various times throughout this fluid, fluctuating process, the child will eventually successfully individuate into a more secure, confident and independent adult. As the child matures, they will naturally learn the all-important skills of self-soothing and self-initiation of sleep. The key to making this transition occur in a healthful manner is balance and age-appropriate limits that gradually shift as the infant matures from an infant, to a toddler, and then into a confident child and adult.