What it is: Although the phrase was popularized by well-known pediatrician Dr. William Sears in the 1980s when he published what many consider to be the attachment parenting bible, The Baby Book, the idea behind this child-led approach was first introduced way back in the 1940s by Dr. Benjamin Spock. He believed that parents, particularly mothers, were hardwired to care for their baby, and if they tapped into these natural instincts, they'd be attuned to what their baby needed. This resulted in the more modern interpretation of literal physical attachment – from birth-bonding to babywearing to cosleeping to on-demand breastfeeding – with a goal toward fostering a secure emotional connection.
Why parents do it: Proponents of attachment parenting believe this nurturing style is the ideal way to raise secure, empathetic children. Simply put, many new parents themselves enjoy the bond they achieve with their newborn by following the key components of the practice; it's as beneficial to the parent to, say, respond to early signs of distress versus employing a "cry it out" method.
What research says: Although there's little disputing that behaviors like breastfeeding and bed-sharing can foster secure attachments, it doesn't mean that they are guaranteed to do so. In fact, there is no scientific evidence that they are predictive of stronger bonds. Often, a tight attachment – with parent and child together all the time – can breed anxieties. There's also a contingency of critics who believe the style is anti-feminist and conflates women's role with motherhood.