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Attachment Grandparenting


Attachment grandparenting emphasizes lots of holding and cuddling.

Holding and cuddling is important in attachment grandparenting.

Photo © Elkor / iStockphoto

When grandparents adhere to the tenets of attachment parenting (AP), usually at the request of the parents of their grandchildren, they are said to be practicing attachment grandparenting.

Although there are variations in how AP is interpreted, common AP practices are these:

  • Breastfeeding is favored, often for an extended period of time that may include toddlerhood.
  • Crying babies are immediately comforted if possible rather than being left to cry.
  • Touch is believed to be very important. Those who practice AP hold their babies a great deal and may use slings or similar devices to maximize physical contact.
  • Co-sleeping is frequently practiced. There may be a family bed, or the baby may be accommodated right next to the parents' bed.
  • Babies and young children are kept with parents as much as possible. Decisions about using outside caregivers are made with great care.

Grandparents who practice AP respect these ideals and practice them whenever they are caring for the child. Although obviously they cannot breastfeed, they can support the mother in breastfeeding and refrain from giving the child other foods that the parents have not approved.

Two of these practices do, however, have special implications for grandparents. First, many of those who practice AP seldom leave their children with anyone. They may not want to leave children with their grandparents, especially overnight. This may be resented by some grandparents, who may feel that they are not trusted to take care of the children. In actuality, when parents do decide to leave the children in someone else's care, the principles of AP favor grandparents as babysitters as they are likely to be around longer and more consistently than hired sitters. If they wish to retain their most favored status, however, grandparents must be diligent about following the AP standards as set forth by the parents.

Second, if they decide to let their children spend the night, AP parents may want grandparents to co-sleep with the children. Whether grandparents should co-sleep with their grandchildren is a serious decision. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend co-sleeping at all, and at least one study links a higher rate of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) with children who co-sleep with someone who is not the parent. The best solution could be a portable crib placed in the grandparents' room, but sleeping arrangements and practices require careful deliberation.

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