Through her successful attachment parenting blog, I have met
Annie as an
open, well-informed woman
with a strong social and political awareness which she focuses
on parents, women and children.
She has been blogging at her PhD In Parenting Blog
about the art and science of
since 2008. Annie is a mother of two young
children and a strong believer of attached parenting.
There are two aspects I appreciate in particular about PhD In
Parenting, the blog:
First, there is the amount and variety of issues Annie
addresses: a wealth of topics of value and interest to parents and
women around the
Second, I like how she writes openly, in a caring and very involved way
and always respectful towards people with different
On to the interview now! It gives a
crisp intro to attachment parenting and its approach to baby sleep.
are a convinced attached parent. What is, to you, the
essence of the attached parenting approach?
believe that attachment parenting is parenting the way we would if we
were free of societal influences and interventions. It is natural for
us to want to nurse our babies, hold them close, and respond to their
When people think
of attached parenting, they often think of Dr.
Sears and his
7 Baby B’s
This includes birth
bonding, breastfeeding, baby wearing, bedding close to baby, etc. A lot
of people misinterpret those as the "rules" and
think that if they don’t do one of them, it means they are not
practicing attachment parenting. My belief is that those are tools that
might help parents who are practicing attachment parenting and that may
make it easier to follow the philosophy, but they
are not rules.
I prefer the 8 Principles of Attachment Parenting
Attachment Parenting International and think that they give a balanced
and realistic idea of what it is about. The
long-range vision of Attachment Parenting International is to "raise
children who will become adults with a highly developed capacity for
empathy and connection".
standard sleep principles that help a baby sleep well are
predictability, regularity and reassurance. These can be translated
into a gentle consistent approach with a well adapted sleep schedule
and bedtime routine.
But they are also at
the basis of the rigid sleep
training schedules and even crying-it-out
"sleep methods" How are
the basic sleep principles generally incorporated in attachment
There are two
ways that I see the sleep principles being incorporated
into attachment parenting.
predictability and reassurance factor generally comes from
creating a strong sleep association with the parent or other
caregivers. Some children can only sleep in their own crib. Or they can
only sleep with their pacifier. Or they can only sleep with their teddy
bear. In our case, our children can sleep anywhere and everywhere, as
long as one of their trusted caregivers is there to parent them to
sleep. I wrote more about sleep associations and attachment parenting
Associations: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly".
regards to regularity, attachment parenting tends to rely
on creating routines rather than schedules. A consistent bedtime
routine helps give a baby sleep cues and tells them that it is almost
time to sleep. Ideally, it happens at approximately the same
time each night. However, instead of looking at the clock, parents
should look at their baby. Look for signs that they need to start the
bedtime routine earlier or that it isn’t time yet. Look for signs that
you need to move a bit more quickly or more slowly through storytime.
Being in tune with their child’s needs helps attached parents to follow
a routine predicated on regularity while still respecting their child’s
I think within
attachment parenting there is also less tendency to
blame the baby for poor sleep. People who practice attachment parenting
are not likely to say that their baby is trying to manipulate them if
they cry out for them at night or if they protest going to
sleep. Instead, they look for other gentle methods to encourage better
very important caveats I learned from your blog, is that if
you start co sleeping after you have become exhausted (say after
several weeks of very poor sleep) it may be dangerous. You are not
easily awoken and therefore will not react well to your baby during the
night when co sleeping.
However, when they're
extremely tired is
exactly when some parents decide to "give in" to co sleeping, to get a
bit more sleep themselves. Can you suggest how to transition towards co
sleeping in this situation?
I would suggest
that any parent considering co-sleeping read through
the guidelines for co-sleeping safety in great detail and ensure that
the area they plan to sleep in with their baby is as safe as possible.
If parents do
want to transition towards co-sleeping and are concerned
about being too exhausted, I would suggest using a
sort. That can include one of the bed top ones, one of the ones that
fastens to the side, or side-carring a crib.
to transition from the family bed to a crib or toddler bed
is surely something that is very dependent on the child and the whole
family. But is there an advised or well suited age or method?
There is no one
specific age or method. It really depends on the child
and the family and what their preferences are. Within attachment
parenting circles, there are two broad approaches (with many variations
The first is that
the child shares a room with the parents until he
asks for a room of his own. It is the child’s desire for privacy that
results in the child moving out, not the parents desire to kick the
The second is
that the child gets a room of her own when the parents
decide it is time. Some parents, like us, will continue to lay down
with their child and go to their child at night as needed even once
they have their own room. In our case, this meant that we didn't buy
toddler beds or twin beds for our toddlers, we transitioned them from
our bed into a double bed in their own room where there was space for
us to lay down with them. Other parents will try, gently, to teach
their child to go to sleep on their own and to stay in their room on
their own at night. This usually involves a lot of going back and
reassuring the child at the beginning as they get used to it, but
shouldn’t involve leaving the child to cry themselves to sleep.
question if I may: your children will be 6 and 3 this year.
What do you see in them now, probably daily, as a result of your
attachment parenting approach (confidence, attachment, bonding,
openness, independence, …)? And in particular: how do they sleep? Do
they enjoy going to sleep, do they sleep confidently, …?
I think (and know
from the reading I’ve done) that most of a child’s
personality comes from their genes and their outside environment,
rather than from a particular parenting approach. I’ve chosen
attachment parenting because I think it will allow me to have the
healthiest and most rewarding type of relationship with my children
(i.e. a strong bond). In terms of confidence, openness, independence,
what I see in them is a reflection of mine and my partner’s
personalities more than anything else.
With regards to
sleep, they both still prefer parental presence at
bedtime. My son, who is 5, will go to sleep on his own if one of us is
sitting in the next room (e.g. reading a book, on the computer) and we
leave the door open while he goes to sleep. He generally sleeps through
the whole night on his own. My daughter, who is 3, still needs parental
presence at bedtime and still usually wakes up at night if she is left
alone. However, if she is with us, she sleeps all night. As a result, I
usually go and get her from her bed and bring her into ours before I go
to sleep or I go and join her in her bed when I’m ready to sleep. That
way, I don’t end up being woken up again! On the whole, I would say our
kids sleep well. But like most humans, they often prefer to have
someone with them.
Heidi Holvoet, PhD, is the founder of the Baby Sleep Advice website and movement, an award-winning author, baby & toddler sleep consultant with 15+ years experience as well as a certified lactation counselor.
Over the years, Heidi has received several awards inluding a Mom's Choice Award (MCA) and National Parenting Awards (NAPPA) for her Baby Sleep Advice website, programs and books. Also, Baby Sleep Advice was awarded "Most Trusted Infant's Sleep Solutions Company 2023" in the Benelux Enterprise Awards 2023.
Heidi continually conducts personal research and participates in continued education and in that way stays up to date with current scientific and pyschosocial infant care.
She is also a member of the Association of Professional Sleep Consultants of which she was one of the earliest contributors. She obtained her PhD degree in physics at the University of Ghent in Belgium.
Heidi is passionate about helping babies and their parents sleep more and better, with her trademark approach that has been proven and praised time and again by parents worldwide to be effective and truly no-tears. Respect for you as a parent and your baby, is at the heart of Heidi's warm and kind support. Her approach always keeps in mind a baby's needs and abilities at any given age, is based on pediatric science and the most up to date knowledge in infant care and sleep science.