This article was published, citation information below.


Ang, M. (2006). The Eighth Ideal of Attachment Parenting: Balanced Family Life. In Infanity magazine, December 2006 issue.

This month we complete our series of articles on Attachment Parenting, with the eighth and final ideal, which is to have a balanced family life. While AP means responding immediately to your baby’s needs, because his/her needs are immediate, it does not mean neglecting your other family members. AP moms sometimes seem to be so completely wrapped up in their babies that some dads, or even older children, end up feeling neglected. It takes a conscious effort to avoid this scenario, and this is what the eighth ideal of AP aims to address. The bottom line here is simply this: do things as a family.

It is important to prepare all members of the family with the idea that a newborn baby’s needs are immediate and thus require immediate responses. This need to immediately feed a hungry baby or change the diaper of a wet/soiled one or to cuddle and console a crying one does not mean that other family members are not important also – what everyone needs to understand, from the very beginning, is that everyone else is capable of understanding and waiting for their needs to be met, a young baby is not. It is not a matter of who is more important than whom, but of each individual’s level of maturity.

This head knowledge is helpful when reality kicks in, but even being so forewarned may not prevent some family members from feeling left out or unimportant – this depends also on each individual’s level of maturity and temperament. It is thus also important to have a game plan of sorts to make sure everyone’s emotional needs are met, including also and not least importantly the emotional needs of the mother. I would like to address each immediate family member separately, giving a few starting ideas as to how they can be involved in integrating your new arrival into the family.

Father’s role
Fathers certainly can and absolutely should take an active role in baby’s life. Initially, a newborn baby’s physical need is almost solely for mother, and it is at this stage that father often finds himself a bystander or mere observer. It should not be so. Father’s role at this stage should be to provide complete and unconditional support to mother, who has gone through major life changes in delivering their baby and continues to be taxed to the maximum with nursing that is practically a continuous process for the first month or two, and continues at varying intensities well up to 2 years later, if mother strives to achieve the exclusive breastfeeding ideal of AP (the third ideal of AP as covered in our series). Here are some practical ways in which father can be actively involved, from the very beginning.
  • Father can be responsible for diaper changes, and also baths – this is how my own family worked things out in the very beginning when our baby was a newborn
  • Father can wait on mother hand and foot, i.e. make sure she’s well fed and most importantly well hydrated as she nurses their newborn baby
  • Father can provide loving emotional support and words of encouragement
    As baby grows older, more and more ways of being involved will become available to the loving and attentive father. The following are just some of these:
  • Father can feed baby once he/she starts on solid foods at the age of at least 6 months old
  • Father can help rock baby to sleep or sing/hum/read to him/her
  • Father can carry or sling baby on his person when the family goes for outings – I personally would recommend this role be shared between mother and father and not be the exclusive domain of either and also never given over to a maid or third person. Babywearing is a superb means of bonding with your infant and young child and opportunities for such bonding should not be passed over lightly
  • As baby grows into toddlerhood, father can and should become a wonderful playmate. Some fathers have forgotten how to play – I highly recommend you read the book Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen, not only for fathers but mothers also.
  • Father must continue to provide loving support, encouragement and attention to mother. Cut down on your personal entertainments and outings – too many fathers disappear for long hours at a time on golf games, outings with friends, overtime work. These are very detrimental for the growth of a young family and seriously jeopardize the goal of having a balanced family life. Instead plan for family outings or just stay at home. Family outings need not be complicated – a visit to the playground, or the mall, or to homes of friends who have their own children around the same age as yours. All these are simple ideas. Adventurous fathers can also plan short family vacations. Bring your friends home instead of going out with them – but make sure your friends are the type that do not smoke or do otherwise negative behaviours around young children, and do not expect mother to wait on them either – that is not her role.
  • Father and mother must both be actively involved in and on the same page regarding matters of discipline – our article last month on the seventh ideal of AP covered this topic in more detail.
Older siblings
Older siblings can also be involved in helping care for their new baby brother or sister. Depending on their age, this can include tasks as simple as helping mommy get the baby wipes, to much larger tasks such as helping to change a wet diaper, for siblings old enough to handle that. Younger children can snuggle up with mommy while she nurses the baby, perhaps to watch a video or read a book together. Both parents need to allocate even very small amounts of one-on-one time with their other children too.

Mother needs time to herself too, even if only to use the bathroom. Without support from the rest of the family, some moms find themselves not even having the time or space for such basic human necessities! If father is doing his part, mother should be able to get a welcome bath or nap everyday to refresh and recharge herself.

These are just a few ideas. My main point is that families have to be aware of pitfalls that can lead to any or several of the family feeling neglected or left out and to consciously practice a spirit of inclusion at all times.

This article concludes our series on Attachment Parenting. There are several very useful websites for further and future reading. I would like to close by listing some of those that I have found most helpful:
  1. Articles from The Natural Child Project,
  2. Attachment Parenting International,
  3. Mother-2-Mother,
  4. Parenting@Kellymom,


Copyright ©2006 Minni Ang