Attachment Myths and Facts

When I was first learning about attachment, I was really confused about what really mattered for a healthy relationship. While baby wearing, extended breastfeeding, and co-sleeping are biological expectations and deserve attention (and were things that I did with my own children and would do again), I think sometimes focusing on a strict adherence to these principles overshadows the message of what it means to parent in a connected, responsive way. In this video on the Myths of Attachment, learn what is most important as you find your own way in relationship with your baby, child, teen. Join me, Rebecca Thompson Hitt, MS, MFT, to get at the heart of attachment – what it is and what it is not – for children (and adults) of all ages.

Video transcript:

My name is Rebecca Thompson Hitt. I’m the founder and executive director of the Consciously Parenting Project.

So what is attachment? And how is it different from Attachment Parenting, or is it the same thing? 

When I first started learning about attachment, I was getting my master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy. And I was learning about John Bowlby and his research about the children who had been in hospital and they’d been separated from their parents because of germs. They didn’t want their children to be exposed to germs that the parents would be coming into the hospital with but they noticed that these children didn’t thrive.

And so they started looking at well, what is the relationship that’s going on there? What’s important? What are these children’s needs that may be more important than, you know, absence of germs. And so John Bowlby actually began this whole movement of really looking and studying relationships and what’s a healthy relationship and what does it mean and what does it need?

And then later Attachment Parenting came along, and these are biologically expected norms are our babies come into the world as a human baby expecting to be held expecting to be breastfed expecting to be in close proximity at night. And so these are biological norms.

It got a little confusing because Attachment Parenting for some reason became a “okay well you have to follow these these things.” So you have to co-sleep, you have to extended breastfeed, you have to do these things. And the idea that was kind of coming across there was that your child wouldn’t be securely attached (if you didn’t do these things). Your child wouldn’t be a healthy, responsible, loving person if you didn’t do all these things. And that’s a complete misconception. So what I did talk about some of the myths that I hear a lot from parents about attachment and Attachment Parenting and see if I can demystify some of that for you.


Myth: I can’t ever say no or set a limit if we’re going to stay connected. 

In reality, a secure attachment, which is a positive, healthy relationship, requires authenticity, and requires us as parents to say, “that’s not working for me.” I can set a loving, respectful boundary. I’m not going to let my baby bite me. I’m not going to let my toddler push me around.

And I can be gentle and loving. And if something’s not okay, I can still communicate that. That said, I think we should be saying yes, as much as possible and really look at the boundaries that we’re setting. I think some parents go overboard with this and then there’s a big disconnection there. But it’s really, really important to set a limit if it’s not working for you because they feel the dissonance between what you’re saying and how you’re actually feeling.

Generally what ends up happening then is that it builds up and builds up and then all of a sudden, now you’re exploding now you’re yelling at your kids and you’re not parenting in a way that you’re trying to parent in the first place. So it’s pulling it back together and recognizing when something’s not working with you early and communicating.

Myth: I have to co sleep, baby wear, and practice extended breastfeeding whether I want to or not, or my child will be securely attached.

Mother and young daughter happily snuggling in bed together3:23
The most important things about attachment is that it’s a relationship and it needs to work for both parties. Now I highly recommend that you educate yourself and you learn about co-sleeping and you read The Family Bed or read Three in a Bed. Read something that really talks about the biological expectations and the norms and the things that the babies and we as adults need. Learn about James McKenna’s work, learn about sleep cycles, learn about these things, educate yourself, and you’ll learn that babies need to be in close proximity at night, but find what works for you.

If you are not sleeping, if nobody’s sleeping, well then sometimes we need to do something a little bit different. It isn’t about a rigid dogma or doctrine that you have to follow. It’s about relationship and that means that we need to look at it and say, “Is this working for me?”

I had a mother many many years ago who had epilepsy and she was taking medications to control her epilepsy, and so she didn’t co-sleep but she found the thing that worked best for her which was to put the baby right next to her bed so that she could still be responsive at night.

A lot of the ideas behind Attachment Parenting are about responsiveness and when we can be responsive to our baby whether that means that they’re in the same bed with us sharing the same surface, whether they’re nearby, or whether we’re very responsive to them at night and we’re meeting their nighttime needs. We’re finding our own way. That’s the relationship. And so the myth is that we have to just follow these things. The reality is that it’s a relationship and we’re going to figure out what works best for everybody.


Myth: We have some great times and go play nicely together. Our relationship is fine. He just needs to behave.

But attachment is really about what happens in times of distress. Is your child able to reach out to you is your child able to come to you for comfort? Are you able to soothe your child? You know, barring some sort of a medical situation where your child is very uncomfortable? You know, are you able to connect in that way and meet their needs? Are they able to receive that care? This is a relationship. So it isn’t about just what happens when you’re playing nicely. But what happens when your child starts to get upset? Are you able to work through that and reconnect? It’s not that you’re handling it perfectly every time, which leads us to our next myth.

Myth: I need to be perfectly attuned to my baby and meet every need for a healthy relationship.

Mother meditating with toddler on her lap
And this was one that I thought when when I had my son I thought that if I could be well regulated, calm, kind parent all the time and respond to his every need, that that was what was going to create a secure attachment. The reality is that we’re people, we’re humans, and we’re going to make tons of mistakes. We’re going to miss many, many, many cues.

I remember reading a study many years ago that talked about really, really attuned parents, really good parents, miss half to three quarters of the cues given by their children.

Take that in for a moment.

I mean, you’re missing like a majority of what your kids are signaling to you that they need. You know whether you can’t do it at that time, whether you don’t see it doesn’t matter. Those are the parents who are doing a good job. And so give yourself a break.

It’s not about doing it perfectly. But when you do notice it, it’s about being as responsive as you can. And then when you find yourself reacting in a way that you didn’t want. It’s modeling reconnection, it’s moving back in and it’s apologizing to naming what should have happened and then redoing it and and there’s there’s a huge power in that. It is a beautiful thing to remember that we don’t have to be perfect, and that we’re modeling what it is to be human to our kids as well. And that’s attachment.


Myth: Attachment isn’t important after age three.

Teen daughter being hugged by her mother wearing white7:48

One last myth that I wanted to mention for you and that’s that attachment ends at a certain age. A lot of the research (I read) talked about the first three years and some of the other research I read was talking about the first five years and our attachment patterns are actually set in the first year of life.

That said, attachment is something that is a lifelong thing. We need connection with other people. We are mammals we are human and we need connection throughout our lives, the relationships that we have with our partners, our attachment relationships.

So the ones that we support our children to create early in life help them for their lifespan. And at anytime in our life if we discover that our attachment isn’t where we want it to be, if the way that we are in relationship with other people isn’t really working for us, then we can make that different starting today. And parenting provides us with an amazing opportunity to do that.

If this is intriguing to you, I would highly recommend that you join us for our exploration on attachment. We’re going to be looking at your behaviors, your attachment story, we’re going to be looking at feelings and what happens when you lose it. We’re going to be looking at your kids and what happens when they lose it.

How do you create connection?

How do you stay in connection?

How do you nurture that connection?

And I end the course with a whole bunch of things that you can do to stay connected in your daily life. And so I would encourage you to join us!

It’s an e-course the videos are already ready to go. So all you need to do is sign up and join us. I hope to see you in the course.

Check out the “Attachment Stories: Connection, Disconnection, and Repair in Everyday Life” course! It’s for families with children of all ages.


  • Rebecca Thompson Hitt

    Rebecca is the founder of The Consciously Parenting Project, LLC, and author of 3 books (Consciously Parenting: What it really Takes to Raise Emotionally Healthy Families, Creating Connection: Essential Tools for Growing Families through Conception, Birth and Beyond, and Nurturing Connection: What Parents Need to Know about Emotional Expression and Bonding), numerous classes and recordings, and the former co-host of a radio show, True North Parents.

Rebecca Thompson Hitt

Rebecca is the founder of The Consciously Parenting Project, LLC, and author of 3 books (Consciously Parenting: What it really Takes to Raise Emotionally Healthy Families, Creating Connection: Essential Tools for Growing Families through Conception, Birth and Beyond, and Nurturing Connection: What Parents Need to Know about Emotional Expression and Bonding), numerous classes and recordings, and the former co-host of a radio show, True North Parents.

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