Are Attachment Parenting & Gentle Parenting Different?

I’m sure there was a time when parenting was just parenting. Now, though, there are hundreds of different parenting styles and it can be hard to know which one is which. One of the common mix ups is attachment parenting and gentle parenting. Even in gentle parenting facebook groups and forums, there is uncertainty about how these two styles are different.

So today, I’m going to clear up the confusion and explain exactly how attachment parenting and gentle parenting differ.

are attachment parenting and gentle parenting the same - child in pink coat on scooter

Attachment Parenting

Attachment Parenting puts a big emphasis on parents bonding with their children.

It is based on the Attachment Theory which suggests that children who have a strong, secure attachment with their caregiver grow up to be more resilient, self-confident and able to form healthy relationships.

So the aim of attachment parenting is to create and nurture this strong bond right from the start.

This is done by keeping the child close by so that parents can respond quickly and effectively to the child’s needs. Some of the main ways of doing this are:

As you can see from this list, the majority of attachment parenting happens when the child is a baby. Some attachment parents also choose to be stay at home parents or to home educate.

is there a difference between attachment parenting and gentle parenting - children on rope climbing frame

Gentle Parenting

Gentle parenting focuses on three key principles:

  • Respect
  • Discipline
  • Empathy

The aim is to treat children as equals and so that they learn to value themselves and others. There is a strong emphasis on guiding children and developing their sense of right and wrong, rather than giving punishments.

Gentle parenting is more about the parents’ attitude and motivation than a list of rules, and it is a style that can be used throughout childhood (and adulthood).

the difference between attachment parenting and gentle parenting - cyfarthfa park playground

Why do ‘attachment parenting’ and ‘gentle parenting’ get mixed up?

Many people who follow attachment parenting progress to gentle parenting as their babies become children. The two styles compliment each other as they both focus on responding to children’s needs in a kind, child-centred manner. In a way, gentle parenting is attachment parenting for older kids.

However, gentle parenting is more widely adopted than attachment parenting because it is much more open-ended and can be interpreted in many different ways.

So you can be a gentle parent who follows baby led weaning, or you can be a gentle parent who makes purées. You can be a gentle parent who stays at home, or you can be a gentle parent who goes out to work.

It is down to the individual parents to decide whether their choices are respectful (i.e. gentle), rather than a checklist of dos and don’ts to tell you how to parent.

Sarah Ockwell-Smith puts it like this:

“Although often attachment parenting and gentle parenting can be and are complementary, attachment parenting is a style of parenting following specific principles , whereas I see ‘gentle parenting’ as just a way of being…”

What is gentle parenting and how is it different to mainstream parenting

attachment parenting vs gentle parenting - two children on scooters in autumn

Why does it matter if people say ‘gentle parenting’ when they mean ‘attachment parenting’?

There are a lot of myths around gentle parenting and a common misconception is that it’s only for super mums or earth mothers who can go 3 nights straight without sleep and still use the happy sing-song voice with their tantruming toddler.

Of course those types of mums are welcome in the gentle parenting club too, but it’s not exclusive.

Gentle parents can be super maternal, or not. They can breastfeed or bottle feed. If they choose to use childcare, that’s fine; and if they choose to be at home, that’s fine too. The only rule is that the parents make kind, respectful choices for their children.

But mixing up attachment parenting and gentle parenting can put people off. They may like the idea of gentle parenting but be unable to breastfeed. They might want to use respectful discipline but disagree with bed-sharing.

Similarly, they may come across gentle parenting when their children are passed the baby stage. If people are implying that you have to do attachment parenting for gentle parenting to work, then they will think they’ve missed their chance.

This is why it’s important to know the difference.


Many attachment parents do gentle parenting, but not all gentle parents do attachment parenting.

For more posts about gentle parenting and what it means to be a gentle parent in the everyday nitty gritty, join the Lucy At Home community by adding your email HERE.

PIN it for later:

Are Gentle Parenting And Attachment Parenting The Same - if you want to know the difference between gentle parenting and attachment parenting then this is the post for you. There is a clear definition of each parenting style and an explanation of attachment theory, plus how the two parenting styles link together #gentleparenting #attachmentparenting


Add yours
  1. 1
    Alice v

    Great post Lucy! I’m an attachment parent for sure because since my babies were born I just have to have them close. We also try to do family things every time we’re together. I am incorporating gentle parenting into the mix because I believe they deserve a degree of respect and I want them to grow up feeling valued by their parents and respect goes a long way too.

  2. 3
    Enda Sheppard

    Maybe it’s a stage thing too … after the initial early constant presence, attachment parenting needs to allow children more and more freedom to develop resilience and responsibility and move towards independence. This implies a “letting go” which gentle parenting would foster, as I see it. Interesting post #Blogcrush

  3. 5

    Great post Lucy. Very interesting. I am trying to take on a more respectful/ gentle parenting approach and have been doing lots of reading so I can learn the techniques. I am loving your posts. #Blogcrush

  4. 7

    I love this post , Lucy! I am an attachment parent because I breastfed both my boys. We also practiced baby-wearing and co-sleeping. I want to learn how to be a gentle parent, and I have been trying to apply your tips ever since I discovered your blog. Thank you for explaining the differences between the two kinds of parenting, and also emphasizing that attachment parenting may progress to gentle parenting. #blogcrush

  5. 8
    Jennifer Bergh

    Great post, I definately wasnt aware of the difference! Im a definate attachment parent, I loved having my babies snuggled next to me at all times. They still find comfort in that now, even though they are 13, 12 and 11! I Thanks!

  6. 10
    Lucy Howard

    Thank you so much for writing this post. I always loved the idea of attachment parenting but then was unable to breastfeed either of my children. I felt that I’d failed at parenting them in the way I had wanted to. This post has made me realise that I was just practising Gentle Parenting all along. Thank you. And thank you for hosting #Blogcrush. Hugs Lucy xxxx

  7. 11

    Oh I love this post! I don’t really know what type of parent I am. I definitely did lots of aspects of attachment parenting when my boys were babies and I am trying to use more gentle parenting techniques but I find it difficult with my 5 year old who doesn’t really respond to any kind of parenting from me as he’s so strong willed. Could you do a post on tips to gentle parents an extremely independent and strong willed child who thinks he always right no matter what?!xx #blogcrush

  8. 15
    Tracey Carr

    It is extremely informative Lucy so thank you for that. I wasn’t aware but I am glad that I have read this. I do take the gentle parenting approach with my daughters, we discuss emotions a lot and I always try to show my four year old how her actions affect other people and their feelings. She is becoming a very considerate little girl and I am very proud of her for that. A very interesting read #blogcrush

  9. 16
    Daydreams of a Mum

    This is such an interesting post. I definitely agree the gentle parenting thing is more just a way of being as when I read your posts I realise I’ve done this without realising!! I probably incorporated some attachment parenting when they were babies , certainly with the youngest #blogcrush

  10. 19
    Around The World In 18 Years - Andrew

    In our house both our girls breastfed, and as they have gotten older (10 and 4) their bond and need for cuddles and contact is just as strong. Bed time snuggles, sofa hugs watching movies, holding hands or linking arms. I’m a fella and more than happy to be a gentle parent to my adorable little monkeys. #blogcrush

+ Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.