Natural parenting is often equated with attachment parenting, and that is fine as long as we are careful about what we mean by “attachment.” Children are not designed, by nature, to attach just to the mother, or just to the mother and father. They are, for good biological reasons, designed to form multiple attachments, to many of the people in a community. It is important to recognize here that the private nuclear family, living in a house apart from others in the community, is, from an evolutionary perspective, an unnatural environment.
Throughout most of human history, prior to the development of agriculture, people lived not in houses but in what is best described as camps. The basic social unit was the band, which consisted typically of about 20 to 50 people who cooperated with one another and who moved from campsite to campsite as needed to follow the available game and edible vegetation. At each campsite they built small, temporary huts to sleep in, all clustered together. Except when they were asleep, people spent their time outdoors with all of the other band members. Marriages existed, and children had special relationships with their parents, but parents did not “own” their children in the way that people in our culture think of parents as owning their children. In many ways, the children were children of the entire band. Everyone took part in every child’s care. Everyone developed some kind of relationship with every child, and children, even babies, were active partners in forming those relationships.