It was not my intent when discussing night time parenting to exclude those who do not co-sleep. It is possible to be an attentive night time parent without co-sleeping. In many cases the baby (or child) sleeps in a separate bed in the parents room or in a separate room entirely. If that is your sleep arrangement, it does not mean that you are not or can not parent through the night. Each family has to figure out their own comfort level and adjust to their family's needs. Keep in mind, my opinion is that you should respond when you feel comfortable responding, not when a book tells you to. I also believe that mothering instinct does not allow a child to cry without reaction.
So-- how does one parent through the night without co-sleeping?
Let me start with how I parent in the night when I am out of the bed.
As you might have figured out on your own, I do not generally go to bed at seven (now eight) and stay in bed until seven in the morning with my son. On nights when I want to go to bed early, I do, but I also rise early to take care of the house, read, write, etc. On nights I go to bed late, we rise around the same time. This of course, leaves time when The Boy is in bed alone.
I react differently based on the situation, but when The Boy calls my name specifically, I go to him. I don't drop the dishes and race as fast as I can, but I show up within a minute (generally). If he fusses, I listen to see if he wakes or if he is just moving around/readjusting to get comfortable. Early on, I learned the difference between his fussing versus real cry. Generally now, he calls my name if he needs my attention, and yes, I consider emotional needs to be as important as physical. The best part for me, because we have been doing this for The Boy's entire life, he does not cry during the his alone time in bed unless he needs something. (In the rare cases I have to leave town on business, he does wake more often, but from what I can tell from my non-AP friends, this is normal in any case, and again a topic for another post.)
If you do not co-sleep, you can still night time parent by learning your child's sleep habits, patterns and needs. If your child fusses in their room, but settles down on his/her own, you are still parenting if you are monitoring the child's situation. If the child cries and you sooth the child by patting the child's back or rocking your infant, that is parenting in the night.
The hard part in night-time parenting for non-co-sleeping families, in my opinion, is the disruption to the parents sleep, but if your child wakes once in a while, there probably is not much disruption. Also, if the child is not used to your attention at night, there will be an adjustment period, because your child, even infant, might associate seeing you with morning play time rather than night-time-soothing. This is a challenge that would need to be overcome, if you were to decide to parent at night.
Night time parenting is not something I took lightly in deciding. There is literature available on both attachment parenting and sleeping. I'll post some resources separately.
Coming up-- debunking some myths and why I dismiss them. Go on and throw them out there. Also, a resource list for those looking for additional information.