I am an attachment parent. To be honest I didn’t really set out to be one. While I was pregnant I read various books relating to pregnancy and babies, including one by the famous (or infamous in certain circles) Dr. Sears. Overall I liked what Dr. Sears had to say. His approach to parenting seemed natural to me. Still, I didn’t proclaim that I would practice attachment parenting.
Then my little girl was born. She was a high needs baby by anybody’s standards. She, in fact, dictated what “style” of parenting she was going to receive and she happened to demand attachment parenting. Now the fact that she suffered badly from acid reflux had a lot to do with that. Until she was old enough to sit for long periods on her own she needed to be held most of the time. She could not sleep on her own since she either needed to be propped up or sleep on her side (crib wedges don’t provide anywhere near enough of an incline to help reflux). Her cries needed to be responded to swiftly since the more she cried the more aggravated her reflux would become.
All of this was exhausting. Life with any baby can be exhausting, life with a reflux baby takes you to a world of tired you’ve never even imagined. But, despite being emotionally and physically wiped out, caring for our baby this way still felt natural, it felt right. We had become attachment parents, perhaps by default in the beginning but in the end it was what works for our family.
Attachment parenting (AP) has been a hot topic lately, due in part to the recent cover of Time Magazine featuring a young woman breastfeeding her almost 4 year old as he stands on a stool. There are also outspoken attachment parents like Mayim Bialik bringing attention, not all of it positive, to AP. Until recently I decided to stay away from taking the topic on. However, I read something the other day that made me decide it was time to speak up. It was a post on Mayim’s Facebook page with a link to something she had written and the comment “Commence everyone being mean to me.” Ok I bit and read the article. I won’t go into details, you can hop on over to her fan page and find it if you are interested. The bottom line was that she was asked to write about the topic of vaccinations. She explains that she doesn’t want to write about it, but ultimately she leads you to believe that she does not “believe” in them. Well, ok, I guess. That’s a dangerous decision but it’s hers and since my little girl will never be exposed to her kids I guess I won’t get too worked up about that. But what did get me riled is that she managed to tie this matter to attachment parenting.
There are no “rules” to attachment parenting. I don’t claim to be an expert in the matter at all but I do have a good understanding of what it is and what it isn’t. These are not requirements of attachment parenting:
- Breastfeeding until your child is a preschooler (you don’t have to breast feed at all)
- Being a stay at home parent
- Not giving your child proper medical attention or preventative medical attention
- Wearing or holding your baby at all times
- Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting
- Feed with Love and Respect
- Respond with Sensitivity
- Use Nurturing Touch
- Ensure Safe Sleep Physically and Emotionally
- Provide Consistent and Loving Care
- Practice Positive Discipline
- Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life
There is no right or wrong way to parent (I am naturally assuming that I am talking to intelligent, responsible people here). Yet, there seems to be this tendency for people on both sides of the AP fence to wage war on one another. I see non APs scolding the APs telling them extended breastfeeding is disgusting, co-sleeping is ridiculous and that they are just raising whiny kids who grow up insecure with a sense of entitlement. On the other side are the APs who feel that this is the only way to parent. If you don’t breastfeed you are a rotten mother, letting your baby cry it out is barbaric and cribs are for selfish parents who want more sleep.I concede that this may not, and probably is not (I hope) the way most parents feel. However, it tends to be the passionate ones that speak out and sometimes passion can be read as aggressive, condescending, and defensive. Things like the Time cover with the headline “Are you mom enough?” and self proclaimed attachment parenting experts with little sensitivity just add fuel to a fire that shouldn’t be burning in the first place and are just plain irresponsible.
I know that attachment parenting is working for us. I have an extremely bright two year old who her daycare caregivers tell us is the first to do what is asked of her, is kind to the other children and is very good with using her words with the other kids (saying don’t hit me as opposed to hitting back for example). Do I think our parenting style has anything to do with all of this? Of course I do. However, I also know plenty of other bright, delightful children whose parents use completely different styles of parenting. I just want to clarify here that my child is just like any other two year old. She has tantrums, she gets defiant, she drives me crazy some days. Attachment parenting doesn’t make her any more or any less like an average two year old!