Attachment Parenting pros and cons
So I’m still huge, and not yet in labor. Luckily the doctor has caved and agreed to schedule an induction for 10/19, if I haven’t delivered by then. But in the meantime I’m looking for anything to take my mind off the discomforts and anxieties of imminent labor. Reader Lisa made my day with this email:
Dear Dr. Heather,
I was googling the meaning of the term “mainstream parenting” and ran across your site. I read a lot of articles on BabyShrink, including one by the name of:
This particular article made me feel choked up and teary-eyed as the mother of three boys. I experienced so close to the original poster’s experience, that it was emotional for me to read about. My second son ended up in the hospital with failure to thrive because I did not know I had under-developed breasts, and the pressure to breastfeed was tremendous. It was as though if I didn’t breastfeed I was not a good mother — end of story.
Now don’t get me wrong – I think breastfeeding is the most natural and wonderful way to care for a child that there could possibly be, but I have struggled against huge odds to get people to understand that there are those of us out here who simply CANNOT breastfeed… it’s not that we chose this option.
I have since had my third son two months ago and planned right off not to fully breastfeed and just give him whatever little bit I could make, and the rest of his meals would be formula. This was the best choice I could have made. Taking the pressure off myself allowed me to make a little bit more milk, and I have totally enjoyed the breastfeeding this time around without feeling like it was forced upon me. (When I say a little.. I mean that I made about 1/3-1/2 oz of milk between both breasts, which increased to 1/2-1 full oz now.)
My close friends and I have always felt that there is no completely right way to do this job of mothering. It’s very dependent on the individual child and his or her needs as a person. Reading your site only backed us up on what we believe and I shared it with my closest friend tonight. I have nothing against the AP crowd except that there are those extremists that ruin it’s reputation. The ridicule and nastiness they can dish out is in a whole category by itself. I’m just grateful that there are those out there with credentials like you who see that there is good in several parenting approaches, and your philosophies closely resemble my own.
So this is basically a kudos to you, Dr. Heather.
Utah Mother of 3
Here’s my response to Lisa:
There are so many moms like you out there who feel this way.
I keep reminding myself that the WHOLE process of pregnancy, labor, delivery, and indeed parenting itself is an ongoing process. Trying to decide what is best for you, your child, and your family, from day to day, is what it’s all about — not following some kind of idealistic dogma about what is “best”. In that way, we model to our children that we create solutions that are best for all of us — not just based on something that someone else said was supposedly correct for everyone. We can (and should be) flexible, for the good of the kids and our families.
I am so glad you are having a nice experience this time around and trusting yourself. Enjoy and thanks again!!
We’ve had a lot of action around here regarding Attachment Parenting. The issue doesn’t end at sleep training, babywearing, or extended nursing. It also is smack dab in the middle of one of the most contentious issues in parenting today…the issue of the safety of vaccinations.
If you’ve read my posts here for long, my thoughts won’t come as any surprise to you. I’m strongly pro-vaccination. And I evaluate toddlers all the time for autism. I realize that I may incur the wrath of some sadly misinformed readers out there, but I gotta tell ya: Vaccines have saved millions of lives. Case closed. (To me, at least.) If you haven’t already, check out this post stating my thoughts on the issue.
Along with a mini-flood of reader questions about infant sleep, reader Julie posted this comment today, and I thought I would write about it because there’s a lot of momentum going in this direction in the parenting press these days:
Hi, I also have a 7-month-old and I just did the sleep training with the Sleep Easy Solutions book. It has been a great experience! We actually bedshared for a bit, but it became very taxing in the evenings, as he could not go to sleep without me. He now sleeps longer and better and gets himself to sleep. We are now working on naps. Interestingly enough, he used to nap so much better next to a parent, but now he sleeps better if he gets himself to sleep. I think seven months was the perfect time for us to transition him to his crib and help him learn to sleep on his own.
I wrote about this on my personal blog, ilovemonsters.blogspot.com.
I’m very interested this whole AP thing–I have some major issues with Sears. So I was looking at your articles on this in preparation for my own post.
After reading her comment, I pulled a link to a fantastic article in the New York Times from the Mainstream Parenting site. It broadens the issue of Attachment Parenting into the issue of vaccinations. Check it out.
Can’t wait for the fireworks.
There’s an interesting discussion that’s taking place on several sites simultaneously, and rather than responding to comments down below one of my more recent Attachment Parenting posts, I thought I’d highlight the discussion here, since lots of us are interested.
Many of us are confused when we read parenting advice by “gurus” like Dr. Sears (who coined the term “Attachment Parenting”), because it makes us wonder whether we’re doing a terrible disservice to our children if we use some form of “Cry It Out”, DON’T co-sleep, engage in “babywearing”, or do “extended breastfeeding”. Poor Susanna came over to BabyShrink, after feeling scolded by AP proponents when she tried the “Cry It Out” (CIO) approach in a desperate attempt to get her son to sleep. We’ve continued to discuss the issues, with Annie at PhDinParenting bravely supporting her beliefs here, and elsewhere.
Annie left a link on a fascinating, very thorough anthropological review article looking at aspects of “natural parenting” worldwide. If you’ve got the time to read through the 82 page document — go for it. Seriously, it’s extremely interesting. I certainly find very little to quarrel with in the report. Perhaps Annie doesn’t realize it, but here at BabyShrink we agree that responsive, “tuned-in” parenting is crucial in child development, and that physical — and emotional — contact, and very involved care, is an essential component in the ultimate well-being of a child. And that the lessons learned from in-depth study of attachment — via well-accepted research — informs our approach and intentions.
But the research review that Annie showed us mainly focuses on the young infants we ALL agree need to have close, physical contact and deeply involved parenting. It doesn’t extend much to a discussion of toddlers and preschoolers, which is the group most often asked about at BabyShrink. It also doesn’t tell us that the “Attachment Parenting” approach is somehow BETTER than the “Good Enough” parenting we strive for.
My beef is with those who take excellent research, and make unwarranted generalizations about it. The research shows us that excessive crying and non-responsive parenting is bad for the development of babies. –Well, duh. The research does NOT say, for instance, that a certain amount of crying, in the service of getting an older baby or toddler to sleep through the night, in their crib — is a bad thing.
The bottom line here is that I’m against any sort of “holier than thou” parenting approach that doesn’t respect individual differences in babies’ temperaments and family circumstances. Good Enough is GOOD ENOUGH — and there’s research to support THAT. You don’t have to be a perfect parent, and in fact in trying, you can make everyone nuts. There are far too many parents out there on “information overload”, worried that they are daily making bad decisions for their kids, and in the process, not learning to trust their own best instincts as parents. You know your child best. I’ve always said to take what I say, or what any “expert” advises, with a grain of salt. Take what makes sense, leave the rest, and improvise from there.
Do I think Attachment Parenting can be applied with excellent results? Of course. Are there AP parents who are doing a fantastic job? Absolutely. But there is a vocal AP minority who insist on spreading the “gospel” to those of us who don’t appreciate the prosteletyzing — and whose children are turning out pretty great, thank you very much.
Mom of Four, Parenting Expert
Aloha, I’m Dr. Heather
I'm a psychologist and Mom of four, here to make parenting easier -- and more fun. My advice is science-based and road-tested in the real world. I specialize in babies and young children through age 7. I'm also a parenting writer, national speaker, child development expert, and social media strategist.
Let’s Get This Potty Started!
Anthony T. DeBenedet, MD, co-author of The Art of Roughhousing: Good Old-Fashioned Horseplay and Why Every Kid Needs It