Attachment Parenting is a practice made popular by American pediatrician Dr. Bill Sears, who has written about 30 books on the subject.
If you weren’t familiar with Attachment Parenting before, you may remember it from the controversial Time magazine cover featuring a 3-year-old boy sucking on his mom’s breast.
The eight principles he proposes are:
- Preparation for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting
- Feed with Love and Respect
- Respond with Sensitivity
- Use Nurturing Touch
- Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally
- Provide Consistent Loving Care
- Practice Positive Discipline
- Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life
These sound to be fairly straightforward. In fact, it’s common sense. Dr. Sears does not require for parents to follow a set of rules, he encourages creativity. Which is where I think the new age parents abuse the practice. It’s all about balance. For example, I try to give only organic products to my son, but sometimes I just don’t. I’m a vegetarian, he’s not. Why? Because I didn’t want to force my beliefs on a child. He will determine when he wants if he wants to follow his mother’s 19-year eating habits.
Some attachment parents practice a natural family living (NFL) lifestyle. Personally, I don’t feel less natural than parents who choose to nurse well into the toddler years, home birth, and co-sleeping, to name just a few of the NFL trademarks.
I am no Dr. Sears, but I am a mom. And I can tell you that there are some benefits of non-attachment parenting: no interrupted sleep, no one tugging at my breast, and best of all, no guilt! Here’s my take on some of the tenets of Attachment Parenting.
I think breast-feeding is great—for six months. If moms want to extend the time to a year, I don’t agree, but I understand. Maybe it’s my own experience with breastfeeding my four-month old right now. I’m doing it for her, not for me. I get gloomy during the process, forget endorphins in my case. But, I honestly can’t imagine a 2-year-old breastfeeding—unless you live in a very poor country and cannot afford to find food for your child. Not only because they have teeth, but also because they are aware! If it was normal in the Paleolithic era, it is not now. We have evolved! I have a few friends who have done the long-term nursing thing, and I love them—although I prefer they don’t do it in front of me.
This is a great choice, if you don’t have the complications I had, being a high-risk pregnancy doesn’t give me the peace of mind to pop at home. Also, I would not have done it without the drugs, I am not fond of pain, and I swear I love my kids the same as home birthing mothers love theirs. While many believe homebirth is a better choice for newborns, I believe the level of stress and pain the mom goes through is passed on to the child.
I only encourage this when my kids are sick or on special occasions. They need to learn to play alone and sleep alone. My little one and I have fallen asleep while I nursed; I almost hit her twice with my elbow. I fear either my husband or I will forget she’s there and roll over on her! I sleep all stressed out, and wake up with a horrible stiff neck. It cannot be good for anyone. To me, co-sleeping poses a risk for the baby, and if it’s a toddler the risk is co-dependency, and does not teach the child to be independent and confident. Plus, my husband and I need our time alone. Very important!
The American Academy of Pediatrics’ policy on SIDS prevention opposes bed-sharing with infants (though it does encourage room-sharing). The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission also warns against co-sleeping. Attachment Parenting International issued a response calling the data referenced in the Consumer Product Safety Commission as unreliable and misleading.
I quit my job for more than a year to raise my son, and it was the best decision of my life. Thank goodness I could, it was a sacrifice that affected my professional life as well as my income, but it didn’t matter. I was 24/7 with my boy and that’s what I call attachment parenting: being there for him, nurturing him every step of the way with positivity and support, but not by having him sleep with me or allowing him to roam freely as if he were a wild animal. I teach him. I enforce discipline because I want him to be a kind and well-educated human being with values. I want him to make a positive difference in the world.
My kids will choose the sports and/or instruments they want to play, they will decide what to study and what to wear, and that is enough freedom. Kids need a role model, guidance and schedules. And a whole lot of love!