Friday, August 14, 2009

Attachment Parenting Pt. 1

I have tried many times to write down what I feel and think about attachment parenting but I get so overwhelmed and end up writing nothing and instead making my husband listen to me babble on about one thing or another instead of actually writing it down. I thought I'd start trying to record my thoughts here and maybe I'll end up helping someone or maybe I'll end up helping myself.

I don't think I ever really heard the term 'attachment parenting' before I got pregnant and starting reading about parenting and pregnancy. I have three awesome sister in laws who all had their first children last year. Talk about a wealth of information! It helps that they are also three amazing moms that I look up to a lot.

During a family visit when my brothers partners were both pregnant they turned me onto Mothering Magazine. Through the magazine I found a wealth of information and then through their website I read and watched other mothers talk about parenting and pregnancy. It was here that I first really learned about the term attachment parenting.

Armed with an arsenal of book recommendations I started reading about attachment parenting and you know what I thought when I read all that stuff? 'Um, duh!' This was how I was raised, it's how B was raised, it felt like obvious stuff to me. I honestly felt like 'why do they even treat it like a whole school of thought, isn't it just the normal obvious stuff that all moms do?' - I still feel this way most of the time.

I wish I had a great definition of attachment parenting to share but I'll do my best. To me, attachment parenting means being close with your baby. Physically and emotionally. Being in tune with your baby instead of distant and separate. That's all sort of abstract sounding isn't it? I guess to me it's sort of mentality opposed to a specific set of actions. It's wanting to understand your child and help meet their needs instead of seeing them as distant, manipulative and something to be tamed or trained. Still not coming out the way I want it to...well I don't know how else to describe it because it feels so "duh!!" to me. In terms of real definitions I think the Dr. Sears description of attachment parenting is my favorite. Dr. Sears is sort of the father of attachment parenting. His description is very lenient and I'll copy and paste my favorite part from this page below


1. Birth bonding

The way baby and parents get started with one another helps the early attachment unfold. The days and weeks after birth are a sensitive period in which mothers and babies are uniquely primed to want to be close to one another. A close attachment after birth and beyond allows the natural, biological attachment-promoting behaviors of the infant and the intuitive, biological, caregiving qualities of the mother to come together. Both members of this biological pair get off to the right start at a time when the infant is most needy and the mother is most ready to nurture

"What if something happens to prevent our immediate bonding?"

Sometimes medical complications keep you and your baby apart for a while, but then catch-up bonding is what happens, starting as soon as possible. When the concept of bonding was first delivered onto the parenting scene twenty years ago, some people got it out of balance. The concept of human bonding being an absolute "critical period" or a "now-or-never" relationship was never intended. Birth bonding is not like instant glue that cements the mother-child relationship together forever. Bonding is a series of steps in your lifelong growing together with your child. Immediate bonding simply gives the parent- infant relationship a headstart.

2. Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is an exercise in babyreading. Breastfeeding helps you read your baby's cues, her body language, which is the first step in getting to know your baby. Breastfeeding gives baby and mother a smart start in life. Breastmilk contains unique brain-building nutrients that cannot be manufactured or bought. Breastfeeding promotes the right chemistry between mother and baby by stimulating your body to produce prolactin and oxytocin, hormones that give your mothering a boost.
3. Babywearing
A baby learns a lot in the arms of a busy caregiver. Carried babies fuss less and spend more time in the state of quiet alertness, the behavior state in which babies learn most about their environment. Babywearing improves the sensitivity of the parents. Because your baby is so close to you, you get to know baby better. Closeness promotes familiarity.

4. Bedding close to baby
Wherever all family members get the best night's sleep is the right arrangement for your individual family. Co-sleeping adds a nighttime touch that helps busy daytime parents reconnect with their infant at night. Since nighttime is scary time for little people, sleeping within close touching and nursing distance minimizes nighttime separation anxiety and helps baby learn that sleep is a pleasant state to enter and a fearless state to remain in.

5. Belief in the language value of your baby's cry
A baby's cry is a signal designed for the survival of the baby and the development of the parents. Responding sensitively to your baby's cries builds trust. Babies trust that their caregivers will be responsive to their needs. Parents gradually learn to trust in their ability to appropriately meet their baby's needs. This raises the parent-child communication level up a notch. Tiny babies cry to communicate, not to manipulate.

6. Beware of baby trainers
Attachment parenting teaches you how to be discerning of advice, especially those rigid and extreme parenting styles that teach you to watch a clock or a schedule instead of your baby; you know, the cry-it-out crowd. This "convenience" parenting is a short-term gain, but a long-term loss, and is not a wise investment. These more restrained styles of parenting create a distance between you and your baby and keep you from becoming an expert in your child.

7. Balance
In your zeal to give so much to your baby, it's easy to neglect the needs of yourself and your marriage. As you will learn the key to putting balance in your parenting is being appropriately responsive to your baby – knowing when to say "yes" and when to say "no," and having the wisdom to say "yes" to yourself when you need help.


One thing I like about this definition is that it's not absolute at all, there are mothers who don't breastfeed, co-sleep, had epidurals (me), babywear, etc.... and I would say they are still completely AP (attachment parenting). To me it's a mentality and not a set of things you do.

So I've told you how I'm all "duh" right? Well I also have a couple problems with AP. The main problem being that they classify themselves at all. What I mean is that when they do this classification of themselves as AP then they are making a very us/them distinction. As if other parenting styles are bad in some way, or as if everyone not identifying as AP is somehow not wanting to be in touch with their baby. I hate the idea that by distinguishing with a term you create a line that some mothers feel like they can't cross. I have read way too many things about people feeling guilt or shame because they don't babywear, breastfeed, co-sleep, whatever and so they're not in with that crowd even though they share similar morals and would like to be friends. As a mother it's hard enough to feel like you're doing the right thing and if you classify yourself as one particular method of parenting you are shutting yourself off from lots of other moms. Being a mom is hard enough without alienating yourself from the one group of people who you can identify with the most - other moms.

I'm not doing a very good job of explaining this I'm sure, it's been way too long since I took a sociology class and had to write down how I felt about classifications and social groups. But I'm trying and it feels good to examine this so bear with me as I write more about AP in the future.


  1. You did a good job of explaining it. I know what you mean. :) Good post!

  2. I think this is really interesting, and I can totally see why it's so hard for you to articulate a lot of what you feel about this. I absolutely agree that while the explanation is interesting and reasonable, parts of it are off-putting because of the "othering" distinction that it makes. In particular, number 6 bothers me. I read a lot of parenting blogs and my understanding is that there just isn't a right or wrong answer to how to deal with issues with your babies. While some babies don't need and wouldn't do well with cry-it-out training, others just need to learn how to self-soothe and one or two nights of crying will create a much happier, more well-rested baby in the long term. It's too bad that this definition, which contains so much great and useful information, feels the need to create categories of "good" and "bad" when it comes to certain aspects of child-rearing.