Most people have seen the controversial cover of Time Magazine, or perhaps read the Motherhood vs. Feminism debate at the New York Times revolving around Attachment Parenting, the parenting theory coined by Dr. William Sears that emphasizes breastfeeding, sharing sleep, and wearing your baby.
So is attachment parenting this weirdo hippie movement wherein parents stifle their children and impose martyrdom on themselves with endless efforts at a childcentric life complete with nursing, carrying, tending-to on demand with organic food on the side?
I don’t think so. Nor do the others parents we know who follow Dr. Sears’ theory. It’s not a take-it-or-leave-it kind of thing. Lots of parents incorporate his suggestions into their parenting style. We follow many of his suggestions and I’d like to think we’re normal, and our children are balanced, loved individuals.
At its heart, I find that attachment parenting is about self-sacrifice and prompting parents to be aware that having a child means you have to set yourself, your world, your needs, everything aside, and take up caring for this little human in a respectful and loving manner. Put yourself last, focus on your family, and you’ll feel tremendous satisfaction and joy and see the way love grows! (A radical notion in our egocentric society.)
Dr. Sears and his wife have written extensively, and we’ve read most of their books. Their AP focus is a lens that says, “Your child has these particular biological and metaphysiological needs. Be aware and try to meet them, even if it’s hard or challenging. And here are some tools to do so.” Their books do not say “Organic homemade baby food, or you’re a terrible mother.”
With regard to nursing, extended or not, Dr. Sears explains the medical and emotional benefits. Same with co-sleeping. It’s about biorhythms, bonding, and ease of night parenting. Baby wearing is convenient, helps soothe and calm babies, is bonding, and means less crying! His approach is to present options, reasons, and not to shame parents who choose, or whose circumstances dictate, otherwise. He offers tips, help, and Q&A in each chapter of his books.
So whether or not you can or choose to nurse, whether or not you share a family bed or co-sleep, whether or not you have a sling or carrier you use for your little one, you can still follow attachment parenting principles because they are more than the cover of Time suggests. (That mother looks oddly complacent and very cool, and the child looks disconcerted by the photographer, and the chair pose? Who nurses like that?! Total shock value only.) This isn’t the most recent fad, or yuppie hipster movement. It’s about identifying and meeting your child’s developmental needs the best you can.
I’m an attorney and mom of two who choses to stay home with her kiddos. Attachment parenting makes sense to my analytical brain, and making all the extra efforts that it encourages have resulted in a happy household, happy children, and a happy marriage for us. Are we euphoric everyday? Um, hello! But overall, being attuned to our children’s needs in the manner proscribed by Dr. Sears works for us.