If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have a young child or really are just breathing, you have heard all about Time Magazine's latest provocative article on attachment parenting featuring a young, slim, very attractive white woman breastfeeding her 3-year old. Beyond the fact that the child looks uncomfortable, I found this very interesting.
Before you step into the place of reaction, we should just acknowledge that this cover was meant to create a controversy. Let's all breathe. What I find fascinating is that the American mainstream media is suddenly focussing on attachment parenting as a divisive parenting philosophy and even going to the extent of presenting it as extreme parenting. In addition, several months ago actress and neuroscientist Mayim Bialik was on the television show 'the view' to discuss her practice of attachment parenting. The segment was labelled "controversial" and "extreme".
Pediatrician Dr. Bill Sears did not invent attachment parenting. He certainly presented the main philosophies to the West. He basically packaged a set of parenting practices that have been around for a long time all over the world.
What is Attachment Parenting?
Attachment parenting is derived from attachment theory which basically says that the bond between parent(s) and child during the first few years of life go on to impact the rest of that child's life. The idea is basically by being open to who your baby/child is and how the feel; and responding appropriately, you create an even stronger bond with your baby/child thus making them feel more secure. At www.askdrsears.com, attachment parenting is described in the following way;
"Attachment means that a mother and baby are in harmony with each other. Being in harmony with your baby is one of the most fulfilling feelings a mother can ever hope to have. Watch a mother and baby who are attached (in harmony) with each other. When the baby gives a cue, such as crying or facial expressions, signifying a need, the mother, because she is open to the baby's cues, responds."
Attachment parenting also involves several parenting behaviours such as prolonged breastfeeding, co-sleeping and baby-wearing.
As a new mother, I talk to a lot of other parents. I don't think there is a huge controversy, as the American media would imply, around attachment parenting. There doesn't seem to be a debate at all. Most of us are on a continuum with how much and for how long we breastfeed, co-sleep and wear our babies. Most new mothers especially seem to want to breastfeed for some time and many co-sleep for a time as well. As new parents, we feel guilty (this seems to be part of being a parent) sometimes that we aren't doing enough for our children. I certainly can't live up to that image of a skinny, beautiful woman still breastfeeding her child.
I strive every day to make sure the bond between me and my baby is strong. I believe in breastfeeding, co-sleeping and baby-wearing. This doesn't mean that I wear my baby all of the time and never put her down. Nor does it necessarily mean that I will breastfeed her until she is 3 or 4. I am trying to parent her by intuition- by keeping open to her needs and my needs and coming up with a solution that works for both of us.
I believe every parent wants to do the best for their children. This means making decisions that are the best for each family. The most wonderful thing about attachment parenting is that is all about connecting with your baby. The practices of attachment parenting are simply just ways to promote this.
And many of these philosophies are just practical. Wearing your baby allows the parent more freedom and the ability to get tasks done around the house or to go out without needing to take a huge stroller all of the time. Co-sleeping also has benefits for the breastfeeding mother/parent when done safely in that no one has to actually get out of bed for nighttime feedings. It also minimizes crying in that the breastfeeding parent can usually anticipate when their baby will wake. This is the glorious sensitivity of the mother to her baby. It is a beautiful thing.
So, you don't have to be an extreme follower of attachment parenting. You can pick and choose what works for you and your family. You can breastfeed for 1 year instead of 3. You can co-sleep for a few months before moving your baby to a crib. Most of all, just spend the time to connect to your baby. After all, aren't our children the most precious thing in our lives? We should devote the time and care to make them feel as nurtured, supported and secure as we can.
Rebecca Gower is a Homeopath, Reiki Practitioner, new Mom and survivor of infertility. She specializes in supporting women and couples through infertility and pregnancy. She practices in the Annex in Toronto, Ontario. She can be reached at 647-688-8290; by e-mail at email@example.com; on the web at www.redpearlhomeopathy.com. You can also follow her on twitter at redpearlhomeo.