Tuesday, December 28, 2010

My Response To 5 Common Myths About Attachment Parenting

Attachment Parenting isolates mothers and/or is anti-feminist:

I would have to agree with the observation that mothering is often an isolating experience in North America, and I will agree that there is overwhelming and unfair pressure on women to be perfect mothers. But I would encourage those who blame Attachment Parenting to take a closer look. 

It is not Attachment Parenting that isolates parents, but the social and cultural constructs that serve to keep children out of sight and many acts of mothering out of public view. Attachment Parenting is a very natural way to parent a child, and in a society so removed from nature I get how it could be seen down right contrary to what we commonly view as the advancements of our civilization. Gone is the village it takes to raise a child and in its place stands a collective obsession with independence. It is not the Attachment Parenting community that stresses perfection under these isolating circumstances, but rather a society that would judge, condemn, and measure a woman’s worth by her children, while in the same breath devaluing her parenting as lesser work.  
More importantly, I call foul on absolutely anyone who would suggest that Attachment Parenting is somehow anti-feminist or oppressive to women. Attachment Parenting does require a lot of time and care, but that could be said about parenting in general. We are raising children, not scheduling a minor inconvenience into the fold of our lives. It is life changing, it is challenging, but it does not mean that we give up everything we have and everything we are to do it. The principals of Attachment Parenting do not even require the presence of women. Why assume that the person anticipating and fulfilling the attachment needs of a child MUST be that child's mother?  Any caregiver, be they mother, father, grandparent or legal guardian can foster a secure attachment to the child for whom they care.  There is also nothing that says a child cannot form secure attachments to more than one caregiver (in fact I believe it is crucial that they do).  Anyone assuming that the basic principals of Attachment Parenting apply only to the mother is themselves incredibly sexist.

Attachment Parenting creates spoiled and undisciplined children

I believe that this myth has its roots in two assumptions. First, that anticipating and fulfilling a child’s needs is the same as giving them whatever they want whenever they want it, and second that people, and therefore children, must suffer in order to learn. I do not believe either of these assumptions to be true.

While the first assumption may be true in the first year or so when a child’s wants and needs are the same thing, Attachment Parenting an older child is most definitely not the same as giving them their every whim. The basic principal of Attachment Parenting is to create a secure attachment with my child, and in an effort to do that I have excluded punitive discipline from my bag of parenting tricks. That does not mean that I cannot teach my child responsibility and self discipline in an age appropriate, supportive, and gentle manner.

I also believe that Attachment Parenting allows me to be more engaged and connected with my son and therefore better able to tell the difference between his wants and his needs, and to recognize the needs hiding behind arbitrary toddler wants. I believe that to ignore some requests over others or use punitive discipline would muddy those waters and make me a less effective parent. 

I think Elizabeth Pantley said it best in her book “The No-Cry Discipline Solution”

“As defined by Webster's, discipline means 'training that develops self control and character.' This definition might lead you to believe that the process is all about teaching, and in a sense it is. Teaching is your part of the discipline equation. and there is no substitute for quality lessons. However, your child's part of the equation is the most important - learning. ... Teaching that fall son deaf ears is lost, and we have learned that crying plugs a child's ears almost every time it occurs. Crying gets in the way of accepting, understanding, and learning.”

You have to breastfeed to practice Attachment Parenting:

It’s appalling to me that such an obviously untrue statement could come up multiple times in the same week, but I’ve heard this myth a lot lately.

While it is true that the closeness and supply/demand nature of a breastfeeding relationship fit nicely with the Attachment Parenting style, it is absolutely NOT a requirement.

No matter how you feed your baby, feeding time, and every other time, are still wonderful opportunities to bond with your baby and foster attachment. You can still cue feed your baby when they show early signs of hunger; you can practice baby-led bottle feeding or bottle-nursing. To safely feed an infant with a bottle the infant is still in your arms and you can have your baby skin to skin during feedings if you choose to.  You can still wear your baby. You can still co-sleep (Though there are safety concerns that I would suggest be fully researched when contemplating bed sharing with a non breastfed baby). You can still commit to parenting in a way that is mindful, compassionate, gentle, trusting and natural.

If anyone tells you differently, send them to me. No really.

Attachment Parenting suppresses growth, development, and independence.

I think this is one that pretty much every Attachment Parent has heard before. “How will your baby ever A, B, C if you X, Y, Z?” It seams that there is a widespread and persistent rumor going around that children need to be independent as early as possible in order to grow and thrive. From sleeping through the night, to eating, walking, and talking, if they’re not doing it without your help before a mythical date on the calendar they will miss the boat entirely.

The truth is that children need a secure attachment to their caregivers in order to grow and develop in an emotional and physical environment that is safe and supportive, and where they know that their needs will be met reliably by someone they love.

There are many studies that suggest well attached children excel in all areas, social, academic, and physical, and every Attachment Parented child I have ever met (ranging in age between 0 and 16) has been a delightful, well adjusted, happy, and perfectly INDEPENDENT person. (You can find countless studies and publications about child development and attachment on the Attachment Parenting International Website)

 “It’s a good thing we suppressed his development’ my husband said on the subject, “if we hadn’t he’d be ruling the world right now, and then we’d really be in trouble!”

Attachment Parenting is the same as helicopter parenting.

I have to tell you, I don’t really even know where to begin on this one. It’s a really common myth, and I can kind of see where some may get the idea from. I can actually kind of see where some attachment parenting practices could slip into helicopter territory, but only if I squint really hard and turn my head ever so slightly to the left.

Helicopter parenting, as I understand the term, is a kind of hovering paranoia over scraped knees and food that might have maybe come into contact with unpronounceable chemical byproducts that have been shown to cause an increased risk of leprosy in lab rats and therefore cannot be consumed by my child at his best friend’s birthday party.

Maybe I am being a little bit harsh, I do understand and have my own concerns about the chemicals my child comes into contact with, and no one likes to see someone they love injured or hurt. But for me, this has nothing to do with Attachment Parenting, or any type of parenting at all. It is a symptom of the culture of fear we live in, and not of the way we choose to parent our children.

Attachment Parenting is about building a secure attachment and a relationship with your child that is built on the foundations of trust and respect. While I do my best to protect him, part of that trust and respect is earned by providing a safe place for my child to return to when he gets hurt, scared, or accidently ingests red dye #40 so that he can explore the world on his own with confidence. To create unnecessary anxiety for my child and deny him valuable experiences out of fear would not be respectful to him, and in my view, would not be consistent with Attachment Parenting practices.

What kind of myths about Attachment Parenting have you encountered? How do you choose to approach these misconceptions when they come up?


Justcallmemommy said... [Reply to comment]

This was a wonderful read! I printed it to give to my mother and mother in law since they think I'm crazy and spoiling my children!

Julian@connectedmom said... [Reply to comment]

Great! I hope they find it informative!

I think that the idea of 'spoiling' our children is one of the most commonly held myths about Attachment Parenting. It's tough for people to accept that what they once knew to be totally true about children because that's just the way they were raised or taught, is actually not true.

Heidi said... [Reply to comment]

Thanks for the wonderful post! I know that Attachment parenting was absolutely the right thing for me and my baby. I truly believe that because of that the bond between me and my child was strengthened and she is so well adjusted and happy as a toddler!

SoccerMommy said... [Reply to comment]

A lot of this I agree with, but I found that bit about protecting your children from chemicals being grouped in with helicopter parenting was a bit off-putting and honestly a little bit of an attack toward a group of people who are informed enough to protect their children from chemicals in their food. That is in fact anticipating your child's needs - your child does not need chemicals or anything for that matter which may contribute to disease in your child's life now or later.

A little harsh? No, I think a lot harsh and really coming across as pretty uninformed about the impact that these things you can't pronounce have on your child.

If you're going to give it your best with AP, why stop there? We still have to protect them while we have the ability to provide what they eat.

Julian@connectedmom said... [Reply to comment]

@soccermommy I am sorry that was not my intent. I actually DO concern myself with chemicals and when and how they come into contact with my child.

What I don't do is micro manage absolutely everything my child does or touches, or everyone he speaks to.

I choose to use natural cleaners on my home and buy as much organic produce as we can afford to, we avoid convenience foods and artificial additives at all costs. I prefer to use products made from natural and untreated materials when possible. but when we are at a friend's house who doesn't do these things I still let him eat the food and crawl on the floor. I am not going to forbit him a romp in the park because my city uses pestisides to control mosquito populations. I am certainly not going to tell my child that he can't do X,Y,Z because of unseen chemicals that could hurt him, at least, not before he was old and mature enough to understand what that meant without it freaking him out.

I would prefer to encourage my local government to adopt more health friendly pest control practices. I would prefer to vote for politicians who will do more to control the amount and types of chemicals that could make it to my child in the first place, and mandate that product labeling be made clearer for people wishing to avoid harsh chemicals in their homes. I prefer to support organizations that are commited to environmentally sustainable practices. In short I prefer to DO something instead of scaring my child and limiting his experiences in the world.

My point is that you can be concerned about these things and do your best to limit your child's contact with them and meet your child's need for a safe environment WITHOUT helicopter parenting.

Customer said... [Reply to comment]

" You can still co-sleep (Though there are safety concerns that I would suggest be fully researched when contemplating bed sharing with a non breastfed baby)."

Why is there a difference in the safety concerns?

Julian@connectedmom said... [Reply to comment]


The difference is in the biology & instincts of a breastfeeding pair.

In short (& there is more to it, and would be happy to find some more info for you if you wanted) because mother & baby are biologically aware of one another in a way that non breastfeeding pairs aren't, their sleeping cycles of light & deep sleep actually sync up through the night.

Also the actual act of breastfeeding itself naturally puts mom & baby into a safe sleep position with baby at the breast & below pillow level and mother's arms & legs curled around in a protective embrace.

I personally believe that with proper safety precautions and a strong attachment/awareness of your baby a non-breastfeeding pair can safely bed share. But I am not a sleep expert & I would encourage parents to do their own research & make those decisions for themselves.

Alison, Champ, Ryland and Scarlet said... [Reply to comment]

Well put, I totally agree with you. It's sad that in this society we judge so much. We judge every parenting style, and its really not ok. WHy are we so quick to judge another's way of raising their children (unless of course there is real harm being done)?

Julian@connectedmom said... [Reply to comment]


I agree! I am sure there are a million myths like these about every parenting style under the sun. I am sure I even hold some of them to be true myself!

Thanks for reading!

Devan @ Accustomed Chaos said... [Reply to comment]

YES! Thank you for this post - its wonderful . I found myself really shaking my head ::YES:: to the independent and helicopter parent points. I have had that conversations with many people & you hit it right on the head. ♥

sophieandmomma said... [Reply to comment]

Hehe I am a breast feeding mom, but there are times I do give a bottle, I always felt guilty. But I am really appreciate reading this. The other day I fed her with a bottle almost the whole day--such a stressful day--and she looked at me the same way as if she were breastfeeding. i think they "KNOW" and bond either way. Yes, there is that touch that you get with breastfeeding, but I know that they bond with you even if there's a bottle!

navi said... [Reply to comment]

heh. wow. I haven't finished, but the charge that it's anti-feminist is ridiculous, considering big attachment parenting proponents were William and Martha Sears, and they provided multiple suggestions to include the father...

Francesca said... [Reply to comment]

I was unaware of, and therefore not intending to practice, attachment parenting. I came about doing all those things--breastfeeding, co-sleeping, wearing my baby, refusing to CIO, etc.--because they came naturally. Before I knew it, I discovered I was attachment parenting. And I'm so glad I am!

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