There’s a Time magazine cover story out this week that discusses the popularity of the attachment parenting trend and man behind the movement’s bible, The Baby Book, Dr. William Sears. As Time sums up, “The three basic tenets are breast-feeding (sometimes into toddlerhood), co-sleeping (inviting babies into the parental bed or pulling a bassinet alongside it) and baby wearing’ in which infants are literally attached to their mothers via slings.”
When I was pregnant, as far as I knew, this was the only book to read about how to take care of a baby. What the Dr. Spock book was to my parents, the Dr. Sears book is to my generation of moms. It’s the only book my friends with kids told me to get.
Since I wasn’t working, I had the luxury of being able to breastfeed on demand, wear my baby and be exhausted all the time (thanks to responding to every single cry my baby made.) While I was pregnant and reading this book, I wanted to follow Dr. Sears’ every word, so that my son and I would have the tightest possible bond.
It was only once my son was born that I started to realize that some of Dr. Sears’ suggestions not only didn’t work for me, but they didn’t work for my son, either.
I wanted to be an attachment parent. I really did.
I bought and/or accepted hand-me-downs of several kinds of baby carriers, because I had visions of accomplishing all kind of work around the house while wearing my baby all the time. As it turned out, Laszlo wouldn’t have it. I spent hours manipulating the Moby baby wrap into all kinds of sophisticated carrying designs and Laszlo didn’t like any of them. But I was determined. I tried the Baby Bjorn, the Ergo, a sling and another model whose name I don’t remember because it’s been discontinued. He didn’t like any of them. What he did like was when I just carried him in my arms all day. No baby carriers allowed, he seemed to say. Not possible, I said. I tried a vibrating bouncie seat. He loved it. My arms were happy for a rest, too.
Neither Joel nor I were into the idea of co-sleeping. Joel likes to have sex. A lot. Or at least, he likes to think there’s a possibility of having sex a lot. A baby in the bed kind of puts a damper on that. Still, I thought it would be so fun and cute to at least sometimes bring Laszlo into bed with us for co-sleeping. Probably because Joel thought that it would get him more sex if he went along with what I wanted, he said okay. Laszlo thought it was so fun and exciting to be in bed with us that he couldn’t sleep. He would just wiggle around and make noises. We didn’t sleep either. After a few attempts at co-sleeping, we found that none of us were able to sleep that way.
I breastfed like an attachment parenting pro. Laszlo latched on well and ate like a champ. Feeding on demand worked for me. However, I persevered through the pain of a few rounds of blocked milk ducts and homemade cabbage-bra remedies. The boob with the blocked ducts continued to manufacture, but it deflated to half the size of the other boob (while breastfeeding. Don’t worry, everyone, my breasts are perfectly symmetrical now!) I had every intention of breastfeeding to the AAP-recommended 12 months, but at around month 9, Laszlo stopped being interested. He ignored my boobs for a few days in a row and they dried up. That was that. And I was fine with it, since it only took a couple of bites from his little teeth before I had started to care less about what the AAP recommended anyway.
Hello, my name is Cassandra and I’m not an attachment parent.
That’s how I feel sometimes. Like this is something I need to confess. Like I failed. It’s such a prevailing parenting technique, and I was happy to see that Time covered it. I feel like I’m one of the few people who this isn’t really working for, especially In Hollywood, the land of yuppie-hippie moms who are self-righteous and adamant about their attachment parenting philosophies. It often feels like I’m in a contest that I didn’t enter with other moms about how much they’re sacrificing and trying to prove how bonded they are with their children.
As Time points out, this “philosophy has shifted mainstream American parenting toward a style that’s more about parental devotion and sacrifice than about raising self-sufficient kids.”
It’s the old fashioned martyr complex re-packaged in a touchy-feely philosophy about listening to your baby’s needs.
I get why attachment parenting is so popular in my demographic. It seems like parents often try to deliberately do the opposite of what their parents did. Most of my friends were born in the 1970’s. As a recent article from the New York Times about differences over parenting styles, says my generation of fellow parents are “nursing psychic wounds from the family disruption and disengagement that had swept through their own homes in the 1970s.” Through attachment parenting, some moms are trying to make up something they felt was lacking in their 1970’s upbringing. Perhaps these moms were latch key kids, children of divorce, or otherwise feel they were robbed of a childhood. A mom friend of mine who follows this type of parenting style once told me that the reason why it speaks to her so strongly is that she feels like when she was a kid, her feelings weren’t validated by her parents.
I feel like I do my best job as a mom when I take care of myself first. For me, that means getting some sleep and having some autonomy and a sense of identity beyond just being a mother. I’m the best mom I can be when I’m not exhausted and sacrificing for my son all the time. When Laszlo was a baby, this meant not carrying him all the time, using a bottle instead of the boob from time to time, and teaching him how to sleep through the night. (Thank you, Dr. Ferber and your surprisingly kind techniques. Read his book and you will see he’s not the demon he’s made out to be. He just wants your baby to get a good night’s rest. And no, he doesn’t advocate letting your baby cry for long periods of time.)
I know it’s not “cool”, but I guess it turns out that I’m a bit more of a traditionalist. I used a little bit of Dr. Sears’ advice, sure. But not all of it. As a mom, I pay attention to my son’s cues about what he needs or what’s best for him. One parenting technique does not fit all. It turns out that I wasn’t so into putting him into the attachment parenting box and he didn’t want to be put there anyway. To any of you moms out there who feel pressured by the extremes of the attachment parenting movement: You are not alone.
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