What Is Wrong About Attachment Parenting

Image courtesy of Amila Pradeep at Flickr

Image courtesy of Amila Pradeep at Flickr

 

I came across an interesting fact while undertaking research for my upcoming book.

When people Google the term “attachment parenting”, several responses surface, which include ‘why it is wrong’, ‘why they shouldn’t do it’, and ‘how to beat an attachment parent in a debate’.

 

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Of course, I’ve heard it is bad – my neighbour’s mother-in-law is always telling me things like, it is inappropriate and children should get used to independency as early as possible.  Regardless, this was a surprise when it presented as one of the responses for my search.

When I tried Bing instead of Google, I was suggested to type “Why attachment parenting is harmful”. I got curious so I tried it out, then the search engine gave me these hints too:

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and so on…

My observation was that, most Google users tend to ask why attachment parenting is bad, wrong, and controversial, while Bing users seem to consider terms such as; harmful and dangerous.  I noticed that they also search information on AP techniques (I can give them a straight answer: attachment parenting is not about techniques, it is about bonds of love.)

I decided to follow the clues in order to find out the arguments against attachment parenting. I expected to find “traditional parenting” commonplaces on general parenting forum threads. To my surprise, I have found long articles on high authority websites, all fabulously written by top journalists and skilled writers. Those people know how to write compelling content, they know how to convince the readers, but unfortunately, they show little insight about attachment parenting. The research they have undoubtedly made wasn’t of much use because they were biased from the start.

In an article published in The Atlantic, Emma Jenner says: Extremes like on-demand breastfeeding can take their toll on parents and children alike. This would normally be enough to stop reading for anyone who follows the WHO’s recommendations on newborn health. I continued to read. I found the cliché advice I’ve heard numerous times from random people: “One of the tenets of attachment parenting is that you breastfeed a child on demand. That can lead to a habit where a child will snack—eating a little bit many times throughout the day.”

Facepalm. Where did that come from? Experience? No, she is attachment parenting opponent. Science? Statistics? Proof? There isn’t any. On the contrary, there is a lot of evidence, which states that regular, and on-demand breastfeeding leads to healthier eating habits.

  • Breastfed children have healthier habits than non-breastfed children in terms of the introduction of complementary foods. According to a recent study, non-breastfed children aged four months or younger were 8.2 and 6.7 times more likely to receive the family food (95% CI: 3.23-20.66) or vegetable soup (95% CI: 3.84-11.78), respectively. (source: Feeding habits of breastfed and non-breastfed children up to 1 year old / Jornal de Pediatria).
  • World Health Organization emphasize the importance of “unrestricted exclusive breastfeeding” in establishing healthier eating habits in infants and children (source: Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding).
  • Breast feeding and obesity: cross sectional study goes further: In industrialized countries promoting prolonged breastfeeding may help decrease the prevalence of obesity in childhood. Since obese children have a high risk of becoming obese adults, such preventive measures may eventually result in a reduction in the prevalence of cardiovascular diseases and other diseases related to obesity.

Now, let’s get back to the article. It goes like this: a dad cries for help. He and his wife had tried attachment parenting and it didn’t work. They were desperate and asked the author of the article for advice. She is an expert after all. And so she explained to them that all the attachment nonsense is a new trend that is gotten off the balance and that it is an unsustainable modelBut like so many trends that catch on through social media and word-of-mouth, it’s gotten out of balance, says Emma Jenner. And like many well-intentioned practices, when taken to an extreme, it loses all value. And, as she said more than once, breastfeeding on demand is an extreme.

I wonder what does it mean to try attachment. Attachment is not a technique. You don’t try; you bond yourself to your newborn. You don’t follow any rules; you follow your baby’s needs. And if you need help, there is a huge network of attachment parenting support groups around the world. You certainly don’t call an attachment theory opponent for help. If you do so, maybe it means that you were never sincerely attached, that you only wanted to think of yourself as of a perfect parent and, when the initial approach became too heavy, you asked just the right person to validate your efforts and give you the arguments that you don’t really need to do all that. Why would you call a reality nanny and the author of a book called Keep Calm and Parent On: A Guilt-Free Approach to Raising Children by Asking More From Them and Doing Less, instead of qualified professional or experienced friend, if not to clear your conscience? Wouldn’t that mean that you only needed some arguments so you could think of yourself as of, still, a perfect parent?

Trend? If anyone thinks that the Sears family invented attachment, the article titled Becoming Attached was published in The Atlantic back in 1990Even before that, there were – and there are – parents around the world who never heard of the attachment theory, but who are deeply bonded to their children. Attachment is something that they do, not a trend or fashion which they follow. Attachment parenting is the most natural way of raising children. Regarding Jenner’s remark that our Western culture hardly resembles these cultures. Did these parents have commutes and nine-to-five jobs? Parents need to be able to focus at work… – I’ll thoroughly respond to these arguments in my upcoming book.

Unsustainable? According to my experience as an attached mother of three, it is absolutely sustainable. I am still breastfeeding my youngest one and I still carry him around, as he is still under 2 years old, but I can clearly see that he will be just as independent as his older siblings. And they are doing great. You’ll have an opportunity to learn more on my experience as an attachment parent from my future blog articles and the book. Now, let’s get back to the subject.

The Guardian featured an article called Attachment parenting: the best way to raise a child – or maternal masochism? The author is not a child-care professional, rather, as a top newspapers’ journalist, she is a professional opinion-maker. Let’s see what she says;

The approach combines an attitude of enlightenment (“We don’t do things the old way”) with veneration of the distant past (vague anthropological references to the practices of ancient tribespeople, never mind the improved mother and infant mortality rates). […] Like the trend for “wellness” and clean eating, attachment parenting posits that the modern world has corrupted what was once pure, through scientific intervention. Rejecting modernity has become the ultimate aspirational signifier […] It also has about it a touch of anti-intellectualism, an increasingly popular stance in everything from politics to nutrition. — Hadley Freeman, The Guardian (the emphasis is mine)

As an attached parent and psychologist, I found this opinion highly disturbing. Attachment parenting has nothing to do with anti-intellectualism. On the contrary, the enlightenment that we have here is purely intellectual. As a mother and an intellectual, I refuse to follow so-called experts and I do “shun developments such as sleep training”, because I am knowledgeable enough to see that sleep training is not a development. I choose not to follow “experts” like Ferber and such, because I know that his approach is not scientifically proven to be good or even harmless for babies.

I love the fact that it is 21st century now and we have so many information available. You’re now just a click away from these wonderful sources: The Case Against Ferber Sleep Training (written by Dr Laura Markham – a clinical psychologist with a PhD from Columbia University) and Dangers of “Crying It Out” (written by Darcia Narvaez – a professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame).

Through the rest of the article, Hadley Freeman touches the common topics such as intimacy in marriage and cites few women who admitted that attachment parenting affected their marriage. Everything seems plausible and self-evident. Some marriages ended, some are about to end.

But let me share something with you from the position of an attached mum and a wife whose marriage goes just fine.  Attached or not, parenthood is an ultimate test for any couple. People don’t get divorced because of their parenting philosophy. They get divorced for several reasons like finally finding out that they can’t make constructive decisions together, that they became rivals instead of being partners and supporters of each other.

Unattached parents get divorced too and it seems to me that many people, including H. Freedman, think that having children in general is masochistic. No wonder that they can’t embrace attachment parenting. In my opinion, the everyday struggle with insincere and non-supportive partners is masochistic. All fights with your partner will now be the same fight over and over, and that fight is ‘I do more for the kid(s) than you and you don’t give me any credit’, says Hadley in her recent article, called I’ve been a parent for one year, and this is what I’ve learned. Well, I’ve been a parent for eight years and I’m led to believe that one year of hers may have been harder than my eight.

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