Monday, February 27, 2012

On Attachment Parenting

This weekend, while Will took his bike to the repair shop, I poked into Caribou Baby and perused the organic baby stuff and their stack of books.

This being the heart of crunchy Brooklyn, the majority of the books focussed on topics like elimination communication, attachment parenting, and child-lead weaning. This, so far as I can tell, means eschewing diapers for the nearby stream/toilet (from birth), holding your baby on your body 23+ hours a day, and breastfeeding the wee one until he/she is 14.

I am exaggerating, obviously, but I sense that this is a topic people feel very passionately about. No sense of humor allowed.

The notion behind attachment parenting (as far as I grasp it) is that babies feel more secure when they are physically close to their mothers as much as possible, are allowed to breastfeed on demand rather than on a set schedule, co-sleep, and are never left to cry it out. This is supposedly beneficial to their health, good for their development, and so on.

I am open to all manner of theories on childrearing, but I sometimes think that ideas on attachment parenting go a little far.

My gut says, well, of course children want to be comforted as much as possible. But it also seems that there are a lot of reasons women in developing countries (often cited in attachment parenting studies) have to carry their children 24-7, co-sleep, etc.

Looking back on the seconds debate, I can't help but feel that there are modern conveniences (like a crib!) that allow you to get a bit of space every now and then. That it's okay if our bed remains our bed, and the baby has his own. That waiting five or fifteen minutes before picking up the little person is not going to cause the same amount of damage as, say, abandoning them in a Romanian orphanage.

You want to love your child to excess. But is it so bad to have few boundaries as well?


  1. You should also read about how kids who grow up without the experience of failure, appropriate frustration, and the need to strive and work hard don't develop any resilience, or grit. Developing Grit in students is a popular topic these days. Mistakes, failures, a B- (gasp!), delaying gratification, letting kids battle it out (or cry it out) actually have positive effects on a kid's character. Think about the college kids whose parents call professors when their child does poorly on an exam. I'm admittedly not well-versed in attachment parenting and I have no nearby stream for Mini-Me to eliminate in (and I'm speaking from a strictly American point of view), but I do know that kids who don't face little struggles as they grow up are not equipped to face large struggles as an adult.

  2. Agreed. This was what resonated for me in the Bringing up Bebe are not the center of the universe, even if they are deeply loved. I guess it's also how I was raised, to an extent. Physical proximity is obviously really important for newborns and young infants. But I don't really accept that if you let them cry it out at 8 months old, they are in for a lifetime of therapy. The whole elimination theory also seems to take women back to a time when they were entirely tethered to their children. I mean, mama's gotta make a living, right? Or go to yoga. I can't visualize waiting around all day for little one to scrunch his forehead and then leaping towards the nearest water source.


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