Thoughts on Attachment Parenting

Yes, I know, I have been skirting around this issue for a while and have yet to really write about it. Truth be told, I have been hesitant, for a number of reasons.

First, I find the ‘mommy blogosphere’ to be very dominated by advocates of attachment parenting and writing a post about my reservations about the theory seems a bit like poking a stick at a wasps nest. There are a lot of AP bloggers out there who I have a lot of respect for and have very interesting things to say and great ideas. But there is also a lot of lashing out that happens when you challenge the norm.

Secondly, I have asked myself about the validity of challenging AP because it is not so much the theory itself that is the issue, but rather what I see as an extreme application of it. So I wonder if it is a bit of a straw man argument, in the sense that those who practice AP to the extreme are probably a minority and don’t necessarily reflect the majority. I feel a bit of the same way about the arguments against CIO. It seems to me what people are arguing against when they talk about CIO is the pure application of it in a very young baby. That image of taking a 2 month old, having unrealistic expectations that that baby will sleep through the night, and leaving them to cry and cry until they give up and fall asleep from sheer exhaustion. That approach is on one far end of the spectrum of use of that theory, and is a far cry (pun not intended) from recognizing a particular temperament in a older (5 months plus) baby who seems to need some time to release tension before sleeping, as was my experience.

Also, just as I don’t believe in lumping everyone who has used CIO in as a neglectful parent, I want to make clear that I don’t lump all parents who use AP together as all using the theory in a way, and with a result, that concerns me. Also, I am very supportive of the idea that different parents, different children, different situations. Do as you feel best. Lots of people find great value in AP and I can respect that.

I am not so much anti-AP as I am wary of ‘theory’ parenting in general. There are great AP parents and bad AP parents the same way there are great CIO parents and bad CIO parents. Some practice a theory (any theory) to an extreme, militant and inflexible manner and I suspect this usually has poor results. Some practice a theory like a flexible guide, holding true to certain principles, but flexing to meet their kids. Awesome. Some theories are better then others, and some are just plain bad. I don’t see Attachment parenting as one of the bad ones. More then anything else I am advocating that we put down the books and websites and magazine articles and just parent in a way that is aware of the unique needs of our child. I also am supportive of the need to do whatever gets you through with your sanity intact and your kid happy. It is important to meet the needs of our children, but I also believe that a happy and sane Momma is important. Really important. Whatever works.

So, with those caveats, here are some of my concerns.

1) To my understanding, one of the core beliefs of Attachment parenting is the need for response and comfort whenever a baby is crying, day or night. And, at it’s most basic, my reaction is of course. Of course you should respond to your child. Babies need 24/7/365 care, that’s what we signed up for. BUT. I do think you can do this to an extreme. I think that sometimes babies, as they get older, use crying to express themselves. And I think it is valuable to really listen and evaluate what they need, before swooping in and picking them up. Maybe then just need a safe place to express some frustration. I don’t think all crying is bad and I don’t think it is harmful, so long as the child feels loved and attended to. Crying is not the definition of neglect.

The other piece of the puzzle for me is that there is a difference between wants and needs for all of us. A two month old baby can only communicate needs- so my two month old got 100% response and I did what every I could to provide what she needed. Sometimes nothing would stop her from crying, and I tried to accepted that and just hold her to provide comfort while she expressed her feelings. A 6 month old baby can express mostly needs and some wants. If there is a need, I attend to it. But sometimes her ‘want’ isn’t compatible with what is best for her. I knew she would rather practice her crawling then nap and she would fuss a bit when nap time arrived, but then she went to sleep. She needed sleep; I tried to provide. Yes, of course, sometimes there is nothing we can do to help our kids to sleep even when they need it. My kid likes sleep, like a lot, so I had a much easier time of it. BUT I think the point holds that sometimes what the kid wants and what they need are different. And they put up a fuss when you try and give them what they need over what they want. I can tell you now that my now 16 month old is better at expressing wants then needs. And when she want’s a cookie, she puts up a fight. I don’t worry about if that 45 minute temper tantrum about not getting a cookie is somehow harming her. I might try and distract her, but I don’t go to all extents to try to get her to stop crying. Again, to me crying is not a harmful activity for a baby or a toddler, again given a good, safe and loving environment.

Just in case you are wondering, no, I don’t assume all AP parents give their children cookies whenever they cry. Again, I recognize that many AP parents don’t fall into what I see as AP traps. (And even if they do fall into what I see as ‘traps’, that doesn’t mean it isn’t what works best for their kid) My point is that I don’t believe in 100% respond to crying in older babies and toddlers. It seems to me that rewarding them for crying is only going to equal more crying. They are smart little buggers. So we need to strike a balance between ignoring whining and crying and providing for needs and comfort. Especially when they become toddlers and they want to establish control. Too much response can sometimes give them control over the situation. I believe the parent should be in control of the situation, the leader, if you will. You can’t control a child or a child’s behavior, but you can have control over the situation. Maybe command is a better word, the parent should have command over the situation. I think sometimes we give up too much to our kids in the interest of keeping them happy AKA not crying. To feel really safe they need to know where the boundaries are.

2) The next aspect of AP that I am not 100% comfortable with is the suggestion of exclusive baby wearing. I know Dr. Sears suggests it as a tool and not a ‘need to do 24/7 or else’. But some AP advocate seem to really rail against strollers and car seats. I can tell you that I had (when Audrey was little) 4 methods for getting her around and 3 of those involved baby wearing. We had a sling carrier, an ergo, a wrap carrier and a stroller. Which one did we use most? That depended on the week. I found that when she was really little, like under 3 months, we almost exclusively used the carriers. I wore her most of the day, interspersed with tummy time. As she got older I tried to respond to her needs. Sometimes she loved the close and comfort of a carrier, others she wanted to kick her feet and flail around and that meant a stroller, if I didn’t want a black eye or my hair pulled out. My point is that babies need to move around. Baby carriers are great, especially early on, but I think that needs to be balanced with their need for space and movement sometimes. There is, in my opinion, such a thing as too much attachment.

3) Which brings me to the issue of independent play. I do think that AP has the potential, because of the focus on responsiveness, ceasing tears and baby wearing, to not allow a babies need for independent play to flourish. (Janet did a great post on this recently, check it out.) We don’t need to be right there all the time. We shouldn’t, in my opinion, be right there all the time. Our babies and toddlers (and kids and teenagers) need space to discover both the world and who they are. And I am not sure keeping them so close and responding to them so immediately is always the best way to do that. At least it wasn’t for my child. Her confidence and imagination have flourished by providing her with a safe place to have independent play and encouraging her to not always need an adult right there. (Still within view though, supervision is important. They can make an ordinary object dangerous in about 3.2 seconds.)

4) Lastly, I feel a bit like AP (at times, in some ways, as practiced by some people) doesn’t always value just how capable our children are. Babies are amazing if you give them the space to be. And to always paint them as these weak, helpless, fragile, unthinking beings, who don’t understand what is happening seems to underestimate them. I think AP can paint children this way when they talk about crying as being an incredible harmful thing for a child. I also think it can show a child that they are not capable when their parent swoops in to comfort and fix the problem of an upset child, rather then letting them express and work it out themselves. (can does not equal does)

I feel my daughter has a very good understanding of what is going on. When I don’t respond to her whining as she falls asleep, she knows it is not because I am not responding or caring for her, but because I am supporting her to release tension. When I don’t pick her up every time she falls and crys, she knows it is because I trust her to get up and try again. When I don’t always play with her, she knows it is because I am proud of what she can do on her own. When I tell her NO and put her down (when she hits me, for example), she knows I love her and that I am setting a reasonable and age appropriate limit. She is smart. She is capable. She gets it. She can do lots of things without my help. I beam when she toddles away from me at the playground, not looking back. She knows I am there.

I believe our job as parents is so much more then providing for needs and comforting our children. It is about setting boundaries and limitations and it is about nurturing them to be independent in an age appropriate way. Attachment is important, but so is developing a unique sense of self. At some point we aren’t going to be there to provide for their emotional needs and they need the confidence and love to be able to provide for their own emotional needs. And I think beyond the really early baby stage the extreme use of high touch/high response that attachment parenting recommends isn’t always the best way to go. At least for my kid.

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65 responses to “Thoughts on Attachment Parenting

  1. Brooke August 10, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    I am with you. I think it’s funny that both of us felt like we had to qualify our concerns. I’ve also heard people say that crying can cause brain damage, and I just don’t see a bunch of brain dead people walking around because they cried in their crib for 10 minutes when they were 5 months old. But then again, maybe that’s the reason that Chinese children are smarter than ours. Just a guess?!

    I’m reposting my post “A little rant on a cult called Attachment Parenting” because it’s one of my favorites.

  2. Fearless Formula Feeder August 10, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    Brilliant post, as usual. I know this can be a tricky (and scary) topic to approach, and I’m so proud of you for doing so – and you did it perfectly, in my opinion.

    I follow much the same philosophy. I think, as usual, it comes down to extremes – which is why, as you say, it would do us all some good to put down the parenting guides and log off certain websites and come up with our own, flexible, hybrid versions of parenting. Every child is an individual and I think it’s high time we start treating them that way!

  3. Alan August 10, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    First of all, most of this post seems to be arguing with a strawman version of AP (or maybe TCS, which is certainly not the same as AP), or a version that some parents who don’t really understand AP practise. But your idea of AP is not congruent with the way Dr. and Martha Sears lay it out, or the way it is presented at attachmentparenting.org.

    (1) Again, unless one is practising TCS or has a warped idea of what AP means (which some certainly do–I’ve been accused of being too harsh in my way of APing, believe it or not), the main issue here is what age along the continuum things change from a baby’s cries (which should be responded to) to a toddler’s whines (which should not be). There is no bright line here, but it does sound like you set the line at a younger age than I’d agree with.

    (2) I don’t agree with “too much attachment” in an emotional sense, but for older babies there certainly can be too much physical attachment if they are not getting tummy time etc. Again, as you even admitted, Dr. Sears certainly understands the importance of floor time for babies and even advocates use of a bouncy seat at 4-6 months!

    http://www.askdrsears.com/html/12/4-6months.asp

    (3) Dr. Sears talks over and over and over about how a big part of the point of AP is giving babies and toddlers the security to know they can always have their parents as a “home base”, which encourages them to have the courage to go out and explore. This is exactly the way it worked with my older two.

    (4) This is where you really make AP a huge straw man (admittedly partially this is the fault of people who consider themselves AP but are really more like TCS as they don’t understand what AP is really about). And again, the only dispute I’d have with any of this is that though you’re not specific enough about ages to be exactly sure, we’d probably have at least a few months’ difference between when we think letting a child work something out on their own is developmentally appropriate.

  4. janetlansbury August 10, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    Great post, Kathleen. And thanks so much for linking to mine.

    I have also found that many people either misunderstand AP, or that it doesn’t work for them. They contact me by email or on my blog and ask for help (like the mum in the post you link to did).

    I know very little about AP, but did a bit of research on Ask Dr Sears when I once wrote about babywearing and was turned off (to say the least) by some of the things he says… namely, that babywearing “humanizes” babies (as if they needed help becoming human) and that the womb lasts for 18 months – 9 months in and 9 months out, meaning babies should be carried constantly for 9 months. I can understand why parents might get confused.

    http://www.askdrsears.com/html/5/t051100.aspfound

    • amoment2think August 10, 2010 at 6:11 pm

      Thank you Janet for your support. I agree, it may be a misunderstanding of AP. I think it does work for some people, but for others it doesn’t work. And for those people they should feel comfortable going an other route. I may not be a big fan of ‘theory’ parenting, but the one you advocate and explain on your blog comes closest to my feelings about parenthood.

      • janetlansbury August 10, 2010 at 9:17 pm

        Thanks, Kathleen. And I agree, we’re very like-minded.

        I’m all for parents finding approaches that work for them.

        As a parenting teacher and blogger with an unusual (on the web, at least) point of view, I’m learning to keep the glass half full. I’m no Pollyanna, but if we can’t offer something positive, help and support other parents, this is pointless…don’t you think?

        I’m excited to share ideas that in my experience make parenting much easier, FAR more interesting, richer, even fascinating. I believe parents need and deserve these kinds of perks. The job is tough enough as it is. We need to get our brains engaged, feel enthusiastic about our choices and be open to all that our children teach us.

        I like approaches that are centered around trusting babies and nature. I have no interest in practices that tell me to fear crying (or any other human emotion or communication), or say that if I don’t do so-in-so, my baby won’t be this, that or whatever…

        I’ve made lots of mistakes, but never…for a second…regretted the education I received from infant specialist Magda Gerber.

        Kathleen, thanks again for your brave post. I’m so glad you’re here…

  5. Sophie August 10, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    I liked your point on giving children space to play by themselves. After about a year of my son being home with his dad – so when he was about two – we realized that he pretty much ALWAYS had someone paying exclusive attention to him : my husband during the day, and then me when I came home from work. We didn’t mean it to be that way, but during the day, my husband felt like if he didn’t pay attention to his son, he may as well put him in daycare… and at night I wanted to play with him. I don’t think it was a horrible thing to do: our son got a lot out of that one-on-one attention at an early age. However, at some point we decided it was time for him to learn to play by himself a bit. It took a long time because he really hated it at first, so it was very progressive. But nowadays, being older too, he can play by himself for longer periods while his dad does some house chores. We keep it to a reasonable length and I think everyone is the better for it.

    I also agree that our kids understand SO MUCH MORE than we give them credit for. It’s a lot easier for me nowadays to let my son cry when he doesn’t want go to bed because I can tell him that I’m there, but that he is tired and needs some sleep so I won’t go into his room again after this one time. I know he understands. When he was 9 months old, I felt horrible doing the same thing. But you know what, he probably understood even back then. We tend to think that babies understand what they can express in words, but their understanding is so much deeper!

  6. organicmamabear August 10, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    When I saw on your previous post that you were concocting a rant of sorts about AP, I’ll admit I was intrigued to read your thoughts. I’ve read many critiques of various parts of the theory/practices, so I had expectations, I suppose.

    I was also looking forward to debate about said theory/practices, but instead you managed to write a post that has more caveats and equivocations than actual opinions. That’s your right, but it doesn’t seem like you wrote this intending to spur discussion.

    • amoment2think August 11, 2010 at 6:53 am

      @organicmamabear

      I tend to believe that just about anything has exceptions and caveats. You are certainly right, this post has a lot of them. Sorry it is not as rant-like as you would have been interested to read. A lot of it has to do with the fact that I wouldn’t be any different then the types of posts that frustrate me if I lumped all attachment parenting together and didn’t communicate that I understand that how people practice and understand it can vary widely.

      That being said, I disagree that this post doesn’t generate discussion and I would love to hear your thoughts about how you see AP and what you think the pro’s and con’s are.

      Thanks for your comment and feedback.

  7. The Disgruntled Academic August 11, 2010 at 6:20 am

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I have to admit, when the Noodle was less than 3 months old, attachment parenting seemed like the most compatible parenting style for our family. And while I didn’t experience much social policing from other moms, I definitely felt like letting the baby sleep in her car seat, for example, was “cheating.” But I chalk that up to the OMFG-I’M-A-NEW-MOM-WHAT-IS-GOING-ON-IS-THE-BABY-BREATHING? time of parenthood. But just like the Noodle is steadily growing out of her need to be attached to me all the time, I’m also growing as a parent, like learning the difference between her “I’m tired” and “I want your iPhone” cry. And while she enjoys hanging out with me and Mr. Disgruntled, she also has fun sitting alone on her play mat, banging around on her toys.

    I think the problem with childrearing theory purists is that they confuse the theory with love, when the theories simply provide tools. So it’s understandable why “theory parents” get offended by criticism, they think their love for their child is under attack. And, maybe, by extension, if they see parents practicing something other than their style, they feel threatened? Gotta run, baby crawling to trouble!

    • amoment2think August 11, 2010 at 6:55 am

      I totally agree with you. I think one of the main reasons that parenting discussions get so heated is just that “but I do love my child and I am trying the best I can” aspect of it. Child rearing is serious stuff.

  8. Perpetua August 11, 2010 at 6:53 am

    This is such a great post, K. You manage to tease out the differences and troubles of this topic in such a thoughtful and kind way.

    Disgruntled makes a great point: theories are tools. We employ them with love. They are not, themselves, love. A non-loving caregiver could wear a kid 24/7, and it wouldn’t stand up against a loving caregiver who uses a sling once in a while.

  9. kelly @kellynaturally August 11, 2010 at 7:04 am

    >>But there is also a lot of lashing out that happens when you challenge the norm.

    This is an important point. Since the norm for parenting (in the US/Canada) is not attachment parenting, I believe a lot of the “extreme” philosophies on “AP” websites come out when mothers who are following their instincts – and those instincts lead them to doing things against the norm – like cosleeping, breastfeeing, babywearing – get ridiculed in real life. Like: “if you let your baby sleep with you, you’ll never get them
    out of your bed” (yeah, right) Or: “if you don’t teach your baby to sleep by using X, Y, or Z sleep training guide, they’ll never sleep through the night” (again, yeah, right). These folks who are ridiculed in their
    lives for practicing the “not norm” principles of attachment parenting, and go against the flow, they are often called extreme. Particularly when they go to the internet as a way to find support where they aren’t
    getting it in real life. Their posts may seem extreme because it is the only place in their life where they can get some validation (in a world where doctors, friends, and parents are all saying it is okay to let your
    child sleep alone but it is not okay to let them sleep with you). The most extreme viewpoints also are often the loudest.

    >>Some practice a theory like a flexible guide, holding true to certain principles, but flexing to meet their kids. Awesome.

    I agree with this, wholeheartedly. I am a fan of Dr. Sears (though I do disagree with some of his advice), because he states very clearly that his style of attachment parenting is a 1) Starter Style b) An Approach,
    rather than a Strict Set of Rules 3) Responsibe Parenting 4) A Tool
    His 7th “baby B” (which are the “tools” of attachment parenting) is BALANCE. Its one of the key steps.

    As I’ve said before, I found his books to be comforting and helpful with a baby who was high needs, very sensitive, and needed motion/being held upright, etc. I can understand if you are blessed with a child who is
    more accepting of being put down, or happy to sit in a bouncy seat or carseat without interaction, or who is tolerant of other people holding them/putting them to sleep, or who is a stress-relieving crier, that the
    advice to hold your baby often could be seen as unnecessary. When you already ARE holding your baby constantly (and perhaps are concerned because popular opinion states holding = spoiling), reading something
    that says that is not only okay, but that it is helpful to baby’s development, is relieving, to say the least. For myself, I was parenting by instinct, and the Dr. Sears book I chanced upon helped me feel
    comfortble that I was not “doing it wrong”.

    I’m concerned when I read comments like @Brook’s above, referring to AP as a cult, (her commentary on AP referred to Dr. Sears as “the almighty” who issues tenets which are “all or nothing”), or how you referenced in a your CIO post that you’d never recommend Dr. Sears because he proclaims “his way is the only way”, the actual meaning & intent behind attachment parenting (namely creating lasting, strong bonds between parent & child based on respect, responsiveness, touch, and positive, non-violent discipline) is lost. These skewed views of AP (likely based on interactions with extremists) are just not true representations of what AP, particularly Dr. Sears (as this is the one with which I am most familiar) attachment parenting is all about.

    Dr. Sears very clearly states that his ideas are, “starter tips to work out your own parenting style”. He encourages parents to “do the best they can with the resources they have” and refers to his parenting ideas
    as “toold you can pick & whoose which fit your personal parent-child relationship”. Nowhere in his books or website, that I’ve read (and I’ve read several) does he claim his way is the only way. For reference you may want to visit his site where he explains the “7 Baby Bs” http://www.askdrsears.com/html/10/T130300.asp
    What I think happens is that people respond to the most outspoken and extreme practicers of the AP style (as I referenced earlier – those people who may have been shunned in their daily life for following what felt
    best to them, but what goes against the norm, so they take to the internet to gain a voice & support), and take their outspoken extreme-ness as the “doctrine” of attachment parenting, and thus judge and measure all practicers of attachment parenting against that “extreme stick” , without really reading about & understanding what attachment parenting is all about, like, Dr. Sears’ website or books, or Attachment Parenting International, for example.

    To address your specific points (or concerns you have with AP), #1 – that it requires 2/47 responsivness in all situations at all times to your child. When you ARE connected and have a strong attachment to your child, you will KNOW when a cry is one of immediate need, and one of, I’m uncomfortable at this moment, but okay working it out myself. There is no hard, fast rule about catering hand & foot to your child or toddler every moment they cry. From Dr. Sears:
    “Respond appropriately. You don’t have to pick up a seven-month-old baby as quickly as a seven-day-old baby.

    In the early weeks of cue-response rehearsals, respond intuitively and quickly to each cry. As you and your baby become better communicators, you โ€“ and only you โ€“ will know whether a cry is a “red alert come now” cry or one that merits a more delayed response.
    As your baby grows, you become more expert in reading her cries, so you can gradually delay your response.

    Say, for example, you are busy in the kitchen and your seven-month-old is sitting and playing nearby and cries to be picked up. Instead of rushing to scoop your baby up, simply acknowledge your baby and give your baby “it’s okay” cues. Because you and your baby are so connected, your baby can read your body language and see that you’re not anxious, so you naturally give your baby the message, “No problem, baby, you can handle this.” In this way, you’re being a facilitator , and because of your close attachment you’re actually better able to help your baby delay gratification and ease into independence.” Attachment parenting isn’t synonymous with permissive parenting. Dr. Sears addresses setting boundaries, learning to say no while encouraging independence (setting up your home as a yes environment), using positive discipline techniques.

    Your second point, regarding exclusive carrying. As I don’t recall anywhere in the Sears books I’ve read requiring 24/7 hands-on your baby, I think this is more a requirement of the continuum concept theory, not of attachment parenting, though as with anything, people can take things to extremes, I have a hard time imagining how anyone could force a baby or toddler to be held when they don’t want to be. Again, AP is about knowing your baby, having a strong enough connection to them to understand what they need at the time.

    Understanding the expectation of babies is to be close to their caregivers, and an easy way to do that is baby wear. But certainly, if a baby doesn’t want to be held, an attached parent would be able to pick up that cue quickly, and would change baby’s environment. As an aside (addressing suggestions that there are only certain types of baby carriers which are acceptable), I do not believe, that there is specifically “right” or
    “wrong” way to babywear (though, obviously, if baby or mom are uncomfortable or baby’s breathing is being prevented, that’s not the right way to carry). With my first, she would only accept an upright carry in arms. When I found the snugli it was a godsend. She didn’t want to be in cradle position, or any carry other than facing me, sitting upright, so having a snugli helped me put her in the position she most needed,
    while allowing me hands free. The sling was not in our reperatoire of regularly-used carriers until later.

    Your third point, that attachment parenting inhibits independent play. I counter that attachment parenting fosters independence. When a child is raised in a positive environment, where her needs are met, and things
    are safe, she is more likely to explore on her own. I have seen with my own two children, they are ready & willing to explore on their own when they want to, and ready to come back to home base when they want.

    Attachment parenting really is the foundation of independent child rearing. Honoring your child as an individual, being connected with them, so you can understand their needs, and meet them as needed, not just reading a checklist from a baby care book that says to do this, this, and this, in this order, and baby will do this. When you remove from baby the ability to make her needs & wants known (by ignoring cries, or by creating a no environment), it chips away at baby’s self worth. As she grows, lowered belief in her own self can lead to more clinginess, less desire to explore.

    Finally, your last point, saying AP doesn’t value how capable our children are. Capable is EXACTLY what AP DOES say. By encouraging parents to LISTEN to and VALUE baby’s cries, attachment parenting allows parents to understand that babies – even teeny tiny ones are COMMUNICATING. When we realize that babies are capable of making their needs known (not just crying to exercise their lungs, or because they are spoiled) parents are more likely to do their best to interpret that communication. We may not always get it right, but by ignoring the cries because a book or a doctor or even a parent says NOW is NOT baby time, NOW is SLEEP (or nap or whatever other time other than respond to baby time), we are effectively REDUCING baby’s capability to communicate, and reducing our own connection with our child.

    Attachment parenting just isn’t as rigid as you have painted it with this post. It really is much more about going with the flow, doing what works with your baby, not subscribing to a set of rules (like I know some books have with certain fixed amounts of time baby can be awake/sleeping/eating/playing). Again, and as you have mentioned as well, there are always extremists, people who will play out any theory in a rigid manner, but to judge so harshly a childrearing philosophy which is, at its core, about connection and peace, seems a bit off the mark. There are far worse philosophies out there, which encourage setting rigid schedules, and harsh, punitive discipline measures. More critical examination I believe, should be directed there, and less towards a philosophy which is very child-centered.

    • amoment2think August 11, 2010 at 7:44 am

      @Kelly,

      This is a great comment and I appreciate it. I really do think we agree on a lot of the same points and as I recognized in the post, a lot of my objects have to do with ways in which AP is practiced that may not be in line with what Dr. Sears has suggested. But AP theory has become more then Dr. Sears, there are a lot of voices out there. I also agree with you that AP is not the norm in terms of what is practiced in North America, but it does seem to be the norm online. And I certainly value that AP parents need an online space to hear that what they are doing isn’t wrong. I think it is unfortunate that practices like co sleeping and extended breastfeeding are so ridiculed.

      To be honest, part of what bothers me though is the that instead of approaching the debate online and those with differing opinions with understanding and a willingness to hear someone else out (as you do), I find that the tone is often of self-righteousness and sometimes even all out disgust for those who practice something different. There is an implication that the rest of us are harming and abusing our children. I find this very hard to swallow and I so disagree.

      I totally agree with this point: “When a child is raised in a positive environment, where her needs are met, and things
      are safe, she is more likely to explore on her own.” But AP is not the only way to get there. I am not an AP parent and I know that my child’s needs are met, she feels safe and is confident to explore on her own.

      Lastly, I have to say that I disagree that I judge AP harshly. I think I was pretty clear in my post that I recognize the issue may very well be the extreme practicing of the theory and not the theory itself. But I do have objections to some of the ways it is practiced. Perhaps those ways are practiced by people who don’t really understand the theory, but I still think the theory points people in a direction that may work for some children, but doesn’t work for all. I would though, be happy to direct some criticism towards those philosophies that you allude to that encourage rigid schedules and harsh and punitive discipline measures. (I will work on that post soon.) But I don’t think any philosophy doesn’t warrant some critical examination directed its way.

    • Alan August 11, 2010 at 1:40 pm

      Kelly, the content of your post was fantastic–I’m only sorry the formatting was so messed up, making it very hard to read and thus meaning a lot of people will likely pass it by. (Kathleen, maybe you can help?)

      I mentioned above that the Sears books are not what they are demonised to be, but you really proved that very specifically. Now, it’s true that a lot of people who call themselves “AP” deviate from Sears in a fairly extreme way, and that’s unfortunate (mainstream parents who have debated with me may find this hard to believe, but I am actually very “moderate” from the AP perspective and just the other day I got into a hot debate about discipline with other self-styled APers on an email list). But usually the criticism is not framed as “the Sears’ version of AP is cool, but these other APers…”. Rather, the Sears books are assumed to contain all kinds of wild stuff that they just don’t contain. Kathleen herself did mention that the books might not be as extreme as what she was criticising, but she also said elsewhere that she hated the Sears books, implying that she had read them before saying this.

      • amoment2think August 11, 2010 at 5:17 pm

        If Kelly would like me to try and fix the formatting I would be happy to. I wonder what happened, because it seems the only one to have formatting issues. Maybe it was a cut and paste issue?

      • kelly @kellynaturally August 11, 2010 at 7:35 pm

        If you could fix it, that would be great! I pasted my reponse into notepad. Then emailed it to myself. Then opened & worked on it. Then cut & pasted back into your blog – yikes. If you can fix it, go for it! Its an eyesore at this point! ๐Ÿ™‚

      • amoment2think August 11, 2010 at 7:46 pm

        Okay, I think I made it a bit better. That formatting is hard to take out and I am not an HTML person. So I don’t want to mess with your meaning by mistake. But I think it is a bit easier to read that way.

      • Alan August 11, 2010 at 11:49 pm

        Kelly, next time uncheck “word wrap” before you copy from Notepad and you’ll be golden. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Megan August 11, 2010 at 11:24 am

    Great post, Kathleen!

    It seems to me that most of us like-minded, rational adults can agree on is that no theory should be followed to the letter and that every child is and should be treated as an individual. I believe that most of the people who practice AP probably feel the same way. But, like any subculture (I say that because AP is clearly not “mainstream” parenting) the people involved may start to feel attacked or ridiculed because the way they do things is not always socially and widely accepted. I think that might be where some of the perceived snobbery comes in. Maybe a defense mechanism?

    I’m sure I’m going to get hell for trying to psychoanalyze APers, but I don’t mean any harm by it. I just mean that if society is telling you that you’re raising your kid wrong for never putting her down, you’re going to remind yourself why you’re doing it in the first place and take up the attitude that these people who are criticizing you are wrong, that they just don’t get it, and that can translate to maybe THEY’RE doing it wrong.

    My instincts told me to hold Charlotte all the time when she was little. She wanted to be held and more specifically, she wanted to be held by me or her dad. We got a lot of criticism for this. People (family, especially) said that we were spoiling her, not socializing her enough. I was mocked for worrying too much. I felt a lot of pressure to “do it right” in everyone else’s eyes.

    I guess my point is that we ALL judge (I realize you already know this) I know I’ve made fun of AP practices and then later seen the wisdom in them. I know I’ve been made fun of when I did want to do something not mainstream and more attachment based. The hypercritical APers suck, just like people who mock anything they aren’t familiar with suck.

    I could have cut this rant down to two words: People suck.

    • amoment2think August 11, 2010 at 11:47 am

      Great comment Megan. I agree with you that I think many APers and those who practice pieces of AP do get a lot of criticism in our society, which does suck. And I can also say that there are all sort of parenting practices that I thought didn’t make sense at first, that I later see the wisdom in. Even in the short time I have been writing this blog my views have changed and flexed- which is part of the reason I feel there is so much value in having the discussion. We can all learn something from each other.

      And like some other debates of this type, where you live makes a big difference. The internet brings us all to one place and it can feel like we are talking about the same thing, but we aren’t. Some of us live in more AP friendly areas then others, for example.

    • organicmamabear August 11, 2010 at 12:28 pm

      I think your post is right on, Megan. I often feel defensive about practicing parts of AP because people (family, peers, and even complete strangers) have judged me harshly for it.

      It is also inherently perilous to debate parenting styles/choices because thoughtful people generally do what they think is right with the information they have.

      All of this withstanding, I will still advocate AP practices because I think they have merit.

      • amoment2think August 11, 2010 at 12:32 pm

        @organicmamabear

        “It is also inherently perilous to debate parenting styles/choices because thoughtful people generally do what they think is right with the information they have.” This is SOOO true and such a good point.

      • organicmamabear August 11, 2010 at 1:15 pm

        Kathleen —

        I should have been more clear. organicmamabear on your blog = crunchymidwesternmama on FFF.

        I have two WordPress blogs and whenever I comment on a WordPress site, it has me designated as organicmamabear, which is my secondary blog. On Blogger sites, I type in the URL and I come across as crunchymidwesternmama. I appreciate the invite from FFF to comment over here though!

        I also think I should have said “All of this NOTwithstanding” — my brain is asleep this afternoon. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • amoment2think August 11, 2010 at 5:16 pm

        Hi Organicmamabear,

        I realized that after I came back and re-looked at my comments. Welcome!

  11. Megan August 11, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    Ugh. Okay, I stand by everything I said, but I have to say that after seeing your retweet of Butterflysnbees on Twitter, I’m annoyed.

    At least mainstream parents never accuse APers of going against biology by parenting in the way that feels natural to them. And by saying that AP isn’t a style, but “simply biological”, that’s pretty much what she’s doing.

    • Alan August 11, 2010 at 6:19 pm

      @Megan:”At least mainstream parents never accuse APers of going against biology”

      But see, a lot of us who AP don’t see it as Coke vs. Pepsi or Burger King vs. McDonald’s. We (at least some of us) believe in AP not because it’s a “flavour” we happen to enjoy, while thinking “different strokes for different folks”; rather, we believe we are stripping away a lot of misguided mainstream practises and doing what is more biologically right.

      So it’s not surprising that mainstream parents would be annoyed, since, yeah, we really do think we’re doing it right and they aren’t (although not many APers will come out and say it this bluntly).

      • amoment2think August 11, 2010 at 9:09 pm

        Well Alan, no one can say you aren’t up front and honest with your opinion. And you are right, it is just that position that non ap parents are so bothered by. You’d be bothered to if I told you I thought what you were doing wasn’t biologically right. (I am not saying that, by the way). It seems a heck of a way to try and convince others to come on board, in my opinion. Kelly made me more interested in hearing more of her perspective. Your just made me felt talked down to. Again, we have come to a point in the discussion where all we can really do is agree to disagree.

  12. janetlansbury August 11, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    I have been wondering about a discussion I read on an AP site recently and it suddenly occured to me that this may be a safe place to ask about it. Hopefully, Kelly, or someone else well-versed in AP can tell me whether this is an example of parents following AP, or misinterpreting it.

    With all respect, I was baffled and more than a little shocked when I read this. It’s a discussion about co-sleeping and breastfeeding…all night long. The moms (and there are not just a few, but several) keep a breast in their baby’s mouth all night as a “human pacifier”. If they take their nipple out of the baby’s mouth, the baby wakes up and cries, so they keep it in. They discuss the different positions that have worked for them, feeling like “pretzels”, share ‘advice’, and commiserate. Some have continued this practice until their children were 2 years old and beyond. Their biggest concern? Whether or not they are harming the baby’s teeth. (By all accounts, the teeth will be fine.)

    http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/2FonKM/www.storknet.com/cubbies/attachmentparenting/archives-cosleepbf.htm/r:t

    Does Dr. Sears condone this? Or is this AP “extreme”? If so, how does this happen? How do so many people misunderstand? Gosh, how do women fall asleep with someone’s mouth on their nipple? Or do they just not sleep at all? Is this considered being responsive to a baby?

    I’m not being judgmental or facetious. REALLY. I am trying to understand the philosophy, since lately I’m finding myself in the position of trying to help parents who want to stop doing AP.

    http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/2FonKM/www.storknet.com/cubbies/attachmentparenting/archives-cosleepbf.htm/r:t

    • kelly @kellynaturally August 12, 2010 at 6:41 am

      I had periods of time in both of my childrens’ infancy when I felt like a human pacifier.

      This, of course is anecdotal. I can’t tell you if many women do this.
      I can tell you that in both Dr. Sears Baby Book, and in Elizabeth Pantley’s No Cry Sleep Solution, they address the persistant nighttime/pacifying nursing baby, and gentle steps to help easy baby off the nipple as all-night pacifier (by breaking the suction, and gently putting pressure on the chin/lower lip, and/or subbing in the pacifier or thumb, etc.). I would imagine if you googled “Pantley Pull-Off” you’d find this method described.

      The thing is, baby is just doing what comes naturally to them. The sucking instinct is normal, natural, and instinctual. A newborn baby knows how to suck without being taught. People have come to be comfortable with giving baby a pacifier (I did it myself at times, there’s nothing wrong with a pacifier IMO) to a baby with high-sucking need. When baby’s pacifier drops out of her mouth, baby wakes up – I’m sure we’ve all experienced this – its why contraptions have been developed to keep paci in baby’s mouth. Like this: http://www.mom4life.com/catalog.php?item=750

      But, the thought of having a human nipple in a baby’s mouth makes people less comfortable. Understandably. To suggest that a mother is must mainatin physical contact with her infant “all the time” is not in line with our current societal beliefs where women have multiple roles & responsibilities, and not much support. Additionally, physically it can be uncomfortable (though there are ways to make it moreso for women who are less tough-sensitive on their nipples). Plus, it requires cosleeping which makes people very uncomfortable (though, it is a very natural process that has existed as long as humans – having baby sleep in a separate space is a very new development, in terms of the length of time people have been around).

      I did pesonally at times find it hard, when my infants were in that mode (like during teething or growth spurts), to sleep while pacifying. I did not, however, find it hard to co-sleep, so I mastered the pull-off method, and slept well with my infants in bed with me. I am sure there are women who are more desensitized to nipple touch and can comfortably fall asleep with baby latched on. We all have different needs/requirements for touch. My son, if he could, would likely prefer to sleep on top of me all night long. My daughter, prefers to cuddle for a moment, then says, goodnight mom, and turns away. Different kids, both raised in a very attached way.

      Does Dr. Sears condone the all night nurser? Well, I know he recognizes all-night nursing as a normal infant behavior (just as normal as a baby needing a silicone pacifier or a bottle at night), and also recognizes it as a behavior which can be troubling to mom & dad. He offers gentle solutions for the all-night nurser:
      http://www.askdrsears.com/html/7/t070800.asp

      As to your comment about continuing the practice of night nursing until they were 2 & beyond, I personally night weaned when my babies turned 2. I would imagine there are people whose children nurse at night/wake for a bottle up to/beyond that age (those who haven’t been “sleep trained”). My daughter still occasionally wakes (she’s almost six) for a drink of water. Usually she gets it herself, sometimes she calls to me. I even wake myself for a drink of water. My point is, I think waking at night for drink is normal. Its up to the parents to decide whether its working for them… and for some, I imagine its fine. I believe if it works for mom & baby, then why not?

      • janetlansbury August 12, 2010 at 11:52 am

        Kelly, thanks! So, if I’m understanding you correctly, the all night latch-on is something that Dr. Sears and Attachment Parents think is healthy for babies as long as the mom has tough enough nipples and can manage it.

        I’m aware that infants have powerful sucking needs. If they are given the opportunity (and a parent’s patience) they will suck their hands, fingers or thumbs as they often do in the womb. And this one of the many areas where I find Sears confusing. He says very clearly on one page of his site: “Remember, the womb lasts for 18 months, nine months in and nine months out.” (This isn’t the biology I studied. And I’ve heard of doctors feeling godlike, but please…) Then he encourages moms to let babies suck on their nipples all night, rather than trusting babies to do what they do in the womb…suck their thumbs.

        He does at least offer some advice on the page you linked to for coping with babies who have developed the need to nurse while asleep. But what he doesn’t seem to understand, or won’t acknowledge, is that with all our good intentions, we CREATE these habits. YES, we must be responsive to all our babies communication and always fill their true needs whenever we possibly can, but the WAY we respond to our baby’s cries creates habits. We have to take a moment to discern the need, to allow the baby to express it so that we can figure it out. And when we fill a need for sleep or sucking with nursing, we CREATE needs that are NOT natural. (Ask other mammals if nursing beyond satiation is biological.)

        And then, when we have a two year old who cannot sleep without a breast in her mouth, we can try to follow Dr. Sears’ weaning advice, which is to say in babytalk, “Mommy go night-night, Daddy go night-night, baby go night-night, and nummies go night- night” We’ll hope it works.

      • kelly @kellynaturally August 12, 2010 at 6:40 pm

        >>”… rather than trusting babies to do what they do in the wombโ€ฆsuck their thumbs.”

        I don’t recall ever reading this. I believe he acknowledges the sucking need is normal in babies. In some, it is satiated by the breast. In some, with fingers and thumbs. In some with pacifiers. I remember feeling hopeful that my 1st would take her thumb. She preferred a pacifier. My son didn’t take either. He also was not one to be latched on all night. I also remember reading the Baby Book & feeling comfortable that sucking need was normal in babies, and however it was satisfied was okay.

        >>”And when we fill a need for sleep or sucking with nursing, we CREATE needs that are NOT natural.

        I’ve known parents who leave baby with a bottle or pacifier or blanket with tags all night because when they wake, they find it, suck on it, and go back to sleep. I don’t see the vast difference between that & the breast or the thumb or fingers or a pacifier. Of course, with the exception that a bottle filled with formula all night has been linked to dental caries due to the sugar pooling. Babies need to suck. It’s a need. Parents help baby fill that need with whatever works for them & baby.

        Personally, when cosleeping wasn’t working for us anymore, we changed it up. When nightnursing wasn’t working for us anymore, we changed it up. I always knew that my baby trusted us to interpret their need & want communication with empathy. And thus, I believe they have grown into empathetic children, who understand everyone’s needs, not just their own, are important.

        I may be misinterpreting your comments, but it seems you may think Dr. Sears/attachment parenting is a one way or the highway type of parenting. However, one of the things oft repeated throughout the Dr. Sears books is, “If you resent it, change it”. I always felt this to mean if something wasn’t working, try something else, never as a “do it this way, or else”.

      • amoment2think August 13, 2010 at 6:31 am

        Janet and Kelly,

        I want to thank you both for the really interesting discussion you are having. I think it is great when we can really get into talking about the ‘nitty gritty’ of different theories and really engage with each other. Both of you have raised such interesting points that have made me think.

        Janet, I am really interested in thinking more about the idea of ‘habit we create’. I think some of the habits we create can be good and some can be unnecessary, but it is something we should be aware of when parenting. I like your approach because it reminds us that babies come with everything they need intact.

        Kelly, I have to say you are opening my eye a bit on Attachment parenting, Sears in particular. As I have thought about the discussion around Sears I have realized that I read Sears at a point in Motherhood where I was feeling judged writ large, for my struggle to breastfeed and the decision to stop. I think I read Sears through that lens of feeling judged and it may have effected what I perceived. I think I might go back and flip through again. I am not saying I am 100% converted, ๐Ÿ™‚ but I am saying I am interested in re-hearing and evaluating the message. Thank you, I hope you continue to share your thoughts here.

    • Alan August 12, 2010 at 12:21 pm

      Kelly did a good job addressing the issue, and her link shows where Dr. Sears stands on it.

      I just wanted to comment that first of all, none of my three kids did this all-night thing; and secondly, the angle you’re taking on co-sleeping (“do they just not sleep at all?”) is just the opposite of the experience I’ve had. Other parents talk about how little sleep they get, especially when their babies were newborns; with both my wife and ex-wife this was never a problem. We always got as much sleep as we did before having kids, because cosleeping means you don’t have to actually get up and actively feed the baby. It’s just something that happens on and off throughout the night (and I, being even more of a night owl than my wife, have witnessed that there is a lot more “off” than “on”, btw, even though my wife is never sure in the morning how much of the time the baby nursed while they were sleeping).

      So to me, cosleeping looks like it would be just the opposite of what you are implying: a godsend for most sleep-deprived parents of infants.

      • amoment2think August 12, 2010 at 1:11 pm

        I have to say I agree that a lot of parents I have spoken too have really felt that co-sleeping was very helpful for them. To me, it is one of those things that works sooo well for some and not as well for others.

      • janetlansbury August 12, 2010 at 1:24 pm

        Alan, thanks, but I wasn’t talking about co-sleeping. I’m talking about sleeping with a baby attached to a breast all night long.

  13. Megan August 11, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    @Alan- I appreciate you being so blunt. I think we could all stand to say what we really think more often and not be so political and careful with what we say.

    And, I don’t even think it is so horrible for someone to believe the parent practices he or she employs are better than someone else’s. For instance, I know friends and family members who feed their kids junk all the time, don’t put sunscreen on them, and let them watch television indiscriminately. So, do I think I’m employing better parenting practices for feeding my daughter organic, fresh food, putting sunscreen and a rash guard on her, and severely limiting her television? You bet.

    But, those are common sense and health issues. And I know I won’t be able to convince you that AP is a style and not the biological norm, and I wouldn’t even try.

    Here’s how I see it: it was my instinct to hold my daughter constantly when she was a newborn, to let her sleep on my body when she wanted to, to tend to her every cry. To let her cry in a car seat constantly or force her to be independent from me at such an early age seemed unnatural, and I think you and I would agree on that.

    But, that isn’t what we’re talking about, is it? Here’s where it gets tricky. I think babywearing is great. i wish I had done it more with my daughter,and I plan to do it more if I have another baby. But, I also know that I will also put that baby down in his or her bassinet. I will push him or her in a stroller when it’s convenient. And when that baby cries in the stroller or bassinet, I will pick him or her up. Just like I did with my daughter. So, is that okay with you? Or should I constantly have the baby wrapped to my chest? Is that what biology wants me to do?

    What about cosleeping? What if my daughter spent most of the night in my bed until I became a distraction to her and she stopped sleeping? What if she spent the whole night trying to talk to me and stand up, but slept wonderfully in her crib? Have I failed in my biological duties as a mother by putting her in the crib?

    I just wonder where the basic idea of tending to a baby or toddler’s needs ends and pushing the stylistic methods people have decided are “necessary” to accomplish that task begins. I alsways pick my daughter up when she doesn’t want to sit in her stroller. I carry her in an Ergo when she feels like it. But, sometimes she WANTS to be in her stroller, and it bugs me that someone like you would probably assume that I raised her on neglect and zero body contact because she’s happy to sit there.

    I realize I’m rambling, and perhaps I should hold off on sending this until I can articulate better, but I’ve ignored my husband for too long writing this, and I’m done with it now.

    • Alan August 12, 2010 at 12:38 pm

      Megan, I’m glad you appreciate the bluntness. I agree that people tend to pussyfoot around too much.

      FWIW, nothing you’ve posted sounds contrary to AP to me! Maybe you’re a lot more AP than you thought. ๐Ÿ™‚ I think actually that unless you are selectively leaving out something major, you sound like an exceptionally good mother! Sorry if I disappointed you–seemed like you had your dukes up, all ready for a brawl, but I just can’t find anything in your post to disagree with (and I tried, honest: I read it three times). This does perhaps illustrate though that (a) we APers need to do a better job of PR; and (b) as I’ve noted before, there are some extreme oddballs out there calling themselves AP (though neither I nor Martha and William Sears would recognise them as such) who are acting like Jacobins, denouncing anyone who is not quite as extreme as they are. They give AP a bad name and we “moderate” APers need to call them out on it.

      • Megan August 12, 2010 at 1:19 pm

        No, Alan, I wasn’t hoping for a brawl. In fact, I quite dislike confrontations, generally.

        I do realize that I have a lot of AP tendencies. That becomes more and more clear as my daughter gets older. However, I would never call myself one, because I see the merit in many parenting practices that Apers tend to renounce, and frankly, I don’t want to be associated with the judgment and sanctimony.

        I’d like to comment on your attitude toward co-sleeping. I think you know that your evidence for saying that it is a way for parents to get the most sleep possible is merely anecdotal.I for one, grudgingly gave up on co-sleeping when my daughter absolutely refused to sleep in my bed. She would seriously have played with me all night if I’d let her. I have also seen some APers continue co-sleeping when it is not working, and no one is sleeping, simply because they are told by their peers that this is the best way to sleep and the only way to maintain an attached relationship to their baby.

        I just hate to see people make blanket statements like “You and baby will sleep so much better if you co-sleep!” just because it worked for them and some of their friends.

      • amoment2think August 12, 2010 at 1:25 pm

        Alan, I agree with you again, you are on a role! (just teasing you). I think there is certainly a PR issue going on here. And you know what I think is part of the issue?

        Truth is that most of us live in the murky middle of parenting theory. We practice a “little bit from column a”, “little bit from column b” and there are parents who are using a lot of the AP techniques, at least in part, but don’t call themselves AP because a) either they do one thing that most APers wouldn’t agree with so they feel they don’t ‘belong’ or because b) they have been offended by someone who did call themselves AP and they didn’t want to join the club.

        I know I live in a kinda unique area, but I know a lot of Mom’s who co-sleep, use baby carriers, breastfeed past 6 months and often past a year ect. But they don’t do it as a hard philosophy that they classify as ‘biologically natural’, they do it because it works, at least for a time, and then they flex to other methods when something just isn’t working for them anymore. For example, feeling that they want to stop co-sleeping at a certain age (let’s say 10 months) because the whole family isn’t sleeping as well anymore. So they try some gentle sleep ‘training’ methods. Or they nurse to 18 months and they feel that both their child and they are ready for it to be done. They wean. They are great parents. And they are using what works when it works. They have a close connection with their child, their best intentions and the child’s needs in mind. They are responsive and loving and just trying to do their best. And then they go online and are told they are doing something wrong. Harming their kid or doing what is not ‘biologically right’. Makes me shake my head. Who is to say that they are doing anything wrong? They are trusting their gut, which I think is the best thing a parent can do.

      • Alan August 12, 2010 at 1:53 pm

        Kathleen, the only thing I’d question from your post is what exactly you mean by “gentle ‘sleep training’ methods”.

  14. shasta August 12, 2010 at 9:47 am

    Great post. I always appreciate people who value common sense. I like to think that I treat my daughter like any other person I know; I interact with her, I’m responsive when she communicates (in whatever way that may be), and I help her when she needs it. She goes along with our family routine and she seems to be growing up pretty well. She is not, however, the center of the universe, even though she still needs me to do most everything for her. That will change, in time.

  15. Melissa August 13, 2010 at 9:13 am

    I totally agree with you on these points! I think attachment parenting, as presented by Dr. Sears, is a mostly great idea. Before I even heard of it, I did most of those things with my daughter, it’s just what came naturally. I slept with her and nursed on demand because that’s what was easiest for both of us and just came naturally. Of course I responded to her cries. But I had this friend who was a religious “AP mom”, she belonged to an AP Moms/ Playgroup, went to conventions, and was on these blogs ALL THE TIME. Seriously, it was cult-like for her. And ridiculous. We eventually had a falling out over the fact that she DID NOT discipline her 6 yo AT ALL, and she ran wild and was hell to be around. We both had 1 year old daughters at the time, and one day at the park she took my daughter’s hand and led her into the parking lot, in the street! I tried to talk to my friend about how I needed her to talk to her daughter about her behavior, because it was endangering my baby girl, who looked up to her older girl and wanted to do what she said. What I got was “How dare you try to tell me how to raise my kid?! F#*k you!” And she grabbed her kids, left the park, and we haven’t spoken since (about 5 years, and we had been friends since High School.)

    I think with any parenting style or technique, you really have to use your brain, not be a sheep, and know your own kids. That’s what Dr. Sears tells you anyway!!! That’s the whole point of AP- to know YOUR kids and do what feels right for them and you. Kids are so different, obviously no one set of rules are going to work for everyone. And kids NEED discipline, Dr. Sears heartily promotes this, and I think it is something many of gung-ho AP supporters miss. You attach to your kids so you can KNOW them, and give them the discipline they need to be caring, responsible people. Kids without discipline and boundaries become unhinged and feel unsafe.

    • Alan August 13, 2010 at 5:38 pm

      @Melissa:
      “And kids NEED discipline, Dr. Sears heartily promotes this, and I think it is something many of gung-ho AP supporters miss.”

      Yes, this is so true! I know people IRL who (erroneously, in my opinion) call themselves “AP” and are just like your friend in not disciplining their kids, who predictably turn into holy terrors. I absolutely APed my kids, and they are constantly complimented on how well-behaved and mannerly they are. But then, they do have actual rules they are required to follow, and negative consequences if they don’t (though they never get spanked). And they never whine for things in the store because they know they won’t get it and will just get in trouble.

      It drives me nuts that there are these nutjob parents giving AP a bad name. At the very least, if they can’t bring themselves to discipline their kids, I wish they would come up with another name instead of AP! I think Sears has kind of taken that one, and he has a whole book on discipline; so they need to come up with their own name for what they are doing and leave us real APers out of it! Ugh.

  16. Melissa August 13, 2010 at 9:28 am

    BTW, I quoted you and expounded further on this topic on my blog:
    http://singlesurfingmom.blogspot.com/

    Would love to have you mama’s read it ๐Ÿ™‚

    Melissa, Mom to Makena, 6 and Tristan, 15 mos

  17. Cheryl August 13, 2010 at 9:33 am

    There’ so much here I both agree and disagree with. so I’m not sure where to start. I think I am reading this with much more interest now, with my second child on the way. I am reading and looking back at how I raised my first (not that the job is done) and thinking of how I will raise my second. I can only assume I will use the same core methods but babies are all different, so we’ll see!
    I can’t comment on any of the Dr. Sears literature, since (GASP) I’ve never read a single Sears book. (Go ahead and comment on that if you wish …) That being said, it doesn’t mean I can’t have an opinion on some of the points discussed here.
    To start, K, I think your post is great and it has opened up a valuable discussion. You and I tend to agree on a general “do what works for parent and child” sort of philosophy, regardless of what theory or book the methods come from.
    I did a few things that could be considered AP. I wore my first around the hours for many, many hours when it was the only way he would sleep. I also did many things that some APers would consider terrible, like letting him sleep in his carseat or a swing. Did I do that feeling like it made me a great mom? No. Does it make me a terrible mom? Again, no. It was a solution to a less than ideal circumstance and we did what we had to do.
    I think I am rambling and will close with this before I get way off course here …
    I think we all struggle to find the balance between responding to everything our babies need and also allowing them to be independent. For anyone to imply that there is only one way to get there is frustrating. I am glad many of the comments here value following one’s instincts and going with your gut, instead of any rigid set of rules.

  18. Megan August 13, 2010 at 10:04 am

    @Kathleen- I think it’s awesome that you are so open to new ideas and change, and that you can admit when someone has opened your eyes to something. I mentioned that I’m getting more and more open to attachment parenting. I would still be reticent to identify myself as such because I certainly don’t and never will follow all the tenets, and also because I assume (perhaps wrongly) that most APers are judgmental. Commenters like Kelly also turn me around on that last notion. I’ve had the good fortune to have Kelly comment on my blog, and she has never been anything but helpful, supportive, and respectful.

    @Kellly- I hope you read that comment to Kathleen. I think you’re awesome!

  19. janetlansbury August 13, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    @ Cheryl, I think this really nails it, “I think we all struggle to find the balance between responding to everything our babies need and also allowing them to be independent.”

    And @Melissa, I totally agree about using our brains.

    @Kelly, just want to clarify that a baby with a mouth full of breast, pacifier, etc., will not have an opportunity, the desire (or the room) to find his thumb. And I don’t have the idea that AP is all or nothing. I appreciate the spirit of AP very much. I see many positives… Anything that promotes healthy attachment and bonding sounds good to me. But I have seen Dr. Sears’ literal take on Attachment Theory cause problems for SOME parents (even if they don’t “resent” what they are doing initially), and SOME babies.

    Kathleen, you are right that everything we do with babies creates habits… Babies are adaptable, but it’s easiest and kindest to create healthy habits in the beginning if we can, and this is where Dr. Sears lets us down, in my opinion.

    As Kathleen eloquently explained in her #4, infants are capable people, but ONLY if we are willing to view them that way. Dependent? Yes! But so easily underestimated because they are pre-verbal. I believe we disrespect babies when we create even MORE dependencies for them, rather than allowing them to find a tad of independence is a few small ways…like being able to be asleep, to dream a few personal dreams without mommy’s breast in their mouth. Really, isn’t making a baby dependent on us to stay asleep the ultimate in hovering?

    • Fearless Formula Feeder August 14, 2010 at 1:56 pm

      @Janet,

      As usual, I feel inspired and comforted reading your comments. I’m being 100% serious here when I say that YOU should write a parenting book. Have you thought about it? I’d buy copies for all my loved ones…:)

      I think I’ve said this on other blogs, in other ways, but my issue with any type of parenting theory (except, as I’m learning, RIE) is that I think they serve the parent rather than the child. Not that there is anything wrong with that fundamentally – I obviously am an advocate of happy parent, happy baby, so whatever works for the family is going to be the best way to go. But I get itchy when proponents of any theory start defending their choices by saying it is best for all babies to do “x”.

      I loved many aspects of attachment parenting, in theory, but my child had other ideas. He was fiercely independent from day one. I kid you not. We expected to co-sleep – I loved the family bed idea, since I would obviously be nursing (LOL, in retrospect), and we got one of those sidecar bed things and everything. He HATED it. Didn’t like being held, hated carriers of all types (unless he was planning sleeping, or later, when he could look out – but even that only lasted for a few months and then he wanted to crawl everywhere), needed constant entertainment… I had dreams of wearing him, nursing on demand, while I wrote my articles; turned out he wouldn’t let me within 5 feet of the computer without screaming bloody murder (still the case – I can only log in if he is sleeping or my nanny is here). He wanted all attention on him at all times, but he also wanted to do whatever he wanted. Tough baby. Awesome toddler. You know how it goes.

      I also thought I would never in a million years engage in sleep training, until I got PPD, and needed sleep desperately (as getting adequate sleep is one holistic method of treating depression); I also read a lot of research that convinced me that babies need sleep, and that it was my responsibility as a mom to help him get that sleep. Since he didn’t want to sleep in our bed or in my arms, I was left with the task of helping him learn to self soothe. And you know what? It took ONE NIGHT. One flipping night. If I’d known it would be that easy, I would have done it earlier. It didn’t feel cruel, b/c he learned to get himself back to sleep, and was in a much better mood in general.

      Ironically, at 20 months, he has now turned into an AP-ers dream. He only wants to sleep in my arms, only wants mommy, hugs me and kisses me constantly…which I love, but I do worry about what happened to his admirable independence. So now I’m freaking out that he’s too attached to me, despite encouraging and supporting his independence for all these months…

      Now, who knows what will happen with my daughter? Maybe she will take to some of those AP accoutrements that are collecting dust in my garage. That would sure be nice. But I’ve learned from my son is that sometimes, you just need to stop and listen to what your child needs. I think it’s disrespectful to both the child and the parent to insist there’s only one way to parent, which in turn means there’s only one way to be a baby. I just try and go with the flow and adjust accordingly, and try and support my child through every stage. It’s hard to shut all the voices out of your head, but I think that is the true challenge of parenting.

      • janetlansbury August 18, 2010 at 9:08 pm

        @FFF Thank you for the huge compliment.:) That’s a future dream. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to YOUR book.

        I love what you say about listening to your boy. And I just wanted to mention that he’s probably feeling needy because of your pregnancy. Just keep being honest with him and welcoming his feelings. Don’t let people wind him up with, “Are you excited to be a big brother?!” It’s going to be good, but also hard for him. The mystery of it all, the anticipation is harder for some children than the reality of the new baby, but even then he will probably need to grieve the change in your relationship a little. If you encourage him to express all the negative feelings he’ll be his independent self again soon. (Sorry Kathleen, don’t mean to hijack this great discussion!)

  20. beta dad August 14, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    This was a wonderful post.

    I really shouldn’t leave a comment here, because I only know about AP through hearsay, the disjointed conversations I have had with APers, and passing references in the mommyblogosphere. But I can’t resist.

    I have never read Sears, mostly because some of the basics of AP as I understood it made it seem impossible to do with multiples (we have 13-month old twins). I’m the at-home parent in the house, and there’s no way I could have “worn” those girls all day long.

    We actually considered co-sleeping. Until we brought the girls home the first night and realized it was logistically impossible. Sleep training seemed like the most natural thing in the world once they were 3-4 months old–the girls took right to it, are the best sleepers ever, and are well-rested, happy babies.

    Maybe the people I’m considering “APers” are not doing it right, but they often seem to have problems integrating the babies into the rhythm of the family–having to take them for walks to get them to sleep, etc.

    And then there’s the problem of weening them off of co-sleeping. I know a number of people who have 4-year olds and 5-year olds still sleeping in their beds, and one family who struggled to get their 11-year old out of their bed (there were some other things going on besides just AP in that case).

    I assume that Dr. Sears has a program for weening kids off of co-sleeping and being toted around all the time, and maybe even a solution for APing multiples, but it’s just not right for our family. I am not worried at all about our kids being attached to us “enough.” I love them more than anything, but I don’t feel any overwhelming biological urge to rush to them whenever they whimper. Maybe that’s because I’m used to what happens when you don’t run to them: they get distracted or it blows over.

    I have absolute, unequivocal confidence that I am parenting in a way that works best for my family. And I usually second-guess myself about everything. That feels like biology.

  21. slackerinc August 15, 2010 at 8:45 am

    This is Alan, under my nom de plume “SlackerInc”. I was inspired by the discussion here to make the first post on my new blog be about CIO. Come check it out:

    http://slackerinc.wordpress.com/2010/08/13/why-i-tell-strangers-on-the-internet-they-are-bad-parents/

  22. Jessica - This is Worthwhile August 18, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    You know what’s so interesting is that I agree with just about all of your critiques of the “extreme AP” parents and the nuances of responding to a needy infant versus an emotionally expressive toddler, yet I consider myself a full on AP parent and I believe CIO (as it pertains to infants and, later, to toddlers who truly need emotional support vs. toddlers who are just jerking your chain) isn’t the right avenue.

    I let my son (who’s almost 3 now) have a good cry every now and then – hell, there’s nothing I can do to stop him on most days – and that is most certainly NOT CIO.

    Whenever I say “I’m against CIO,” I’m saying a lot of the same things you did above, like not letting infants cry themselves into an exhausted sleep who have biological needs, not ignoring real cries for comfort and love no matter what age, and truly understanding that secure attachments include some conflicts and sometimes the child’s wants and needs win out, sometimes the parent’s.

    This is just one of the most intriguing posts I’ve read in forever because I don’t have an argument against it, but yet we view our own views on it so differently.

    Thanks so much for that.

    Lastly, just one comment to all the people who know of AP only through stories (like an 11 yo in the bed), I have to point out that it’s only a problem if the family in question thinks it’s a problem. And even then I’d have to wonder what else in the family system is going on that an 11 yo isn’t individuating from his parents as most pre-adolescents begin to do.

    We always have to look at the entire system, just like this post encourages. Though CIO would never feel right for me, and I believe it’s damaging (to my relationship with my child and for him with others) I would still give a nod to the family structure that implements it and is yet still somehow able to override its negative effects in other ways. We all gotta do what works best for each of us.

    • amoment2think August 18, 2010 at 8:25 pm

      Wow Jessica, thank you for this comment. You have no idea how much of a compliment this is: “This is just one of the most intriguing posts Iโ€™ve read in forever because I donโ€™t have an argument against it, but yet we view our own views on it so differently.”

      You know what I think is really amazing? This comment totally touches on what I want this blog to be about. Somewhere where we can get beyond those stereotyped versions of each others perspectives (like the tale of the 11 year old you mention) and listen to each other and discuss with each other. A place to discuss both the nuances and the big picture rather then just putting ourselves in separate ‘camps’ and arguing based on an oversimplified view of each other.

      Thank you for commenting and I hope you continue to share your perspective hear. I would like to hear more.

      • Jessica - This is Worthwhile August 19, 2010 at 4:10 pm

        You’re welcome. As I went back and checked on comments in Annie’s original post I was concerned that I was coming across as wholly black and white on my views on this; as unrelenting and judgmental and that really isn’t me.

        I’m glad your post gave me an avenue to further express my thoughts and relate to a different (thought NOT different) point of view.

        I will definitely be back ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. Ginger August 19, 2010 at 3:33 pm

    A week later, and I can’t really stop thinking about this post, and I think I finally figured out why.

    The divide between the CIO camp and the AP camp on the extreme ends isn’t a comparison of apples to apples. Here’s what I mean: CIO is supposed to be a sleep training tool. Not an “anytime your child is crying tool.” Not a parenting theory on how to handle any other part of your child’s development beyond sleep. AP is supposed to be a bundle of tools for a variety of different parts of a child’s development. They aren’t the same situations, and yet there’s all this battling as if they were. (I do recognize that sleep training or not is a piece of the pie, however it’s only one piece is my point).

    On the extreme ends, APers claim that CIO parents leave their children to cry for hours on end, ignoring their child’s needs for comfort and connection in the quest for a well behaved child. It almost always devolves into a discussion on crying IN GENERAL, and when to answer that cry. The discussion about sleep gets obscured in a whirlwind of “but the children, they cry!” (what bothered me about the linked post–the woman was talking about a crying baby and ascribing CIO to those women. No, they were just letting the kid cry. Two very different things).

    On the other side, those on the extreme side against AP always bring out claims of children in beds beyond a “normal” age, or kids who aren’t disciplined, or parents who bend to every whim of their child. But those aren’t the tenets of AP–they’re the product of bad parenting. I know plenty of parents who don’t AP who have those children that run roughshod over them–has nothing to do with their parenting philosophy.

    I don’t know that I have a conclusion to my rambling here, but it bothers me that the discussions devolve (within the extremist groups primarily) to such a point that we believe the WORST in other parents first because of the rhetoric.

    • amoment2think August 19, 2010 at 4:14 pm

      *Standing Ovation* I totally agree Ginger. Totally.

      “I donโ€™t know that I have a conclusion to my rambling here, but it bothers me that the discussions devolve (within the extremist groups primarily) to such a point that we believe the WORST in other parents first because of the rhetoric.”

      Yes, exactly. I have been thinking about this a lot lately as one of the main reasons that so many parenting discussions end up in screaming matches with one ‘side’ against the ‘other’.

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