Saturday, April 16, 2011

Attachment Parenting

I was talking to a friend of mine (who I like very much!) who does not have children yet. During a discussion on child-rearing, the person made several negative comments about “Attachment Parenting’”. I had felt this way before Ella was born but I wondered what the internet buzz was about my style of parenting. I found that many people believed that AP parenting was all about giving into spoiled children and completely missed the science that supports many of our strategies. Not only were there AP bashing blog posts but also AP bloggers writing about Attachment Parenting as if it was an uneducated, lazy option. Then, of course, there was the Wall Street Journal article that said AP was oppressive to women. I was shocked by how much misinformation was out there as well. Many websites proclaimed that helicopter-parenting is the same as attachment parenting, if you don’t bed share then you don’t practice attachment parenting, attachment parenting means grandparents and daycare providers aren’t allowed to bond baby, etc. So, I decided to write a post about what Attachment Parenting is to me. It is not a value judgment on what style of parenting is best but a description of my parenting philosophy.

Attachment Parenting is a philosophy on parenting that involves parenting in the most natural way possible. It includes all people in the child’s life. It involves looking at the biological norms and typically using those methods to care for a child. However, that does not mean it is a checklist of parenting strategies. Beyond the natural living, is the idea that we as parents should trust our instincts. If something feels wrong, then Attachment Parenting says not to do it (even if most APers do it). I often ask myself, "If I was on a desert island, would I do X" If the answer is no, I think about whether or not there is a good reason to do X. For example, on a dessert island I would never have my baby sleep far away from me. So, in my home, the natural thing is for her to be in my bed. However, many other families have perfectly valid reasons not to co-sleep and for them the decision process was different and they had different options to weight. Many people who practice AP do babywear, cloth diaper, co-sleep, breastfeed, and are against cry-it-out strategies to get an infant to sleep. However, this is not universal. AP recognizes that we are trying to do something very natural in unnatural environments. As a result, we all do things a little differently. Some people live in small apartments with nowhere to wash cloth diapers, some people have bad backs and can’t babywear, others have had breast-reduction surgery and can’t breastfeed. Sometimes, parents just choose not to do some of these things.

It isn’t the things themselves that matter, it is more the decision making process. When deciding whether or not to put a child on a schedule or engage in adult-lead weaning, AP parents think about the needs of the child and the biological norm rather than listening to the societal norm or the latest buzz book. Attachment Parenting Parents also typically accept the belief that being with a parent is a need rather than a want and therefore take that need very seriously when making parenting decisions. In theory, we put more weight to the child’s need than our own if there is a conflict. However, there is no rule that the child must win. A parent can still be AP if they decide to choose themselves, when the decision is made with all parties being considered. What makes the family AP is that they seriously weighted the options and knowingly chose their own comfort over their child’s need and had a reason for it. It is about making an educated decision. AP parent can feel proud (rather than guilty) when they occassionally choose their needs because they are choosing the child’s needs in so many other areas. What really matters is the processes and basic values that lead the decision. The decision is not really the indicator of true Attachment Parenting.

I have found AP parenting to be very easy because it feels right not because the strategies are necessarily easier. I have certainly made sacrifices in order to parent this way, but I feel good about every single one of them. I rarely find myself too conflicted in my parenting decisions because I have learned to trust my instinct. If my instinct feels something is right, it almost always is.
So, when I think about Attachment Parenting, I think about making educated decisions that swing in favor of baby. I think of biological norms. I think about gentle approaches when we do choose ourselves over our babies. I also think about families that focus being together as much as possible. I love Attachment Parenting because it freed me from thinking I had to do everything the way it was written in a book. I still consult the books, but I understand that my gut and my baby are the best resources.

What does Attachment Parenting mean to you?

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