Debunking the shit out of attachment parenting myths…

Photography: Brandi Johnson

Re-blogged with permission by Meg Nagle, aka The Milk Meg

I read an article recently which really caught my attention. The author is a journalist who decided to hang out with some attachment parents and put her thoughts down onto paper in the usual, tired way that mainstream journalists do. Dramatic, sensationalized and inaccurate generalizations and assumptions about a particular subculture within society. The positive that came out of this for me was an opportunity to see a bunch of myths surrounding attachment parenting all nicely wrapped up in one article. As an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant who has spent the last 4 years writing about my adventures in breastfeeding and attachment parenting on my blog and in my book, I thought that this would be a good opportunity to debunk the shit out of this topic…and article.  (*FYI. I’m not the all knowing goddess of attachment parenting. My beliefs and experiences are my own.)

An open letter to Hadley Freeman…author of, “Attachment parenting: the best way to raise a child-or maternal masochism?”

Dear. Ms. Freeman,

This isn’t the “approach of the moment”. While the term attachment parenting was coined in the 1980’s by Dr. Sears, this is how we have been mothering since, FOREVER. And no, I don’t just mean tribal cultures. Someone who happened to be around (either the child’s mother or a close family member) responding to the baby. Picking them up, carrying them around, sleeping with, or very close to them. Breastfeeding them. The “approach of the moment” is actually the very new (historically speaking) and very mainstream approach which includes putting them in a different room, by themselves, with a bottle.

We don’t “trust our instincts over the advice of doctors”. It is actually possible to follow our instincts while having educated discussions with our doctors. Instead of just accepting the advice of (for example) “you’re breastfeeding your baby too much”, we arm ourselves with evidence based information so we can make informed decisions, alongside our health care professionals.

Attachment parenting does not automatically mean cloth nappies and non vaxxing. There are many people who don’t vaccinate and would describe their parenting as the exact opposite of attachment parenting. On the other coin there are many “attachment” parents who vaccinate. Just a side note. I didn’t use cloth nappies as a new mother because I was a crunchy hippy attachment parent. I used cloth nappies because I thought they were freakin’ adorable…and we were poor. Saving thousands of dollars on nappies was a necessity. But you acknowledging that would not feed into your narrative of my experience as an “attached” parent.

We are not “rejecting modernity”. We are modern…while continuing to answer our babies’ cries and mother through breastfeeding. I know it seems crazy to think that we can be modern while also being “attached”. However, it is possible for us to wear pearls, be dressed in a collared shirt, work, AND be wearing our baby in a sling. Yeah, it actually happens.

Not every attachment parent baby-wears 24/7 and bed-shares and yeah, if we have to pee we might actually put our baby down for a minute even though they are crying. We might even let them cry for a minute while we finish our bite of toast…however we may also choose to put them in the carrier. Many of us end up bedsharing because we notice quite quickly that our baby will not sleep if they are on their own. Babies are usually pretty happy when they are with, or very close to their mother. Many of us find attachment parenting without actually realizing it. We end up there because our babies asked to be held most of the time, asked to be breastfed frequently, asked to be cuddled. Either way…we’re not saying that we are better than you. We’re saying that at every moment possible, we choose to answer our babies’ cries instead of leaving them. And again…not saying we’re better than you. Please stop making it about you and your parenting.

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  1. says: Loopy lou

    Thank you so much, a lovely article.
    I really liked the bit “wrong anyway with “just” identifying as a mother? When did the identity of “mother’ become a negative thing? I am not a modern feminist if I “only” identify as “mother”?”
    I often wonder at how to be celebrated as a good mother and woman is judged on personal achievements. For example “she has two small children and runs marathons or runs her own business”. These are wonderful achievements and i think these women are fabulous for achieving these things, however isn’t the woman who gives up running marathons or her own business to focus on mothering also worthy of admiration.

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