Attachment parenting: The new fad

Lisa Watts

72238289 226x300 Attachment parenting: The new fadTrends in parenting come and go as quickly as the latest fashion trends on the catwalk. One consistency with each new trend is the burden of guilt it places with the mother. Am I doing this right, should I do it this way, do I control crying, do I feed on demand, do I go to work or stay at home? The list is endless, and no wonder we are left with a feeling of self doubt and questioning our abilities as parents.

The latest craze sailing its way across the Atlantic is Attachment Parenting or AP as I shall refer to it. The basic principles would surely rile Ms Gina Ford and those that sit in her camp on no nonsense parenting, sending them into utter fits and possibly breaking out into hives.

At its very simplest, Attachment Parenting is based on several principles; breastfeeding a child until the age of three or beyond, having your baby sleep in your room, if possible in your bed and ‘baby wearing’ where you carry your baby with you at all times.

In an ideal world it sounds fantastic, but in modern society, just how practical is AP?

Let’s break it down and see. Firstly, keeping your baby with you at all time, I can’t help but think of a kangaroo carrying it’s baby around in its pouch and hopping around. AP suggests that carrying a baby in a sling at all times, promotes attachment, frequent touch, and parental sensitivity to an infants needs. But what if, like so many parents, you have to go to work? Realistically, and despite of the latest documentary on taking your baby to the office, it just isn’t practical.

Women have the constant battle of deciding whether they should stay at home after maternity leave and be a full time parent or go back to the rat race. Normally, this decision will be based on financial motives and they often have no choice but to return to work in order to make ends meet.

I fall into a separate camp as I am lucky enough to work from home. However, I can safely say, breastfeeding a baby and typing an email with one finger is a true challenge.

Mum to two boys, Danielle Grant from Southampton told me: “I think it has a place in some degree, but think it could be problematic logistically and socially for the infant and mummy. I think Mummy would suffer from never having a break. We all know we parent better when we are calm and collected and I don’t think it is possible to maintain that level headedness if you have had no time away to reflect, rest, recuperate and re-address important issues.”

What’s more, does this style of parenting restrict our children by not allowing them time and freedom to gain their own independence and self identity?

Hannah Llewellyn, mum of two thinks: “You are responsible for teaching your child to be independent and ready for whatever life throws at them. I believe attachment parenting is quite cruel as for the first three years you are teaching them that the only safe place to be is with you. Then they are off to nursery and what are they then suppose to think?”

However Cath Jevon believes AP is all about: “creating a safe, secure base for them to move from and come back to when they are ready. If you want a loving and kind world, with a loving and kind next generation then that’s how you treat them.”

Secondly, breastfeeding to the age of three and beyond. The recent cover of Time magazine which depicted such an image sparked controversy and many an adverse reaction. The theory behind this with AP, is that breastfeeding is the ideal way to create attachment, a fair point. However it states that it also teaches infants that parents will listen to their cues and fulfil their needs. Surely a cup or beaker past a certain age would do the same thing?

Again, and besides the social stigma attached to extended feeding, comes the practicality of actually breastfeeding if you go back to work. Expressing and storing milk requires a lot of organisation. I have expressed milk in the toilets of Waterloo station before a meeting and I can say it was one of the worst experiences I have had – and not one I would care to repeat. This places a lot of pressure on mothers, who have not only given up their bodies during pregnancy but now have to continue to grow a person from their body for the next three years. If everyone thought they were expected to feed for three years, how many people would just opt for the bottle at birth? Surely some breast is better than none at all.

Finally, when it comes to co-sleeping or bed sharing, AP theorists argue that it promotes attachment by being able to soothe and feed your baby during the night. But there is of course the fear that one parent could roll over and squashes the baby ending in tragedy?

One mum who follows the AP style of parenting said: “Co-sleeping has amazing benefits for your child – regulating body temperature and breathing when in close contact with mother being two. Aside from the physical benefits, it’s the most wonderful time to reconnect with your child. We bed share with two of our children and have no intention of changing our situation anytime soon. ”

In fairness to Attachment Parenting, many of its techniques have been around for years. The basis is that we listen to our children and help them form attachments to others and ourselves. The problem arises, as with any parenting method, where aspects of a techniques are taken to the extreme.

I had intended to disregard the method and its extremeness but there are some aspects of AP that don’t get mentioned and some things many people do which are part of of the AP practices.

Using my own personal example, I am still breastfeeding my eight month old, I carry him everywhere because he cries when I put him down and he occasionally sleeps with me because he won’t settle. Parenting really is a minefield and instinctively as parents we do what is right for our baby and because of that, how can we place one parenting technique above another?

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  • PlasticBiddy


  • This is

    “In an ideal world it sounds fantastic…” Hmmm! To my mind it sounds like a complete nightmare.

    Every other species on the planet works to a tight timetable to prepare their offspring for independence as quickly as possible, and not just independence, but for survival. Of course, we humans don’t have the same survival worries as generally we aren’t prey for other animals, but we still need to ensure our offspring can ’survive’ in the broader sense within society.

    We are already seeing the results of a generation of over-pampering whereby young adults are unable to do the simplest tasks or deal with the harsh realities of life. I know of some young adults who can’t even make toast. And very few young people today are prepared for the harsh reality of modern life because they have been pampered all their lives.

    Frankly, I wonder if AP is just an excuse to extend the baby-as-badge phenomenon. Are parents who indulge (and I choose that word intentionally) simply doing it for their own gratification rather than the child’s ultimate wellbeing?

    I was raised to be independent. With a father away in the Forces and a disabled mother, such things as being constantly carried or pampered to simply couldn’t happen, even if my mother wanted to. I became independent rapidly and was a polite, well behaved child and felt loved and cared for. Do AP parents worry that they can’t deliver the same results?

    My children have been raised to be independent. My young teenage daughter has a disability and has had to learn to manage it herself. If she didn’t she couldn’t be let out of the house unattended. How would AP have impacted on this situation? She would no doubt still have to be accompanied by a parent at all times – a hideous thought for a teenage girl.

    My kids have always slept well. They don’t demand or whinge and are loving and loved.

    AP parents make a rod for their own backs in my opinion, with children who won’t sleep and who grow up to be difficult and demanding. But what the hell, I guess the initial selfish thrill is worth the long term price eh?

    Parents of wild animals are driven by a duty to prepare their offspring for survival, to teach them to escape from the lion. Human parents have a similar duty to prepare their own offspring for life, to teach them to be strong, independent and able to stand on their own two feet. They don’t have a duty to use their child as a personal tool of self-gratification.

    Where would gazelles be if they dabbled in AP? Extinct.

  • Guest

    What is it about progressive child rearing, and progressive educational techniques for that matter, which brings about this flurry of anger from reactionaries?

  • kawasakiman

    There are 2 types of parent in this world. Parents who put their children first, and parents who don’t. The latter group very often group together to ostracise the first group, and very often hide behind excuses, & their other ‘important’ commitments.

    In the end, our own consciences will be the judge of us all.

  • kawasakiman

    There are 2 types of parent in this world. Parents who put their
    children first, and parents who don’t. The latter group very often group
    together to ostracise the first group, and very often hide behind
    excuses, & their other ‘important’ commitments.

    In the end, our own consciences will be the judge of us all. I can imagine that yours, just like mine, will be clear :-)

  • shepherdlass

    Attachment parenting derived several decades ago from anthropological observation (by Jean Liedloff and others) of how tribal families raised their children to early independence, through carrying them constantly, etc, etc. The theory was that the security gained from this early attachment allowed quicker and more autonomous independence as the child grew. The anthropological viewpoints may have been romanticized and there are question marks about how it transposes to modern western society but surely most people would agree that independence develops from confidence and security, rather than separation per se.

  • shepherdlass

    Apes are a carrying species.

  • juliarosemary

    There is no need biologically to carry around and breast feed 2 -3 year olds. Children have legs to walk and teeth to eat by that age. Whatever next? As for bedsharing,what about the husband,or perhaps these methods are for women whose partners have scarpered.

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