Attachment parenting…with detachment

attached child
I’ve read a fair bit about this subject recently both positive and negative and I also have friends who either fully or partially embrace Dr Sears’ notion of effective parenting through adhering to the ‘7 Bs’. This type of parenting has been labelled a fad by some, but other, more accepting and thoughtful commentators argue that, despite faddish elements, the core belief in raising your children with sensitivity and empathy (with an emphasis on responsiveness in the first few months of a child’s life) is the key to raising balanced and well-adjusted children (see Dr Laura Markham’s article on the subject, highlighting the need to set limits with empathy). Also see this post by Psychologymum.
This is my take on the 7 Bs:
  • Birth bonding: I didn’t really do this with JJ as I ended up having an epidural and after a long labour gave birth in the exact wrong position – flat on my back! EJ was a completely different kettle of fish as I managed to have a water birth with no drugs for pain relief and consequently I do feel like I did right by both of us as it was a much more natural, intuitive experience, but I’m not sure if it really makes us any more closely bonded as mother and son.
  • Breastfeeding: if you follow my blog you will already know my thoughts on this expressed in this post. I managed it for five months with JJ and five days with EJ. Whilst I am sure that, if you get it right, it is a wonderful close, nurturing thing to do (with added immunological benefits), I don’t actually believe that the key intended outcome of attachment parenting is affected either way – there are a myriad of ways in which you can care for, nurture and bond with your baby leading them to start life feeling loved and secure.
  • Babywearing: By the time I had EJ as a newborn I had the benefit of hindsight and knew (even before he was born actually) that I would be doing us both a favour by investing in a nice stretchy sling. And I was right – sometimes having him in that sling was the only thing that calmed and soothed him. I think newborn babywearing is a great idea for practical purposes. However I’m not so sure that continuing to exclusively carry your child in this way throughout later baby- and childhood can be classed as anything more than a personal choice in the preferred method of transporting your child.
  • Bedding close to baby: JJ started off in a Moses Basket, spent a few occasions in bed with me and then transferred to a cot in the same room, later transitioning to his own room at about 8 months when he was sleeping through the night. EJ spent his first few months next to me on the bed before going into his cot in my room at 4 months (where he still is now at 16 months). I think it was what worked for us. When they’re very little they do need you to be responsive and proximity is key, but I do believe that gradual detachment is no bad thing and leads to better sleep patterns all round.
  • Beware the baby trainers: Personally I didn’t follow any particular ‘trainer’ although I know people who swore by Gina’s strict regime (and have lovely well-adjusted school-age children). Having said that I truly believe in structure and introducing patterns that give a child a sense of security in the world (and I think children really respond well to daily routines and thrive within them). I have a friend who will definitely think this is anathema to her! Certainly each to their own – what works for one does not work for all.
  • Belief in the language value of your baby’s cry: I think this one is trying to get at the idea that you should never leave your baby crying. This is a really emotive one, particularly if you have/had a baby with that most commonly cited condition ‘colic’ which is basically just what doctors say when they don’t know what else to tell you about your child’s constant crying and fussing. The sound of your baby crying is certainly one of the worst sounds in the world and I’m sure most people would agree that you never stop trying to find a way to calm and soothe that crying away. But sometimes you’ve got to eat. I’m just saying.
  • Balance: this, to me, seems the most sensible B of all when it comes to achieving those ‘attachment’-related goals. It is described as ‘being appropriately responsive to your baby: knowing when to say yes and when to say no’. That makes perfect sense to me and I try and live by this one above all. That doesn’t mean to say I always get it right and god knows you have to choose your battles wisely, but on the whole, I believe that this is the key to everything we do as parents and sometimes, some of the other Bs seem to be taken to ‘Earth Mother’ extremes that counter-act the notion of balance altogether.
I just read this article on babble.com by Katie Allison Granju who actually wrote a book called ‘Attachment Parenting’ which had a foreword by Dr Sears himself. It was really refreshing to read that she completely agrees with my point of view and strongly disagrees with parenting that encourages you to micromanage your child’s life. She also touches upon the idea that some people who gleefully fling themselves headfirst into the role of Earth Mother seem to fall victim to living their lives through the prism of their parenting which is not about balance because as soon as you allow yourself to be defined by any one thing you are no longer a fully rounded individual and what kind of role model is that for the little people?
My 7 Bs of parenting
  • Benign neglect: another idea from Katie Allison Granju’s Babble article. This pretty much sums up my style.
  • Bananas! : yep, there’s definitely a cry that means “get me a banana now goddamit, at the double!”

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  • Bouncing: number one rainy day activity (OK your mattress springs might be a bit worse for wear at the end of it but anything that burns some of that frenetic energy can only be a good thing, right?)
  • Brainwashing: come on, we’re all guilty of this – Father Christmas anyone??
  • Baked goods: always make everything better and release oxytocin (well, maybe not oxytocin but feelgood hormones which, in effect, do the same job without the need for any uncomfortable bap exposure….err…)
  • Balamory: OK, not Balamory but another children’s programme (which may or may not begin with the letter B) – what’s not to like about the educational babysitter in the corner of the room? (You know I’m only kidding right? JJ would far rather be bouncing)
  • Bundles: forget skin to skin, bundling is the new contact bonding front runner. For anyone not in the know, To Bundle: to gleefully leap on top of your mum/dad/sibling/friends and generally roll around together giggling.

So, that’s parenting covered…

Linking up to Brilliant Blog Posts at over at Honest Mum:

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

 

12 thoughts on “Attachment parenting…with detachment

  1. Benign neglect!! Yay!! I am hoping that this has contributed to my two independent and resourceful big girls.

    I like that you point out you don’t have to breastfeed forever to follow the spirit of attachment parenting and get the best out of it. Of course I breastfed forever! but they aren’t *exactly* the same thing.

  2. Pingback: Attachment parenting…with detachment | And then the fun began...

  3. Benign neglect – quick trademark that and write a book on the subject! Love it and it is so true, how else do children learn to cope for themselves and more importantly, let their imaginations run wild, if you micro-manage their every move! #PoCoLo

    • Its brilliant isn’t it?! I can’t really claim to have coined the term though as I did get it from Katie Allison Granju’s Babble article. It basically is “detachment parenting” though isn’t it? 🙂

  4. Such a vital post and I agree with this post wholeheartedly, I interviewed psychologist Dr Karen Pine on this and she said “1. All children eventually learn to walk, talk and not need a nappy. It doesn’t matter when they do it. I came across a lot of competitive mums when I was young who were obsessed with their child’s achievements and milestones. One mum was so proud that her son walked at ten months old. I actually see him now as an adult and think, ‘Well he’s no better at walking than anyone else, so WTF was all the fuss about?’!

    2. Read Judith Harris’s work. She’s shown that parents aren’t as important or influential as we’re led to believe. The current zeitgeist makes parents believe that their every move will shape their child’s future. It won’t. Once we accept that, we can stop feeling guilty about not being the perfect parent!

    3. A bit of healthy neglect is good for kids. Hands-off parenting teaches children self-responsibility, independence and gives them an internal locus of control. The more we, as parents, do for our kids the more we undermine the development of those important life skills.” Thanks so much for linking this fab post to #brilliantblogposts

    • Ah thanks Vicky! I had wanted to put down my conflicted thoughts on this subject for ages so it was quite cathartic to write. I agree there is definitely a reflected guilt implied by attachment parenting (whether intended or not) onto the rest of us who are just trying to figure it all out as best we can as we go along!

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