I didn't know much about attachment parenting until I had my son. It all sounded a little "crunchy granola" to me and I imagined patchouli-smelling hippie moms, who were totally chilled out, churning their own butter and banning TV. Once I started to join some mommy groups, especially online forums, I realized that a lot of parenting practices that were treated traditionally attachment style really jived with the way I wanted to mother my baby. So because I could have really done with a little 101 myself, I'm here to share the things no one will tell you about attachment parenting.
Most advocates of attachment parenting seek to return to a more natural way of caring for children, and they recommend lots of affection, picking babies up straight away when they cry, gentle discipline, extended breastfeeding, baby wearing, and bed sharing. And according to Dr. Sears, the main tenets of AP are birth bonding, breastfeeding, babywearing, bed sharing, belief in your baby's cries, beware of baby trainers and balance.
What I found so interesting about attachment parenting (AP) is that some of the practices seemed so intuitive and obvious to me that I was surprised everyone wasn't doing them. Yet there were other parts of the philosophy that seemed unworkable to me and even potentially dangerous, such as a distrust of vaccinations among AP advocates.
Like all parenting philosophies, there are pros and cons to attachment parenting, but as I discovered, there are some things no one tells you about attachment parenting, so I will.
It's Not An All-Or-Nothing Philosophy
Personally, breastfeeding just made sense to me and after a rocky start I found I loved feeding my baby this way and in fact, I continued until he was more than 2-and-half years old. Similarly, I loved wearing my son in a sling and later, a structured carrier and found having my hands free was super convenient. My son would become calm and sleepy by being close to me and being jostled gently by my movements.
However, bed sharing did not appeal to me at all, and I was paranoid about rolling on him or knocking him out of the bed. Plus, I like my own space when I sleep. When my son was close to 1 year old, we transitioned him to his own room and sleep trained him, a huge no-no for most AP followers.
What I found was that attachment parenting is not a religion. I am free to cherry pick the parts of the philosophy that suit me, my child, and my family and reject the rest. There's no membership that will be revoked if you don't follow the program in full, so make decisions based on your own needs not on following a set of guidelines that may or may not apply to your unique family.
It's Not Just For Hippies
Leave your preconceptions at the door, working moms can be attachment parents too, you don't need to home school your kids or grow your own vegetables (although you can, if you want).
Attachment parenting followers are not one type of parent, but a range of individuals who share some of the same ideas about what effective parenting can look like.
It's More Popular Than You May Think
You only need to visit any mother and new baby group to see women openly breastfeeding and carrying their babies in slings, although AP moms can and formula feed and use strollers as well. In fact, these practices show just how mainstream AP practices have become.
In my baby group the majority of us used baby carriers and arranged baby and mommy hikes as a fun group activity.
It's The Way Most Kids Are Raised
Globally and historically, most families sleep in one bed, children are breastfed until they wean and are carried by their mothers as they go about their daily chores. One of the most popular parenting strategy worldwide is attachment parenting although if asked most parents, they'd say they follow these traditional practices because they're simply the most convenient and cost effective way of raising children.
It's Not Perfect
Attachment parenting advocates are often anti-vaxxers and for me, that's a problem. Seeking out more research on complex topics is a smart strategy but I felt that blindly believing conspiracy theories and spreading unfounded pseudo-science to be ignorant and dangerous.
I had to leave a few attachment parenting forums because the extreme views on vaccinations in particular were giving me panic attacks.
It Can Cause Arguments
Attachment parenting can seem extreme and unusual to some people and therefore can create arguments in families and between co-parents. It's important to remember that your parenting decisions should be negotiated only between the child's parents and no one else's opinion really counts.
It Can Attract Extremists
Like any philosophy, attachment parenting attracts quite a few extremists and some of these are crackpots.
It's always a good idea to practice moderation. For me, I made my own baby food and I was very strict about the things my baby ate, but once he became a toddler he was such a picky eater that literally any food I could get into his body was a success. I've learned not to sweat the details.
It Can Be Seen As "Elitist"
Many feel that attachment parenting as a philosophy is adopted by middle-class women who have enough money to choose to stay home with their children, buy organic foods, and can spurn the sort of judgment that makes people feel like they are superior to others who don't make the same choices.
One online group I left had a comment thread saying parents who didn't buy organic food were abusing their children. That didn't feel true to my experience or who I was, so I left the group. Problem solved.
It Can Save You Money
Even though many believe AP parents are well off and have the means to buy all organic, BPA-free, locally grown and sourced materials, many of the suggested practices are actually very cost effective. Breastfeeding and cloth diapering are both economical options, and if you babywear and bed share you can potentially save money on unwanted furniture and resources.
The very reason why most of the developing world follows this lifestyle is because many people, especially those living in remote areas, simply don't have the finances for strollers, separate bedrooms, and formula. I always felt that for me, AP was about getting back to the basics of what worked.
You're Gonna Hear A Lot Of Opinions
Whether its on talk shows, celebrity soundbites, on social media, or from real people in your life, you are going to hear a lot of opinions about attachment parenting. The movement has been quite controversial and issues such as extended breastfeeding and bed sharing seem to get people all riled up.
There is also an ugly and false association between being an attachment-parenting advocate and being somehow anti-feminist. But surely the aim of all of us fighting for equality is to give women freedom of choice? It doesn't really matter what parenting strategy you adopt as long as you put your child's best interests front and center, which, thankfully, most parents do. All children thrive on the one thing that you can give them in abundance, regardless of your parenting philosophy: love.