Call Me Attachment Parent & Die

My blood started boiling this morning when I read this at Babble. It seems one of my counterparts over at Stroller Derby is a massive organic mama.

I am not. Not. NOT. NOT.

In the immortal words of my darling Melissa Etheridge:


I feel a huge debate coming on…

Here’s what I wrote in response:

As discussed earlier today on Babble there are quite a few people who equate the book “Babywise” with torture, withholding food, and even spanking. Setting limits, it seems, is tantamount to withholding love. Most sentient and sane adults would agree that spanking a chid is not an effective method of teaching discipline. I would heartily agree with the well-articulated argument against such silliness.

But it’s the self-righteousness of many advocates for attachment parenting that sticks in my craw. An example: “I nursed my daughter until she was 3.5 and then only stopped because her brother was due for an appearance. Both of them and their older brother I carried around in a sling, slept with, rocked, sang to, stayed up with all night if I had to, and fed when they were hungry.”

With all due respect, what is one to make of such statements? I am currently struggling with weaning my twenty-month old. Am I to conclude that by attempting to do this, expressly against her grasping wishes, I’m withholding love? Being a less-than-perfect parent?

I think that is the conclusion implied.

I used “Babywise” with my infant twins. I didn’t ‘torture’ them, I merely tried to cut myself a little slack. If, by waiting two minutes before picking them up, I was encouraging self-soothing, was I Attila the Hun? Was ‘parent directed feeding’ a rigid torture device? Not at all. What it meant, in my case, was that the twins ate every 2 -3 hours instead of every 15 minutes, once they were three months old.

You know why I boycott La Leche League and shy away from the baby-wearing legions filling local parks? Because of the judgment.

Surprisingly, my Mormon relatives have never judged me for my choices, it has always been the attachment parenting babes I run into around my hippie town. And I know not everyone who believes in breastfeeding on demand and family beds is judgmental, but I can’t take that chance.

Isn’t motherhood and life itself hard enough without competing for Most Perfect Holy Organic Mother of the Universe?

Give me a cranky, sassy, strict bedtime mommy any day of the week. At least she accepts me for who I am and sees that my love for my children is deep and constant, even though I let them eat at McDonald’s.
Karrie says it so beautifully here:
We need fewer magazine articles about how to wear our babies or put the magic back into our marriages, and more articles about how really support one another as mothers and women. We especially need to reach out to new mothers–even those who insist that everything is fine, because we all know that most likely things are far from fine.

I’d love to hear what you think about the whole thing, oh wise and cranky saucy readers.


23 Responses to “Call Me Attachment Parent & Die”

  1. January 6, 2007 at 2:48 pm

    Well said, Crank Mama! I hear you loud and clear and agree that this type of “I do it better than you” is just counterproductive in the greatest sense.

    But, you know what I find? That most of the “higher than thou” moms out there are ones that have all the luxuries most other moms don’t. And, that alone, makes me turn and walk away. Breast feeding your child every 15 minutes is something a working mom simply cannot do. It has nothing to do with loving your child less or torturing them into become future serial killers. It has to do about practicality and handling real life.

    Sadly, extremely judgemental types like that cannot stop at just other moms and will most likely turn that attitude right back onto their own kids some day. It’s a shame, really.

    P.S. You just found at least one stict bedtime mom right here!

  2. January 6, 2007 at 3:22 pm

    A lot of the anti-Babywise propaganda out there is based on the earliest edition of the book, which did get into hot water for advising parents to stick rigidly to a four-hour feeding schedule (which may work with formula fed infants but is not suitable for breastfed babies). By the time I read the book, I was confused at all the outcry, because the revised version preaches exactly the same gospel as The Baby Whisperer, who has never come under an equal amount of criticism.

    I don’t have a problem with any of the parenting practices advocated in Babywise, though I DO have a problem with bossy, know-it-all tone in which the book (like nearly all parenting advice guides) is written – the whole, “Do exactly as I say or your baby will become a monster” rhetoric. That’s where Babywise and Dr. Sears are far more alike than they are different.

  3. January 6, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    I think part of the whole problem with systems and books is that this parenting thing is a jungle that we all need to forge our own path through. I, for example, needed to surrender to feeding on demand. Everything got easier once I gave up looking at the clock. I am also a way strict bedtime mother. Children, go to bed now or Mommy will turn into Evil Crone and will eat you (said with the gin already in the glass). I desperately need a balance between my needs and theirs — and no one book helped me find that, not really. Oh, except for How Not to Be a Perfect Mother by Libby Purves, which I found very comforting.

    I basically have a problem with camps. Let the organic crunchy people do their thing and maybe some days I’m with them. Other days I’m with the gin-swillers, fuck-sayers and eyebrow raised crowd.

    But there is no “right” way. No best way. No corner on the market of good mothering. We all have to find our own way.

    Right on you. This was good stuff.

  4. January 6, 2007 at 4:54 pm

    I’m with you, CM! There is attachment parenting in a good sense (i.e., wanting to have a healthy and loving attachment with your child) and then there’s “attachment parenting” where the kid never leaves your side until they turn 21.

    7-year-old bedtime in the PunditMom household is non-negotiable and as for food? R. eats when we eat and at regularly scheduled snack times. She seems to be turning out OK. I’ve had enough of the judgmental moms … I know some of them think they’re perfect, but I’m smart enough to know I’m not. I’m good enough and I think that will do just fine.

  5. January 6, 2007 at 5:14 pm

    We have always enforced strict bedtimes in our house. We even have a happy dance at 8pm because it’s bedtime. I haven’t read the book, as I try to avoid all parenting books. I don’t like being told what to do – I’m not afraid to ask for help when I need it, but I do NOT like being preached at. I also lose interest quickly when I detect a “my way is best” attitude. My attitude is that we all have to figure out what works best for our individual families, everyone else can just butt out. 🙂

  6. January 6, 2007 at 6:34 pm

    Well, I can’t speak as a mother, however, I would like to think that I’m fairly logical and I couldn’t agree with you more. And when Will and I finally adopt, I know that I’m going to be SCREAMING for help.

    Just let me know who’s heads need to roll…and where they live.


  7. 7 MeL
    January 6, 2007 at 7:01 pm

    I lived and died on a flexible Babywise outline with my first, and it saved my life. I tried for the more “attachment” style with the second, and while he is turning out just as fab as his bro, it was a rough ride. I thought that co-sleeping would help with post-partum issues — on the contrary, it ended up making me feel more overwhelmed and kept me feeling too helpless to get him in his own crib for another 9 months. Since he made it to his own room, he sleeps better and longer and wakes happier. So the lesson I learned? You do your best, with each kid, whatever that means in the moment… and at the end of the day? They’re gonna turn out fine as long as they get the one critical element — love. If your kids know you love them, and their tummies get food in them from time to time and they get some sleep and plenty of cuddles… they’ll be fine. The rest, in my illustrious opinion, is just the crap we pile on ourselves and/or each other.

    I don’t need anyone else’s help to feel like crap, thankyouverymuch, so anyone who tries to tell me I’m shit for not investing in total attachment parenting (or anything else) can bend me over and kiss my alabaster keester, baby. Our kids need our love, our reassurance, a few boundaries, and lots of encouragement. Surprisingly? That pretty much sums up what Moms need, too.

    Yours in Crankulousness, Amen.

  8. 8 Sheila
    January 6, 2007 at 10:38 pm

    I find that anything in the extreme is less than helpful when it comes to children (actually, all of life.)

    I find it disturbing when parents seem to believe that the child is the person to determine when each skill-set is to be addressed (think toilet training) or what bedtime is appropriate, or any of a plethora of other life events.

    To allow a child too much freedom or input is a burden to the child. To allow them too little, is asking for an adult with equally high mental health care expenses. It is all a balancing act and fluid every moment of every day.

    I never claimed to be my child’s friend. I did not want that demotion. I never claimed that we were equal partners in our relationship. I am the adult, my children did not lead me; I led them. Why burden a child with the responsibilities of an adult, or worse yet, shirk the responsibilities of an adult when a child is involved?

    I always thought very highly of my children, knowing that from a very young age, they were capable human beings. They were able to learn new skills.

    Of course a newborn needs more constant care than a child just a few weeks old. A child a few weeks old requires slightly less (different) care, and so it goes, until the teen years, when you are right back to the amount of attention a newborn needs. : )

  9. 9 Meg
    January 6, 2007 at 11:23 pm

    What I find sad about this whole schtick (which has grown sooo tired) is that it’s just a bunch of judging. You feel the “attachment parents” are judging you, so then you judge them back (touche!). And wheeeee, that fun, vicious cycle of judgement continues (blecch). The bottom line is that a parent of ANY camp/persuasion/combination who judges another parent is just barking up the wrong tree. I have AP friends and non-AP friends – I’ve learned a little something from each. Far better to meet each parent where he/she is along the parenting path, suspend judgement, possibly make a friend who (gasp!) does things differently than you, and enjoy the ride.

  10. January 7, 2007 at 12:01 am


    My kids thrive on a schedule. THRIVE. They know what to expect next. They know that mommy & daddy love them. They have no issues with attachment because they were not “worn”.

    And secret? I tried breastfeeding with my 1st. Didn’t work after much trying, bleading, crying. Decided after much thought, research, and soul searching to not even TRY with #2. I was so relieved! Sophia and I BOTH benefitted. I can only admit that in certain circles.

    Thank god you’re in my freakin’ circle!

  11. January 7, 2007 at 7:22 am

    I suppose I am an attachment parent by virtue of my laziness. The younger one still often sleeps in my bed and a I am lax about bedtimes and discipline. And hey, Cranky, while I think we all need to be more tolerant of each other’s parenting practices, I also hope that you will not be annoyed next time someone calls you names, because frankly you KNOW the parenting you are doing is right and consequently their ‘opinion’ should mean nothing to you!

  12. January 7, 2007 at 11:06 am

    I love what you all have to say here (even Meg who is sooo tired of the schtick)… I hereby amend my 2007 resolution (previously only HAVE FUN) and add:
    Do not judge other parents, offer to help and give them love… or at least make fun of their children in order to make them laugh.


  13. January 7, 2007 at 1:30 pm

    The offer to help and give them love part is crucial. I do believe I had a falling out with a friend (and fellow mom) because I reached out to her for help and support when I was struggling to cope with my daughter’s acid reflux (and my resulting PPD) shortly after she was born. I needed a helping hand, a listening ear, someone to visit me and get me away from those high-pitched screams, if only for a moment. This friend pulled away from me and when I asked her what was going on, she told me “Wtf is wrong with you? Why can’t you just deal with it? You mean, our friendship is so fragile that I can’t take a hiatus from you? I mean, do you resent me or something?” I didn’t resent her at all, but I did learn that some so-called friends really aren’t there for you through thick and thin as they say. And though she tried to reach out to me after that, just pretending like nothing ever happened, I’ve kind of kept her at arm’s length.

    Oddly, a year before this transpired, I sat on the phone for hours at a time with this friend when she was experiencing the same blues. I’ve never forgotten that, but I am trying to forgive it so I can let go of the pain. At the end of the day, this experience taught me that I need to be a helluva lot more careful with the people I trust and befriend.

  14. January 7, 2007 at 4:32 pm

    I can not even be bothered enough to worry about these self-righteous women! My point is this: if you are the type of woman who is willing to give up EVERY aspect of your life for your child…go for it girl! While I love both of my kids with every fiber of my being, I am realistic enough to know that there are still limits to what I can do and things that I need for myself. If that makes me lesser of a mommy…..then I’m fine with being a sub-par mom! As of yet, my children have not committed any major crimes or demonstrated any severe psychological problems! Unless, of course, you count my daughter’s inherited neurotic tendencies as a problem. I know I don’t! I agree with the support idea. There is little more painful than reaching out to a friend and being shunned for your problems. Life is hard enough without the constant fear of judgement!

  15. January 7, 2007 at 5:33 pm

    My view?

    You can have whatever opinion or lifestyle you want. I love having friends with different beliefs. I’ll respect you if you are uber christian, athiest, gay, straight,a member of La Leche or a formula feeder.

    THAT said:
    You make me feel bad or judged that I am NOT?
    THEN you are a piece of crap in my book.

    P.S. The only time I get judgemental is if parents are abusive. And no, I don’t consider Babywise to qualify as abuse.

  16. January 7, 2007 at 5:33 pm

    That goes for politics, too.

  17. January 7, 2007 at 11:28 pm

    Diff-rent strokes for diff’rent folks….or kids.
    We used a mixed methods of everything and soon found out what worked for us and our daughter.

    I must say, some moms get really defensive about “their way or the highway”, it’s like a religion to some.

  18. January 8, 2007 at 8:02 am

    I have several friends who are militant APers. I am semi-AP largely from laziness (too lazy to make formula bottles, too lazy to sit up at night feeding when I could be laying in bed, etc…) I always assumed that when people tried to force me to their ways of child-rearing they were trying to make themselves feel better about their own parenting insecurities. Which I find very sad.

  19. January 8, 2007 at 8:57 am

    I swore of most parenting book shortly after giving birth to my twins (who are now 5) because I felt no one was really speaking to me and the insanity that taking care of infant twins creates.

    I obviously can’t speak for what it’s like to deal with one infant at a time. My girls both hated those Baby Bjorn things (much as I might have wanted to use them to have a free hand). I tried the breast feeding thing and was miserable. I cried every day for 4 months. The LaLeche (aka breastfeeding nazis) made me feel like I had failed motherhood on my first day on the job because I dared to let the nurses feed my 5 weeks premature children FORMULA. (the HORROR!!)

    But we, like most parents found a rhythm once we got home and every day since then. As a parent you find what works for you and what doesn’t on an almost daily basis. And as long as no one judges my parenting skills, my enforcement of bedtime, my right to share my bed only with my husband (and often the dog), and my use of McDonalds as the occasional bribe… then I’m good.

    Do what works for you…and I’ll do the same.

  20. January 8, 2007 at 11:02 pm

    Such an interesting discussion…Thirty years ago ,when my oldest was a baby, I hated LLL for the same reason—the judgement. Even further back, when I myself was a baby, the idea of attachment parenting would have boggled my parents’ minds. “Let me get this straight”, I can just imagine my mother saying, as she tries to wrap her rather impressive I.Q. around the concept.”You want me, at the end of a long and exhausting day,to let the kids decide when and what they will eat; how late they will stay up, AND then you want me to share my bed with them? Are you nucking futs? The lunatic assylum is already bursting at the seams……” With my old fashioned ideas you can imagine how I squirm…one of my darling children is a practitioner of attachment parenting, and while there are some interesting and worthy things about it , a lot of it smacks to me of letting the monkeys run the zoo. Parents need a few hours of peace and quiet at the end of the day , after the children are in their beds [their own beds]. Parental mental health must also be nurtured if the kiddies are to grow up sane and balanced…

  21. January 9, 2007 at 6:48 am

    “Isn’t motherhood and life itself hard enough without competing for Most Perfect Holy Organic Mother of the Universe?”

    Replace mothering with parenting and I’d say you made a perfect statement here, CM.

    Now, excuse me while I go beat up on my 8 year old.

  22. January 15, 2007 at 1:35 pm

    Great post.

    As a new mommy to a one month old I’m finding the world of advice from books and doctors to be very black and white. I hate the fear that they spread. “If you do this your child will grow up to be a serial killer.” It only causes more self doubt and confusion. Just what I need more of as a first time mom. I have to shower off the judgement stench after leaving my pediatrician’s office because dear God I’m supplementing with formula! You’d think I was abusing my child. It’s so easy for him to judge but at 3 am when my kid is screaming his brains out because he’s hungary and my breast milk isn’t enough I’d like him to come over and deal with it.

    Sorry if I’m posting a rambling comment, my brain still isn’t quite back up to speed yet.

  23. 23 astro mamma
    January 22, 2007 at 12:53 am

    As a woman pregnant with her first, I am interested in all these so-called parenting ‘techniques’ because I, like all new moms, want to do the best job I can. I feel like some people are confused about the principles of AP… As I understand it, it’s all about responding to your child’s cues, communication, not ‘letting the child run your life’. I think it’s hard not to be seen as self-righteous by some when you’re just trying to do the right thing for your baby and the environment. Breastfeeding is, I hate to say it, better. That is not to say that there aren’t very good reasons why some women can’t… but to be honest I’ve encountered a lot of the same judgemental comments about my intentions to breastfeed, use cloth diapers, and co-sleep. Women in other countries can’t believe we ‘keep our babies in cages’… mothers all over the world sleep with their infants, and I’d challenge anyone’s substantial I.Q. with explaining to me how it doesn’t make sense to do so. I have no qualms with people that do things differently, but I think pointing the finger at the ‘AP’ method as ‘holier than thou’ is misinterpreting the point. And Dr. Sears says numerous times that you don’t have to co-sleep or even breastfeed if it doesn’t work for you. The difference is in the parenting mentality, and whether or not you truly communicate with your child.

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