Where William and Martha can stuff it

            “Attachment parenting” is a crock of shit.

            I am not referring to the loving parents who wear their babies and co-sleep and breastfeed.  While their parenting choices are not my choices, they are sensible and caring decisions that, when practiced with consistency, work very well for many families.

            No, I am referring to the term “attachment parenting” as propounded by the dynamic duo of William and Martha Sears.  I am referring to the sanctimonious Mommies with the four-year-olds in slings who give me a condescending and slightly pitying smile while they explain, “He’s just so securely attached to us.  I am sure it is because he still shares our bed.” 

            Let me spread a little news, here.  Despite the fact that the Sears team has tried to co-opt the word “attachment,” most kids are pretty into their parents.  By using that word, they imply that the rest of us are practicing “Detachment Parenting.” As I sit here, typing this post with a sleeping baby in a Bjorn, I can assure you we are not.  We just don’t feel the need to advertise that we are devoted to our children.

            With Zachary, we had a strict no-baby-in-the-bed policy.  With Benjamin, we had a strict no-baby-in-the-bed-unless-Mommy-is-so-tired-she-can-only-breastfeed-in-a-prone-position policy.  With Lilah, we have a strict no-baby-in-the-bed-unless-we-all-sleep-better-that-way policy.  Most of the time, she is in the crib.  Sometimes, I feed her lying down and we get an extra hour of sleep.

            She likes to be against me, this baby.  I don’t blame her.  She will spend years alone in her skin – who wouldn’t want a few more months of close cuddling?  She does not like the stroller, so I wear her.  No, it is not because a book told me to do it.  It is because she screams in the stroller, which makes walks considerably less pleasant.

            And, yes, I breastfeed.  A lot.  But that is not because I think it is a crime to her soul to hand her a bottle.  It is because I think Armageddon is coming, and I want to give my kids every nutritional advantage before they start having to fight other kids for food.

            Am I more of an attachment parent (according to William Sears) than I was with the first?  Probably.  But I sure wouldn’t say it in mixed company.  Most of us are just doing what works, and we really don’t need exclusionary terms to define us.

            And, for the record, I Ferberize.  Just in case you thought I had gone all mushy on you.

25 responses to “Where William and Martha can stuff it

  1. I was a big fan of Ferber as well. But, I am securely in the “Do what works for your family unless it is endangering your child’s life” camp. And that includes children sleeping in their own beds so that parents can sleep and have time to themselves.

  2. Ferber!?!??!?!

    That’s it; I am so out of here ……

    (Does he have any tactics for 8 year olds who have lost their once perfectly fine ability to sleep?)

  3. OMG – I could have written this post – it is EXACTLY the same in our house.

    Our middle child sleeps with Ferber-Bear…yep, it is named Ferber!!!!

    Some nights I just give up…and we end up having Mom, Dad, 3 kids and a cat…not much room- but at least we get some sleep.

    Thanks for sharing – I now know that I am not alone in my transition sleeping patterns!

  4. Bean was bottle fed after about 4 weeks (bad start to the boob-feeding that just got worse) and never worn (hated it, loved the stroller). He’s pretty attached to us anyway.

    So yeah, I don’t really care what the Sears duo has to say about my kid or my parenting, and I’m glad you don’t either.

  5. Thanks for saying what has been in my draft folder for weeks. Don’t kids kind of…come attached already?? And I know what you mean about the sanctimonious mommies. I think in the end we’re all doing the best we can for the individual needs of our kids. And maybe that means a Baby Bjorn. Maybe not.

  6. ” It is because I think Armageddon is coming, and I want to give my kids every nutritional advantage before they start having to fight other kids for food.”

    This cracked me up.

    As for the Ferberizing, if we hadn’t resorted to it, I don’t think I’d still be alive to talk about it.

  7. I love your opening sentence so much. It is a crock. Do what works and follow your instincts is always the best policy. And each child is different so what worked with one may not with the others. (I can’t ferberize. I’m a pussy that way.)

  8. Amen, a-fricken-men. There’s not much more I can say than that.

  9. I love you Emilee!

  10. Doing what works is exactly the truth.

    And isn’t it good for everyone involved that you are?

  11. You know what? Parents that have chosen attachment parenting get condescending looks from “mainstream” mommies too. That is why I felt the need to write Flaunt Your Crunch:

    I would agree with your statement “Most of us are just doing what works, and we really don’t need exclusionary terms to define us.”

    But when people are embarrassed to admit that they are doing something that works, because they don’t want to be belittled or questioned by others, then I think that is too bad.

    You say that you wouldn’t admit your “attachment parenting” ways in mixed company. Personally, I’d be more embarrassed to admit I was ferberizing (which I’m not and never will), but regardless of your choices if you made them you should be confident about them.

  12. Apparently I am out of the loop – what is ferberizing?

  13. oohhhkay. I have friends who use that technique, but I had never heard the term.

    We didn’t/don’t. But I’m such a routine-oriented mom that sleep has never been a big issue in our house. Both babies needed me to fall asleep (Silas still does), but by 8 months old, Asher REFUSED to be rocked and only wanted his bed. He’s been going to sleep on his own ever since. When we did hit a bump in the nap road, I would go to him, calm him down, and put him back to bed awake. Which I suppose is similar to what you’re talking about, just not as structured. I have also seen with both babies that there are moments when the child just needs to go to sleep, and my intervention will hinder rather than help. Both babies have needed to cry a minute or two in their bed at different times. So maybe we aren’t so different. Your way just has a name. =)

    Also, mothers and infants are wired for attaching to one another. Unless there is some mitigating factor, moms and their babies bond, with or without a co-sleeper.

    And both of my babies loved infant carriers, and I always enjoyed wearing them. Except in the summer heat – then it was not fun for either of us.

    Silas spent several weeks asleep on my chest (day and night) until he could get the hang of his bassinet. Like you, I always let him try his bassinet first, but in the end, I needed to sleep more than I needed him to sleep alone, so if he wouldn’t do it, I didn’t fight it. After several weeks of trying, though, he was able to sleep through the night (well, through the two hours until his next feeding) without me.

    Ok, I really am done talking now. How did I end up leaving three comments on one post?

  14. Ahhh… I said I would not *say* I am doing “attachment parenting,” not that I wouldn’t *admit* it. I wouldn’t say it because I think the term is offensive… I am happy to admit all the good and bad things about my parenting — that’s why I blog.

  15. word, dude. so much judgment from every side. Although it was a very conscious choice for Monkey to sleep in our bed with us from birth if it hadn’t worked for us we would not have continued to do it. And, really, I wear her b/c it’s easier for me to strap her on my back than deal with lugging around a stroller but she would be perfectly happy either way. I will say, Emily, I was shocked when I read you used the Ferber method!! lol. But, to each their own and if it worked for you then more power to you.

  16. can I just say though, you’ve freaked me out more than once in the past couple of months. lol. but. I still love you.

  17. Ah the Sears family. No one can make me roll my eyes and drive me to drink faster than they can. Not because they don’t have good ideas, just because they are so damn holier than thou about everything I do.

    Probably why I don’t read books on HOW to parent. Just Dr. Spock as a reference.

  18. Amen to this!!! Nearly all of my friends are hard core APers. I do a lot of AP stuff because it works for me…but try to stay away from the term as much as possible and have never read a Dr. Sears book.

    Hooray for loving your kids without labels!

  19. I tend to go with the whatever works way of parenting my kids. The tattoos are just a phase, I swear. 🙂

  20. Emily– great post, and it’s so helpful to have your wisdom as we navigate first-time parenting. Such a big fan of the do what works method (fortunately, we’ve been wise enough to stay away from all the thou shalts, whether it be AP or the very structured baby must go to bed exactly at 6:35 pm to be contented)

    And I’m learning from you that each child is different, and what works for some won’t work for others. Which was so helpful when we struggled with sleep issues and were ferberizing. I hate to jinx it, but we have a baby who is sleeping much better, and also–get this–no longer screams when we put her in the stroller.

    (Note: as I am still a sleepy new parent, I’ve had to go back and proofread this post to catch any grammatical errors, particularly in light of yesterday’s blog entry.)

  21. When I was pregnant with Calvin, I quickly decided that no parenting philosophy or method was the absolute truth. We have done what works best from the beginning. When Hobbes proved to be Calvin’s opposite in so many ways, we even had to rethink the “method” that we had developed ourselves.

    I definitely don’t label my parenting, unless it is the “lazy mom’s method.” Both of my boys slept in our bed the first 4 months or so simply because I am too lazy to actually get up, walk to the crib, and sit down to nurse them. I moved them to their crib and room once I knew the trade-off in sleep would be worth it. They both also spent a lot of time in the sling so that I could get stuff done. But when Calvin proved to prefer being on his own, I quit carrying him.

    That said, I do like Dr. Sears for a reference for medical and discipline issues. But I also like Dr. Spock. And my mom.

    Your post touched on two of my pet peeves: the child-rearing industry and mommy guilt. Because we have created an entire consumer industry around our children, we assume there must be one expert way to be a parent. We just need the right set of tools. The best way to make a mom choose one set of tools over another is to cultivate her sense of guilt that she can’t possibly know how to raise her child better than a particular expert.

    Women have been doing this a lot longer than books about it have been around, and until our wealthy culture today, they have not had the time to over-analyze whether or not they are using the right method. They just did what they needed to survive and kids turned out just fine.

    Thanks for posting…though I have to admit I had never heard of the Ferber method! Just one more parenting book I haven’t read.

  22. I loved Becky’s comment!
    I read Sears before my first child and thought it was oh so great. Then I lived as a parent, and I felt just like you do. There are some good ideas but the militant attitude I can do without. All kids are different and need differing approaches.

  23. I think I see your point, but I honestly found the Sears books the only ones that advocated these ideas of babywearing and cosleeping. I was happy to find a diversity of voices, and theirs gave a voice that I most responded to. Even in Seattle, an epicenter for crunchy mommies, I got “looks” (still do) for some of our choices.

    And then I threw away all the books because they were taking time away from my baby.

  24. I agree. Children are all so different – they like and they need different things. Attachment parenting always sounds like a good way to strap women down even further into the bonds of motherhood and given parents even more to feel guilty about. I salute your choice – do whatever works. That, my friend, is indeed the only way forward.

  25. I’m a big fan of “whatever works”. At nearly five, she climbs into my bed almost every night. As a tiny? She slept in her carseat on the stroller frame nearly every night, after we did laps around the apartment. I pumped because she wouldn’t/couldn’t nurse well – and then she figured it out and nursed until she was three. The books are all so doctrinaire – do whatever works.