Attachment Parenting Is Not A Bad Word

By now, we have all seen the controversial TIME cover and developed our own reactions. Mine was initially one of anger that I was quickly able to temper by reading posts by other bloggers with a message I could relate to; of course you are mom enough. Don’t take the bait; no matter how you parent you are a great mom.

With the approach of Mother’s Day, a provocative picture, and a titillating title, the TIME cover was clearly nothing more than an opportune-timed jab at the old-fashioned and worn out ply for “mommy wars” and a play on the insecurities of all mothers, regardless of parenting style. As I read articles denouncing the cover with pleas not to play into the controversy, I was able to nod my head in agreement and compose my own piece focusing on the joy of being a mother rather than the style in which you chose to execute that privilege.

I could be at peace with it, because of course there will be talking heads and uneducated media articles feeding into the flame, but it seemed most people in the blogging world were not taking the bait.

Then, I noticed a link to a blog article in my Facebook news feed. I thought it would be another eloquently written post about the ludacracy of the cover. I clicked and looked forward to nodding along as I had with previous pieces.

The underlying message was the same; don’t buy into the cover’s ploy to enrage you or tell you that you are not a good mother. But in taking down TIME, this article also took down attachment parenting. The writer stated,”most moms who subscribe to attachment parenting are older hippie moms with gray hair and saggy boobs and Subarus.” She went on to list the reasons that she thinks attachment parenting is ridiculous and throw Dr. William Sears, the person who co-wrote The Attachment Parenting Book with his wife, Martha Sears, under the bus.

Perhaps these are common stereotypes. But they are, indeed, just stereotypes not actually steeped in reality.

So here’s my big reveal: I am an attachment parent. I breastfed my son on demand until he was two. We still co-sleep even though his third birthday is approaching in September. I always used the Baby Bjorn instead of a stroller and in one particularly memorable episode, I joined a mommy play group for a walk in a park, and I had no idea how to open my stroller. It was embarrassing, and it was clear I did not fit in with this group of moms who used strollers and formula.

But maybe, if you subscribed to the stereotypes represented by the above blogger, you would not guess my attachment parenting tendencies. I am a fairly young mother, (I was 25 when my son was born) I try to wear stylish clothes, (on the days I’m not running around in work out pants) and keep my hair and make up presentable. My go-to color for clothes, nail polish, and lip gloss is pink and I carry a Coach purse. I’m a girly girl in disguise as a busy mom and wear flats due to the impracticality of the heels that reside in my closet. My decision to attachment parent is not one born out of a “hippie identity” nor one that narrowly encompasses my entire personality. It is simply the parenting style that I chose, that I believe in, and that my son thrives on.

Perhaps the idea of attachment parenting seems scary and extreme and it’s a little too easy to buy into the hype that you have to be an “older hippie mom” to do it. But perhaps that comes from a misunderstanding of what attachment parenting means. The principles of attachment parenting are birth bonding, breastfeeding, babywearing, bedding close to baby, belief in baby’s cries, balance and boundaries, and beware of baby trainers. Basically, skin to skin contact after birth, breastfeed, hold your baby as often as possible, sleep close to your baby, respond to your baby’s cries, establish clear boundaries of yes and no for you and your baby, and listen to your instinct and your baby rather than taking advice from others about your child’s care. In an even more concise summary, attachment parenting is high-touch, responsive parenting. I missed the birth bonding part due to my emergency c-section delivery. For me, the breastfeeding led to the co-sleeping, my baby’s constant need for touch and my desire to hold him led to the baby wearing, and my belief in responding to my baby’s cries and cues allowed me to establish boundaries, ignore bad advice, and feel confident in the way I was parenting my son. I believe in attachment parenting, and I practiced it. But that doesn’t mean that you have to, or that you have to judge others who do.

The idea that attachment parenting requires breastfeeding a child until they are old enough to spell is simply not true. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a child receive breast milk for the first year of life (source) and The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for up to two years (source). The idea of extended breastfeeding may not be normal in America, but it is normal worldwide, and it is not an idea established or solely supported by Dr. William Sears.

The idea that if you co-sleep your kids will sleep with you until they are in middle school is also not an idea advocated by Dr. Sears or  attachment parenting. In the attachment parenting book, it says “children wean themselves from your bed when they are ready…in many families this process begins sometime around age two.” The attachment parenting book even gives you tips on how to make the transition. The misguided belief that attachment parenting requires a child to sleep with you into late adolescence is not an idea put forth by Dr. Sears.

Attachment parenting does encourage baby wearing, or holding your baby in a wrap or sling as often as possible. Again, this is not a new idea. Many countries all over the world have been carrying babies in slings or shawls for years. And, if you read The Attachment Parenting Book, the baby wearing practice is really only for the first 6 months. As soon as the baby starts crawling, attachment parenting babies are highly encouraged to explore their environments.

Nowhere in the times I have read or referenced the book have I read the lines “If you do not do attachment parenting you do not love your child” or “You are “screwing up” your kids if you don’t practice attachment parenting.” In fact, Dr. Sears and his wife are parents to eight children, and they only started formulating and using attachment parenting after the birth of their fourth child. I’m sure that doesn’t mean they did not love their other children.

Attachment parenting is not a bad word. It is a style of parenting. What parenting style you use and how you weave it into your own parenting will depend on you, your family dynamics, and the baby (because my goodness these little people have big personalities). Time’s cover is obviously meant to illicit a response rather than give an accurate depiction of what attachment parenting is. It is also clearly meant to draw on women’s insecurities of their own parenting style with the provocative “are you mom enough?” headline. Though many people are choosing to rise above the blatant attempt to ruffle feathers, I was disappointed to find out that some responses further propagate the same message in a different way; you are only mom enough if you do it my way.

Making fun of attachment parenting while attempting to scorn TIME for their poorly thought out scheme to boost sales contradicts and diminishes the stance all mothers should be taking; however you decide to parent, you are absolutely mom enough.

We will not be able to truly change the conversation until we can fully convince ourselves that all parenting styles are acceptable. Basing our knowledge of all parenting styles on facts rather than on assumptions or titillating magazine covers is an excellent place to start.

*For more information on Attachment Parenting, read The Attachment Parenting Book by Dr. William Sears and Martha Sears. also has some good resources.  Their piece in response to the TIME ploy is a well written summary of what attachment parenting really stands for and what TIME actually acknowledges about this style of parenting.

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55 thoughts on “Attachment Parenting Is Not A Bad Word

  1. Pingback: Sleepless in Seattle | Elated Exhaustion

  2. I think your response to the Time magazine article is very well articulated and thoughtful. I was dismayed by the blatant attempt to divide mothers and I think it’s too bad that the media has been so focussed on Badinter’s The Conflict and this Time cover (although I did contribute to the conversation on my own blog at I also want to thank you for writing in defence of attachment parenting. It isn’t a “better” way to parent, but it is a perfectly valid and popular parenting philosophy and does not deserve to be ridiculed or parodied. We are all different people and we are all going to approach parenting differently, just as we do our relationships and careers – there is no such thing as a one-size-fits all approach. I would guess that the best way to fail as a parent would be to attempt to subscribe to a parenting style which simply does not suit parent and/or child.

    • Yes, to all of this! So well said. I LOVE your last line, “the best way to fail as a parent would be to attempt to subscribe to a parenting style which simply does not suit parent and/or child.” You are so right. What’s most important is parenting in the way that you feel comfortable with and that your child thrives on, no matter what that way is. Thank you so much for reading and your thoughtful comment.

  3. This was so well said, Julia. Thank you for a thoughtful and balanced post about attachment parenting. I think it’s gotten a bad rap over the past few years due to the media’s attempts to sensationalize it and play up the so-called “mommy wars,” and also due to the AP style “advocates” out there who feel the need to “raise awareness” for their preferred style of parenting. At least I know these are the two main reasons I’ve had a tendency to give it the side-eye, despite the fact that I do support its tenets (though not to extremes) and practiced them myself when my daughter was an infant.

    The fact of the matter is, whenever I’ve read anything at all about attachment parenting, it’s always come across to me as propaganda. As if its supporters are embroiled in a political campaign where there are clear winners and losers, or a PR campaign where there’s a brand to promote. Even people I know in person who subscribe to AP have had a tendency to treat it like this. It’s as if certain AP parents define themselves based on their parenting style alone.

    And honestly? It drives me bonkers. I’m tired of hearing about it, reading about it, and just generally having it crammed down my throat. If these overzealous supporters of AP-style parenting don’t want it to be viewed as a trend, then they need to simply shut up about how they parent and just DO it.

    So, it’s so refreshing to read the perspective of a mom who sees AP as something she DOES and who she IS. Thank you. 🙂

      • You have made so many great points here. I think attachment parenting is widely misunderstood. You do not have to be an extreme parent to be an attachment parent. I never realized why there was such a stigma on it, but after reading some of these comments I’m realizing it’s from the media, misconceptions, and AP parents themselves who take it to the extremes. I don’t believe in extreme AP, and it’s unfortunate that regular AP and extremists are lumped together.
        I have often felt judged for parenting this way, so I have become a “closet attachment parent.” Not many people know that I breastfed long term or that our little guy sleeps with us. And, like I said in the post, if you looked at me but you thought most people who do attachment parenting are extremists, you would probably never guess that’s how I parented. I don’t know any one else “in real life” who has parented this way, so it’s definitely not a thing I go around broadcasting or imposing on anyone.
        The basic principles of attachment parenting don’t seem extreme to me, but because so many people take it to a different level, I see how it gets a bad rap. I also think it’s really meant to be a style used during infancy. Once children get older, I’m not even sure AP is the right qualifier. Even the book doesn’t get beyond the age of two. I definitely think it’s just a style of parenting; not an overall identifier of what makes a person.
        Thank you so much for reading and commenting! So interesting to hear so many perspectives about what is apparently a pretty hot topic issue!

  4. so well said. i believe that as parents we do what’s best not only for our children but what’s best for us as parents so as to be the best parents we can be for our kids. this may be attachment parenting, another parenting style or a blend of styles, but to judge each other – make fun of each other as hippies with subarus or whatever else – is small-minded and counter-productive to the community of mothers as a whole. like everything else in life, a spectrum of beliefs linked by communication and respect is integral to creating a healthy environment for mothers everywhere.

  5. I am not a mom so I am in no position to judge what parenting style is “best” (nor would I be able to tell if I were a mom for the matter). This did remind me though, how my physical therapist friends have talked about how great carrying babies-or baby wearing-is for motor development as compared to spending a lot of time in a car seat…and of course not everyone who has a car seat leaves their child in it for hours on end.

    • I think you hit the nail on the head; no matter if you are a mom or not, no one should be judging other people’s parenting. I definitely believe in the principles of attachment parenting, but I also believe in doing what works best for you and your family. Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

  6. This was a very thoughtful post about the Time mess. Acceptance is the solution to all of this, isn’t it? Ellen

  7. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I read about this on The Parent Water Cooler (a group Pinterest board) and it got tons of responses, along the lines of don’t feed into the mommy-wars, and let’s give eachother support, regardless of how you raise/raised your little ones! I could not breast feed because my son could not latch on (he has Down syndrome) and it was a nightmare for both of us! So I pumped, yada, yada. I also have a Montessori background and there are no cribs in infant Montessori environments, but no kids in your bed either. So to each his or her own! I like to give all moms credit!

    • I absolutely agree with you; all moms deserve credit! I am so sorry breastfeeding was a nightmare for you. It can be so hard and is definitely not a feeding method everyone can use. We had a lot of latching issues too and I feel like I had a love/hate relationship with breastfeeding.
      The Montessori approach sounds really neat! I will have to look more into that; it seems like something I would like to learn about. Thank you so much for commenting!

  8. Thanks for another wonderful and articulate post on a very sensitive subject.

    I am totally flummoxed and even pissed off by Dr. Sears. I caught his segment on “The View” yesterday and he said that he has years of research to prove that parents who subscribed to his methods raised the most happy and well-adjusted children he’s ever seen (in a very condescending tone). Um, I highly doubt that. Well, I mean of course you are going to come across brilliant and loving children who were raised in the attachment style, but to imply that they are BETTER than children who were not raised that way is reckless. Do you mean to say Dr. Sears that you actually have 40 years worth of research to support that from birth to mid-life, children who were raised by your methods have less trauma and heartache and struggles and problems?

    Then, when put on the spot multiple times, he said that the “most important” thing was having “well rested and happy” parents, which gives him permission to say all these controversial things and not take the heat.

    I think that women need to be educated on new options and trends for parenting or new techniques that have proven to have emotional and health benefits, so they can CHOOSE. But to INSIST rather than SHARE or SUGGEST is cruel and irresponsible and a direct attack on what us mothers hold most dear.

    So angry!
    …but so pleased to have a great blog in which to address these issues 😉

    • Oh my goodness I really wish I had seen that segment!! I have never seen Dr. Sears talk, I have just read his books. The books are very positive and informational. I’m so sorry that he doesn’t come across that way in person.
      Since I do/did practice attachment parenting, I am a big believer in it, but I am also a HUGE believer in doing the things that work best for your family. I think as long as you parent with love you are doing a great job.
      I know that you, my dear friend, are an excellent mother. Don’t let this media junk talk you out of that.
      Thank you so very much for your thoughts on this. I think it is an issue that is really getting to a lot of people.

  9. It’s so easy to criticize and make fun of that which we don’t understand. Thanks for fighting against unfair and silly stereotypes. We’re all different, and the sooner we start embracing differences instead of constantly criticizing one another, the sooner we’ll find happiness and peace.

  10. Hmmm…interesting. As a non mom, I’ve found this post to be very informative in terms of the basics of attachment parenting. The Time cover was tacky.

    • The Time cover was so tacky and degrading to all styles of parenting. I’m glad this piece cleared up what attachment parenting really means. Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

  11. i was so sad to see this story and the very direct way they chose to get attention. you know, my parenting style has grown and changed with me and my children. now at 28 i am not the same mom I was when i was 22 – and that’s ok. but i will NOT judge another mom at another stage for doing it different than me. we all need to just walk this out next to eachother. encouraging and lifting each other up.

    • Yes and yes! I love the point you made about parenting changing as we and our children grow; I’m sure I will find that to be the case too. We should definitely not judge others for how they chose to parent. Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

  12. great post 🙂
    I just don’t understand the labels, but I guess it is what our society does. We like to wrap things up neatly – and why is it women are the worst offenders when it comes to other women?
    I don’t think I have ever met anyone who fits a label whole heartedly. I think most of us take a bit of this, a bit of that, mix it in with what works for us or those immediately around us and make up the rest 🙂
    As soon as I saw that pic on time, I thought ‘yep, that’s how women breastfeed’ (sarcasm) – why is it western society needs to sexualise anything to do with the female body? It would be ok for a woman to wear a bikini and leave nothing to the imagination but let’s condemn someone for using them for what they were intended.
    i have no idea what ‘process’ I will use to raise my child, but it will be done with love 🙂

    • You have made so many great points here. I agree; no one fits exactly into one label; we are all a blend of several. The time cover is a ridiculous take on breastfeeding; I have never seen a woman breastfeed standing up or with a chair. It’s so unfortunate that Time decided to take that route and even more unfortunate that some people are perpetuating the conversation by making fun of a style of parenting they might not fully understand. I agree that it’s so strange that we consider bikinis acceptable but not breastfeeding. Sigh. So many things that don’t make sense. Whatever way you decide to parent, if it is done with love it is absolutely the right way. Thank you so much for your thoughts!

  13. I practiced attachment parenting with both my kids. My oldest is 6 and back then my parenting got some pretty strange looks and commentary from friends and family. I’m glad to see it is much more common now (at least in my experience).

    • So nice to meet another attachment parent! I have often felt very alone and judged by using this style of parenting. I still feel that it is a style with a lot of misconceptions and judgement, but hopefully we can change the conversation about it by explaining what it really means.

  14. It’s easy to be a critic in today’s society where people can hide behind their semi-anonymous screens. Thanks for clearing up some of the story that’s been thrown around for the last week.

  15. I laughed at your first line because I hadn’t seen the magazine cover or even heard about it. Yay! Project shield-myself-from-the-news is succeeding! You sound like a wonderful, thoughtful and loving mother, no matter what title goes along with your parenting style.

  16. I say live and let live. You do what works best for your baby and you. If your child is healthy, happy and unconditionally loved, then you’ve done a great parenting job. Great post!

  17. I think it’s important that everyone does what’s best for them and in the meantime I am just so happy that we all can see the writing on the wall with TIME’s ploy to make us enraged!!!

    • Thank you so much! I just clicked over and read your post about it. So nice to meet someone so passionate about attachment parenting. Love your take on it.

  18. There are so many misconceptions about attachment parenting (and, for that matter, parenting in general). Thanks for your thoughts!

    • I absolutely agree. We should be fighting for the children who need care, not fighting with other mothers who provide it differently than we do. Thank you so much for reading and commenting. And thank you for the Facebook like!

    • Thank you so much. You are so right; talking openly about these things is how change really happens. Thank you for your sweet and encouraging words, always.

  19. I too am an attachment-style parent! I didn’t set out to be but it came naturally. Some of it was because of all my education on a subject (like babywearing), others were based on instinct and necessity (cosleeping). I would have nursed Belle on demand as long as she wanted. As it was, she naturally stopped at a year — and I was the one who was crushed! The finger pointing and name calling has GOT to stop!

    I’m 28, so I hardly feel like an “gray haired hippie.” I vowed to not judge other moms for making decisions I simply do not like. The only time you will hear me yell is when another mother puts her child in danger. Not for formula, crib-sleeping, discipline, or for looking like a hobo. 🙂 Can’t we all just get along?

    • Yes, yes and yes to all of this! I am 28 too, so I guess neither of us fit in the “stereotype” of attachment parenting. Just like you, most of this style came from learning about it and then doing it because it was just so much easier to do it that way! We are definitely not gray haired hippies and judging other’s for parenting is so unproductive. So glad to learn that we share the same parenting style! I’m so glad we’ve met up in this blogging world! 🙂

  20. I consider myself to be an attachment style parent. I think people hear attachment parenting and immediately assume it means extremist. It’s unfortunate and wrong! Great post!

    • I think you captured it perfectly; it seems the common misconception is that attachment parenting means extreme parenting; but that is not the case at all. So nice to meet a fellow attachment parent! Thanks for reading!

  21. I hadn’t seen the cover, but holy CRAP! REALLY? I can’t believe our culture is that MEAN to judge mothers in that fashion…Breast, formula, strollers, or wraps: every mother/baby/family combo is different, and equally worthy of respect…Great response:)

    • It is a shame that a national publication decided to stir up controversy like this and a shame that some people are continuing the conversation by furthering judgement rather than giving all families respect as you described. Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

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