Jump to content

Attachment parenting. Is it the 'superior' way?

  • Please log in to reply
44 replies to this topic

#1 AmityD

Posted 23 July 2012 - 05:51 PM

The 60 Minutes segment on attachment parenting was pitched as another ‘us versus them’ instigator in the dreary ‘mummy wars’, an attempt to prove which parenting style brings about the 'best results'. Undoubtedly, the mothers interviewed who follow the attachment parenting philosophy think it’s the best way to parent – and for a while, I did too.

I discovered attachment parenting (AP) when my firstborn was seven months old. He was a healthy and happy baby who rarely cried, as long as I breastfed him on demand and held him all the time. Which, to be honest, I didn’t really mind.

I was so besotted with him I thought nothing of holding him all day. And I wasn’t working, so if he needed me to lie on the couch and watch Oprah while he slept on my chest, well that was fine with me.

However after six months, exhaustion set in. I found it increasingly hard to get up so frequently throughout the night, and was ready for him to start sleeping without my help. Trouble was, he was highly indignant at the suggestion of him settling himself. So he started waking even more at night, and I found myself getting up to him every hour. EVERY HOUR.

I was a walking zombie but felt I had no option but to put up with it, because I couldn’t let him cry, not even for a few minutes. So the idea of doing any kind of sleep training was just unimaginable.  

Which is how we started co-sleeping.

It came about by accident. I would bring him into bed for a feed and fall asleep, and when he’d wake again I’d do the thing that would get us both back to sleep as fast as possible: I’d breastfeed again. I soon realised we both slept longer as a result, were both less irritable during the day…and that I kind of loved it. I loved how in-tune we were, how I would wake instinctively before he did, how our bodies entwined together. It felt right, like that was how mothering was supposed to be. So I stopped trying to get him to sleep without me and started to co-sleep every night.

I became quite the co-sleeping advocate. I found Dr Sears and his attachment parenting site, and realised I’d been inadvertently following his advice. I researched the effects on the brain from raised cortisol levels, caused by prolonged crying, and decided sacrificing my body and bed was more than worth it for all the positive benefits it had for my child.

It suited us both beautifully for a while … but as much as I cherished the intimacy we had, by the time my son was one I was ready to reclaim some of myself again. The AP philosophy encourages co-sleeping and breastfeeding well into preschool years, but it just wasn’t for me.

Luckily the separation wasn’t too painful for either of us and my son moved into his toddler years a happy, confident boy. He’s now a kind, loving six-year-old who is incredibly attached to me and secure in himself.

So did attachment parenting cause him to be like that? Is it the ‘superior’ option? Well, hang on a sec…

Four years after my son was born I had a beautiful baby girl, but I did things a little differently this time. I had a busy preschooler to care for while still working, so the moments I lay with her on the couch while watching Oprah were few and far between.

Instead of sleeping in my arms she’d sleep in her cot beside me while I worked. And I was back performing after a few months, so having her rely on me to sleep wasn’t going to work for either of us.
Most importantly, I wanted her to settle on her own, so from birth I put her in her cot still awake. I still breastfed and held her to sleep sometimes, but not every time. And we co-slept, but not every night. I cherished the moments of intimacy with her, but I loved the nights I could stretch out without her, too. The first time round I had been happy to submit myself completely to my child, but this time I needed to keep something for me.

When she was 10 months old we did a few nights of sleep training. It wasn’t controlled crying but it did involve some crying, and I was okay with that.

I now believe the raised cortisol levels that undoubtedly (and devastatingly) affect an infant’s brain are due to prolonged crying and long-term neglect. They aren’t the cries of baby who protest-cries in 10-minute intervals while being lovingly and affectionately cared for in every other moment.

The co-sleeping/sleep training debate is undoubtedly a heated one, with passionate advocates on either side. Having done both I can see the pros and cons for each way. But after experiencing two different parenting styles, which do I think is superior? Which one produced the better result?

Neither of them, of course. Both were right for me at the time. And while my children are very different, whether that’s due to their innate personalities, their gender, or the way I parented them in that first year … well, we’ll never know.

I understood the passion the attachment parenting mums on 60 minutes felt and while I don't get every single aspect of the philosophy (like asking a newborn to change their nappy) I think on the whole it’s a lovely way to parent. But it’s not for everyone.

I’m glad I followed that style for the first year and perhaps it has helped mould a son who is gentle, affectionate and sensitive. But I’m also glad for the busy, stimulating, hectic first year I had with my daughter, which may have contributed to her being independent, self-reliant and feisty. Neither way was more or less superior, neither child was more or less loved and I certainly wasn’t a ‘better’ parent in either instance. Just different. But then, there’s no war in that!

What did you think of the 60 minutes segment? Are you an attachment parent? Or do you follow another parenting style and why? I'd love to hear your thoughts...

Edited by AmityD, 23 July 2012 - 05:53 PM.

#2 laurs

Posted 23 July 2012 - 05:58 PM

I think we all need to do whatever works for us and our kids.

I was quite disappointed that 60 Minutes seemed to be suggesting that it was a choice between attachment parenting and "old style" parenting, where the latter involves feeding and sleeping to schedule and letting your baby cry themselves to sleep. I don't think that "old style" of parenting has been advocated for quite some time - certainly it wasn't when my kids were little.

#3 MuppetGirl

Posted 23 July 2012 - 05:58 PM

I am a little tired of some people thinking there has to be a certain "style" of parenting.

Why can we not all do what is best for us as mothers and parents and what we work out is best for our child?

We do not have to fit into a mould so to speak.

#4 AmityD

Posted 23 July 2012 - 06:04 PM

I agree. I never set out to follow a particular style until I realised what I been instinctively doing was labeled by some as AP.

The differing parenting styles seems to be a new thing and perhaps it's come about from people writing books on certain styles and wanting to put a label on it? It doesn't really matter though, if you do you works for you who cares if it has a label!  

QUOTE (MahnaMahna @ 23/07/2012, 06:58 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I am a little tired of some people thinking there has to be a certain "style" of parenting.

Why can we not all do what is best for us as mothers and parents and what we work out is best for our child?

We do not have to fit into a mould so to speak.

#5 Halp

Posted 23 July 2012 - 06:18 PM


Edited by Halp, 21 October 2012 - 07:19 PM.

#6 Riotproof

Posted 23 July 2012 - 06:20 PM

Attachment parenting is an extremely broad category. It's often mistaken for "permissive" parenting, but it actually couldn't be further from it.

I thought the story was reasonably good, considering it was 60 minutes, but I don't think Dr Sears came across as well as he could have.
I wish he'd talked more about how all his kids were different. Some loved cosleeping, some didn't- and considering that the environmental factors were more or less the same, I thinkwe should acknowledge that we need to parent in a way that responds to the child, but also the needs of the parents.
I found the "baby rules the roost" argument tiresome.

Edited by Riotproof, 23 July 2012 - 06:51 PM.

#7 =R2=

Posted 23 July 2012 - 06:22 PM

I'm still seething as to how they defined attachment parenting

The idea is that mothers agree to every demand a child makes — any time — day or night.


It's about being responsive and emotionally available to your children. Nothing about last night's unbalanced report surprised me really. Sensationalism at its best and recycled from a 2006 episode when Janet Fraser was interviewed by Tara Brown.


#8 Soontobegran

Posted 23 July 2012 - 06:25 PM

The 60 Minutes segment drove me crazy, just like most if their stories.

Most parents are perfectly able to utilise bits and pieces from a variety of parenting 'techniques' which will best suit their family.

Best technique of parenting IMO is intuitive parenting..it varies from child to child and family to family.

#9 WinterIsComing

Posted 23 July 2012 - 06:28 PM

I don't need to read a book on AP, as it seems to be a reinvention of loving parenting.

I've noticed that I naturally want to do a lot of things it prescribes, like feeding on demand, picking up when cries, lots of hugs/kisses/close contact, sleeping close to me...That's what I feel like doing and I just go with it, my every instinct tells me so. Before I even heard of AP, this is how I imagined motherhood!

For generations, noone had a name of it, until Dr Sears made a brand out of it.

#10 Lostmyway

Posted 23 July 2012 - 06:31 PM

They said something in that segment about teachers asking a parent how/ what did they do to get such  a well adjusted wonderful child.

Well I didn't attachment parent and I get asked that too.

#11 WinterIsComing

Posted 23 July 2012 - 06:34 PM

QUOTE (annasue @ 23/07/2012, 06:31 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
They said something in that segment about teachers asking a parent how/ what did they do to get such  a well adjusted wonderful child.

Well I didn't attachment parent and I get asked that too.

There are many ways to show love to a child, including establishing some boundaries, so no surprise there!

#12 AmityD

Posted 23 July 2012 - 06:37 PM

Thanks for your comments. I think what works for each child is a good point and one I should have added. As well as the different styles working for me at the time, the way my children responded to them was different too. My daughter never slept as well in bed with me so it made sense to move her to her cot sooner. She was more independent from the start and didn't like being held all the time. When I stopped breastfeeding her she didn't even notice!

Her brother, on the other hand, would still happily sleep in bed with me every night and would have kept breastfeeding for as long as he could. So the different styles was also a response to their needs.

#13 Soontobegran

Posted 23 July 2012 - 06:50 PM

QUOTE (annasue @ 23/07/2012, 06:31 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
They said something in that segment about teachers asking a parent how/ what did they do to get such  a well adjusted wonderful child.

Well I didn't attachment parent and I get asked that too.

Conversely there was a child at our children's primary school who was breast fed at home at lunch time until he was 8 and he was a very sad and aggressive bully.

As for the claim that "My child has never cried for me"......I do not believe her for one minute.

#14 Guest_holy_j_*

Posted 23 July 2012 - 06:51 PM

Sorry what was that? I'm busy asking my young son for permission to change his nappy...  wink.gif  original.gif

Seriously speaking, i looked this up after i watched that segment. I did alot of that, only it didn't have a name then. Demand breastfed, co slept, let them dictate the routines. I don't like hearing them cry especially when they are babies. I have 3 children #2 was born when #1 was 20 months old, and she wasn't happy being picked up OR Put down, screamed her guts out regardles plus I had a toddler as well, and you just cannot be everywhere at once. So she got left to scream many a time. #3 got more attention that poor old #2, because there was a larger age gap there. So pretty much the same treatment as the 1st.

I find it intresting that #2 who was left to cry to sleep not by design rather out of circumstance, is my only child that does not have major sleep problems. She goes to bed when she's tired and goes to sleep.The nearly 9 year old and the 3 year old are just awful, I tried many times to get them into sleeping at reasonable hours to no avail. I never had very much help, trying to get your 2 year old to sleep when your baby is waking up for a feed etc. and screaming her guts out was never going to end in the result i wanted anyway.

I just wonder if some of those women are not setting them up for a slippery slope when their kids are older. I know my mistakes, i don't have a problem with what i did as small babies, but if i could turn back time, i would have insisted on some help with them at about 1 year of age to get them to sleep as I wanted and not as they did.

Attachment parenting is great if it works, but you do have to start sawing through that link at some point.

incidentally the breastfeeding thing they marketed prior to the show  i was expected 6 year olds, that kid wasn't even 4! Big deal!

#15 Starblossom

Posted 23 July 2012 - 06:52 PM

Your post resonates with me Amity! I have a son and he always sleeps in arms, was waking every hour until recently and we have ended up cosleeping out of necessity (although Ido mostly enjoy it). He hates the pram so I have to carry him everywhere which I love because I get to cuddle him.

It's all well and good because DS is my first and I'm currently not working. I believe I've been responding to his needs ie I don't force him to go in the pram because he screams, I don't orce him to go in the cot because he screams etc but I do plan to do things a bit differently Next time around.

Like when DS was younger he used to self settle with a dummy. All my friends are mostly AP and although they didn't criticise, I got paranoid and thought I was doing something bad so took the dummy away. Now I would be thrilled if he took a dummy to sleep.

I think it's hard the first time around because we have no idea what to expect and we have no idea what we're really doing.

#16 Riotproof

Posted 23 July 2012 - 06:52 PM

This is a great article on what AP is NOT. http://www.alternative-mama.com/attachment...g-what-its-not/
I especially like the last bit
There’s no “us” vs “them”. We may disagree with the finer points, but the fundamentals are the same – look after your baby. Look after yourself. Do whatever feels right for your family, and love your baby wholeheartedly.

#17 StopTheGoats

Posted 23 July 2012 - 07:02 PM

I parent my child. I parent a personality, with preferences and quirks. I don't parent according to some philosophy dreamed up by other people.

'Attachment theory' makes a lot of sense to me and is backed by logical evidence. I see attachment parenting as very seperate from this. Like you Amity, I fell into attachment parenting by accident but have increasingly moved away from many of the fundamentals as my son began to assert his personality which is very confident, social amd independent. We don't co sleep as I follow SIDS guidelines and whilst having him nearby made sense, having him in my bed always felt unsafe.

I find some of the practices advocated by some attachment parents now to be increasingly stifling and I can't see how going to the extremes mentioned in the 60 minutes segment (admittedly, I heard of these second hand) would be of any benefit to the child. I can therefore only assume that they are about the parent in which case they're entitled to do whatever they want and more power to them but I'd challenge the idea that those methods are 'superior'.

Edited by JuniorSpies, 23 July 2012 - 07:02 PM.

#18 AmityD

Posted 23 July 2012 - 07:07 PM

Thanks for that link Riotproof. I was reading the list thinking 'well isn't this any kind of loving parenting then?' and then she said exactly that at the end!

QUOTE (Riotproof @ 23/07/2012, 07:52 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
This is a great article on what AP is NOT. http://www.alternative-mama.com/attachment...g-what-its-not/
I especially like the last bit

#19 organic~sab

Posted 24 July 2012 - 01:20 PM

I thought they did a great job! I didn't watch it on tv because I thought it would just be another negative viewpoint on AP but when I saw everyone posting about how great it was I watched it online...and it was great! Finally, the media have something positive to say about AP.
I guess I am an AP but I don't like to class myself under any parenting style. I am who I am and raise my child how I feel right. It just makes sense and feels right. Someone said that they give 'their hat off to those who practice AP' making out that it is harder. Yet I see mainstream parenting as harder. You have to get out of bed to attend your child, have your heart break as you listen to their cries, put up with trantums and fights over small issues like nappy changes, let your life revolve around the clock etc.
I have many friends who parent the mainstream way. They are wonderful loving parents. I might not agree with everything they do, but they don't agree with all I do either. We respect each other. I think that's what we all need to do, just respect each other. If you think a 5 year old breastfeeding is gross, that's fine, but respect parents that choose to do this. If you think CIO/CC is terrible, that's fine, but respect parents who choose to do this. DON'T RESPECT parents who abuse or murder their children.

#20 seayork2002

Posted 24 July 2012 - 01:27 PM

The "superior" way is the way that the parents feel is best, every person on the planet is an individual as is every baby so what works for one does not for the others (same as for the parents). As long as parents can say to their child when they are older that they may not have been perfect but they tried their best than that is the "superior" way

And what is this rubbish about "mummy wars" it may be fasionable but do not some children have fathers?

#21 Lim Lam

Posted 24 July 2012 - 01:51 PM

Most parents are perfectly able to utilise bits and pieces from a variety of parenting 'techniques' which will best suit their family.

Best technique of parenting IMO is intuitive parenting..it varies from child to child and family to family.

This exactly...My bold, I parent all of my 4 children a little different according to their personality.

#22 SarDonik

Posted 24 July 2012 - 02:06 PM

We did controlled crying and our girls are now fantastic sleepers. They very quickly learned to self settle. I always chuckle when i hear people hysterically scream about how traumatic crying can be for a baby - I remember going in to both my girls when they were crying very loudly and as soon as the door opens the tears magically stop and they are grinning from ear to ear - totally traumatised rolleyes.gif

Edited by SarDonik, 24 July 2012 - 02:08 PM.

#23 Mung bean

Posted 24 July 2012 - 03:13 PM

We try to parent AP but I think it varies at what level you may use AP styles.

I can't breastfeed, We Vaccinate, I use child care and sure do enjoy the 2 overnight stays a month my L.O has. Also we prefer not to co-sleep and only do, when we can't get a good nights rest.

None of these would be seen as typical AP stereotypes. So I think it varies and there are probably many people who do what they do and have no idea it's AP.

I don't think it's superior, but I do think putting the child's best interest first is important especially in the early years. Maybe ask me in a few years time when I've gone bat sh*t crazy and I might have another answer for you :-p

#24 Babushka Doll

Posted 24 July 2012 - 03:21 PM

DH and I sat on the lounge watched the segment, then turned to each other and said WTF ?  WTH?

#25 WinterIsComing

Posted 24 July 2012 - 03:49 PM

QUOTE (Riotproof @ 23/07/2012, 06:52 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
This is a great article on what AP is NOT. http://www.alternative-mama.com/attachment...g-what-its-not/
I especially like the last bit

If that's not different to any style of parenting done with love and care, why to call yourself something different?

I prefer the term Responsive parenting when it comes to infants, because this is what's important - consitent loving response.

0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users


Top 5 Viewed Articles

Essential Baby and Essential Kids is the place to find parenting information and parenting support relating to conception, pregnancy, birth, babies, toddlers, kids, maternity, family budgeting, family travel, nutrition and wellbeing, family entertainment, kids entertainment, tips for the family home, child-friendly recipes and parenting. Try our pregnancy due date calculator to determine your due date, or our ovulation calculator to predict ovulation and your fertile period. Our pregnancy week by week guide shows your baby's stages of development. Access our very active mum's discussion groups in the Essential Baby forums or the Essential Kids forums to talk to mums about conception, pregnancy, birth, babies, toddlers, kids and parenting lifestyle. Essential Baby also offers a baby names database of more than 22,000 baby names, popular baby names, boys' names, girls' names and baby names advice in our baby names forum. Essential Kids features a range of free printable worksheets for kids from preschool years through to primary school years. For the latest baby clothes, maternity clothes, maternity accessories, toddler products, kids toys and kids clothing, breastfeeding and other parenting resources, check out Essential Baby and Essential Kids.