Is Attachment Parenting and Breastfeeding Extreme Parenting?
Have you seen the cover of the May 10th issue of TIME Magazine? It, and the article to which it refers, is sparking controversy and debate over breastfeeding, especially when breastfeeding is associated with attachment parenting and “extreme parenting” as it is being called.
The article recently published in TIME discusses Dr. Sears and his promotion of attachment parenting, referring to this as extreme parenting. It almost sets up attachment parenting as a cult-like decision, following this wayward leader in creepy feeding habits. Even the subtitle adds divisiveness to the issue – asking if you are mom enough – implying that only mothers of certain calibers can do this.
The article really missed the boat, however, about two important issues – the flexibility of attachment parenting, and the reality of breastfeeding.
Attachment Parenting That Doesn’t Feel Extreme
One of the best things about attachment parenting is that it doesn’t have solid, rigid, and steel walls of regulations – you don’t have to become a card-carrying member. It wasn’t until after two of my four children were born that I even considered that my own parenting style followed many of the ideas of attachment parenting – it was just natural.
Some of the characteristics of attachment parenting include:
Co-sleeping (which doesn’t have to mean sleeping with your child until he is 13) and it can include
- a bassinet or crib near the parent’s bed
- a mattress or sleeping bag on the parent’s floor for toddlers/preschoolers
- a “side-car” sleeper which is basically a crib with 3 walls, and the 4th side is adjacent to the parent’s bed (without a gap between mattresses)
- children sharing a room for sleeping
Time spent with children (attachment parenting doesn’t mean you force yourself into your child’s personal space, afraid to let them or you be alone).
- Parents pay attention to the cues their children give them about needs and communicatin.
- Even teenagers can benefit from attachment parenting, creating close relationships that help teens make better decision.
Breastfeeding (which is recommended by pediatricians at least until 1 year of age)
- Breast milk changes to meet the dietary and nutritional needs of infants and toddlers.
- As medical evidence shows, breastfeeding has numerous benefits for mothers and children, and some hospitals are searching for ways to encourage breastfeeding, such as by using kangaroo mother care.
Why This Cover Photo Sends the Wrong Message About Attachment Parenting and Breastfeeding
Jamie Grumet (the mother in the cover photo) wants to spark the debate and knows this picture will draw that kind of fire, but she does it because she wants a conversation started. Unfortunately, what it will most likely do is create a more divisive line. This is not because her choices in parenting are so extreme, but because the pose of the picture is all most people will see.
- They won’t see the tender look of a mother into her toddler’s eyes.
- They won’t see the nurturing bond that breastfeeding helps develop.
- They won’t see the nutritional or health benefits that young children receive from breast-milk.
- And if they don’t see those things, this picture only represents an awkward and uncomfortable connection between a mother and her son.
- The photographer readily admits that he chose the pose because it would “underline the point that this was an uncommon situation.” It probably is uncommon – for moms to breastfeed while standing with their kid on a chair. (If you visit Jamie’s blog you will see a much softer, warmer image of her with her children.)
The fact is that many in American society are uncomfortable with public breastfeeding, even of tiny and delicate infants. When you take away that infant and replace it with a running, climbing toddler, breastfeeding – especially with a full frontal view – seems even more extreme. It is just a guess, but I’m assuming that when Jamie Grumet breastfeeds her boys that she doesn’t stand with one hand on her hip, cooly staring ahead. Saturday Night Live actually made a bit of sense in their satire of the photo, calling out her icy stare down. Sometimes when we set out to prove a point by going with the shock factor, the only point we end up making is that if we pander to peoples’ preconceived ideas and push the envelope even more, we risk pushing them even further from where we hoped.