Trends in parenting come and go as quickly as the latest fashion trends on the catwalk. One consistency with each new trend is the burden of guilt it places with the mother. Am I doing this right, should I do it this way, do I control crying, do I feed on demand, do I go to work or stay at home? The list is endless, and no wonder we are left questioning our abilities as parents.
The latest craze in the US is Attachment Parenting, or AP as I shall refer to it. The basic principles would surely rile Gina Ford and those who sit in her camp of no-nonsense parenting.
At its simplest, AP is based on several principles: breastfeeding a child until the age of three or beyond; having your baby sleep in your room, if possible in your bed; and “baby wearing”, where you carry your baby with you at all times.
In an ideal world it sounds fantastic but, in modern society, just how practical is AP?
Let’s break it down and see. First, keeping your baby with you at all time. I can’t help but think of a kangaroo carrying its baby around in its pouch.
AP suggests that carrying a baby in a sling at all times promotes attachment, frequent touch and parental sensitivity to an infant’s needs. But what if, like so many parents, you have to go to work? Realistically, and despite the latest documentary on taking your baby to the office, it just isn’t practical.
Women have the constant battle of deciding whether they should stay at home after maternity leave and be a full-time parent, or go back to the rat race. Normally, this decision will be based on financial motives and they often have no choice but to return to work in order to make ends meet.
I fall into a separate camp, as I am lucky enough to work from home. However, breastfeeding a baby and typing an e-mail with one finger is a challenge.
Danielle Grant, the mother of two boys, said: “I think it has a place in some degree, but I think it could be problematic logistically and socially for the infant and mother.
“I think the mother would suffer from never having a break. We all know we parent better when we are calm and collected and I don’t think it is possible to maintain that level-headedness if you have had no time away to reflect, rest, recuperate and re-address important issues.”
What’s more, does this style of parenting restrict our children by not allowing them time and freedom to gain their own independence and self-identity?
Hannah Llewellyn, a mum of two, thinks: “You are responsible for teaching your child to be independent and ready for whatever life throws at them.
“I believe attachment parenting is quite cruel as for the first three years you are teaching them that the only safe place to be is with you. Then they are off to nursery school and what are they then supposed to think?”
However, Cath Jevon believes AP is all about “creating a safe, secure base for them to move from and come back to when they are ready. If you want a loving and kind world, with a loving and kind next generation, then that’s how you treat them.”
Second, breastfeeding to the age of three and beyond. The recent cover of Time magazine which depicted such an image sparked controversy and many an adverse reaction.
The AP theory behind this is that breastfeeding is the ideal way to create attachment – and this is a fair point. However, it it also teaches infants that parents will listen to their cues and fulfil their needs. Surely a cup or beaker past a certain age would do the same thing?
Again, and besides the social stigma attached to extended feeding, comes the practicality of breastfeeding if you go back to work.
Expressing and storing milk requires a lot of organisation. I have expressed milk in the toilet of a railway station before a meeting and I can say it was one of the worst experiences I have had – and not one I would care to repeat.
This places pressure on mothers, who have not only given up their bodies during pregnancy but have to continue to grow a person from their body for the next three years.
If everyone thought they were expected to feed for three years, how many people would just opt for the bottle at birth? Surely some breast is better than none at all.
Finally, when it comes to co-sleeping or bed sharing, AP theorists argue that it promotes attachment by being able to soothe and feed your baby during the night. But there is, of course, the fear that one parent could roll over and squash the baby, ending in tragedy.
One mum who follows the AP style of parenting said: “Co-sleeping has amazing benefits for your child – regulating body temperature and breathing when in close contact with the mother.
“Aside from the physical benefits, it’s the most wonderful time to reconnect with your child. We bed-share with two of our children and have no intention of changing our situation any time soon.”
In fairness to AP, many of its techniques have been around for years. The basis is that we listen to our children and help them form attachments to others and ourselves.
The problem arises, as with any parenting method, when aspects of a technique are taken to the extreme.
I had intended to disregard the method and its extremeness, but there are some aspects of AP that don’t get mentioned and some things many people do which are part of the AP practices.
Using my own personal example, I am still breastfeeding my eight-month-old, I carry him everywhere because he cries when I put him down and he occasionally sleeps with me because he won’t settle.
Parenting really is a minefield and, instinctively as parents, we do what is right for our baby and, because of that, how can we place one parenting technique above another? – Foreign Service