Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Detachment Parenting

I'm just not cut out for attachment parenting. Sure, I wear Zephyr strapped closely to my body, but that's only because it's so much faster than opening the stroller every time I need to do some grocery shopping, and time management is important.

I still nurse four times a day (and will probably follow World Health Organization advice and continue to do so for another year or so), but it's only because I can't be bothered to walk around rocking him when I can just stick a tit in his mouth and put him right to sleep. Zephyr slept in bed with us until he was five months old or so, but that was just because I was too lazy to get up to feed him in the middle of the night.

We use cloth diapers, but I guess I should come clean and admit that it's really because I like saving all that money by not using disposables. I even make my own organic baby food and everything, but that's because I have control issues and want to spare myself future food struggles. Completely self-serving, I assure you.

Try as I might, I just can't accept the whole-package attachment parenting dogma. You know why?
  • There is no magical "village" that lets modern mothers have their proverbial (gluten-free) cake and eat it too. So get over the idea that it takes one to raise a child. Okay, there's that one village in Opuwo, Namibia where Babies was filmed. Why don't you move there and tell me how you like it. I'm sure not being vaccinated will work out really great.
  • There is no scientific evidence supporting the claim that ADD, ADHD, learning disabilities, autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia, asthma, bed wetting, thrush, finicky eating, chronic ear infections, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, type-1 diabetes, chronic cystitis, colic or eczema are caused by an imbalance of gut flora, nor that they can be treated or cured by putting someone (young children, in particular) on a restrictive diet. On the contrary, the author of Gut and Psychology Syndrome (and accompanying GAPS diet), Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride* has been published in a peer-reviewed medical or scientific journal exactly ZERO times.

  • Discipline is not the same as punishment. Boundaries and structure make children feel safe, not "dishonored." There's a very thick line between the kind of discipline I got as a kid (hint: my dad thought Dr. Spock was a "fucking bleeding-heart pinko") and saying "no" to discourage unwanted behavior. Let's just grow a pair as parents and be the authority figures we spent our teen years raging against.
  • Letting a three year-old (or a two year-old, or a one year-old) cry and scream out a tantrum will not cause permanent neurological damage. There is a difference between letting a baby blow off some steam and abject, Ukrainian orphanage-level neglect. A really, really big difference.
  • There is no scientific evidence that supports the claim that bedazzling a baby in amber, no matter how old, unpolished, or Baltic, will prevent or treat teething pain.

  • Conventional, rigorous education will not destroy a child's creativity or "spirit." Your hang-ups about conventional, rigorous education might destroy a child's creativity or "spirit." Parenting from the emotional baggage from your own childhood probably will.

I know, I know. Zephyr is definitely going to grow up completely brain-damaged. Sociopathic, probably. He'll require tons of antidepressants and therapy. Because clearly, his mother doesn't love him enough.

*Campbell-McBride wrote (and self-published) Gut and Psychology Syndrome based on anecdotal evidence using her own child as a subject, and runs a clinic in the city of Cambridge (though she claims she's "at Cambridge," falsely implying she's affiliated with the University of Cambridge). Dr. Campbell-McBride is a graduate of the obscure Bashkir Medical University in Russia. Her website is run by NuTriVene, a company that sells the nutritional supplements that her dietary program prescribes.


  1. AP isn't about any of that stuff (restrictive diets, amber necklaces, home or unschooling or not vaccinating)... it's about connection and the "baby Bs" (breastfeeding, babywearing, bedding with baby, bonding and i forget the rest, but it sounds like you do those things) are just tools that help you connect. it is thru that connection that you, the parent, becomes the expert on your child and can make decisions that are in your child's best interests. it's all about the connection. a connected parent doesn't "train" the baby to sleep alone thru CIO methods (like dr. spock advised), a connected parent responds to the baby. all this builds a solid foundation of trust and sets the parent up as the person the child can go to when something is wrong because the child knows/trusts his/her needs will be met. a child getting their needs met isn't the same as them getting their WANTS met. it's not giving the kid run of the house or giving in to tantrums or not setting boundaries. of course our job as parents is to keep our children safe and have rules and boundaries that help them stay safe. i think you will do just fine at attachment parenting. so there! ;)

  2. I think you may have slightly missed my punchline, Rebecca. I was trying to be tongue-in-cheek about the fact that I actually do engage in many of the AP parenting techniques, while making a commentary on how far the lifestyle (in general) has gone in a direction that has absolutely nothing to do with being connected to our children (or ecologically-conscious).

    I see a lot of parents identify themselves as AP, but in actuality it is frequently only one facet of an extremely fringe lifestyle that has little to do with the practices of AP parenting. It has felt, to me, like an all-or-nothing, Jonestownian, "subscribe to our newsletter" lifestyle choice that is really unappealing (yes, this is largely because of its lack of basis on the scientific evidence that I find valuable).

    fwiw, I thought it was Ferber that originally recommended CIO. I never read Spock's book, but the wiki entry on him reads like he was the first pediatrician of his generation to recommend mothers to use common sense and trust their instincts (which is why he got so much backlash in his time). He was also apparently an anti-Vietnam war activist, and in fact his critics suggested that his parenting recommendations propagated the young people that created the anti-war movement.

  3. Ahhhh labels -- how (in)convenient they are. Loving this post. It feels very affirming on so many levels ;-)

  4. There are so many people in the world who have an opinion on how you should raise your children. None of those really matter except yours.

    Like you, I never would have called myself an AP parent, but I did a lot of the things, like breastfeeding and wearing him all over the place. We basically kicked him out of our bed before 6 months, although since about the age of 3 he's been sneaking back in every night. He's now 7 and we wonder if he'll ever sleep a full night in his own bed.

    At the other extreme from AP, I had my son in daycare from the age of 4 months. My husband worked full time and I was a slave to my thesis adviser. You'd be surprised how many times I was told (indirectly or in some passive-agressive way) that I was damaging my son because I chose to work outside the home. Usually it would be comments like I decided to leave my high paying job because I knew that being a SAHM is best for little Johnny. And now he's in public school and I wouldn't have it any other way. He'll surely need therapy when he gets older!

    On a side note, I made baby food as well, but the kid still had eating issues, more about textures than taste. There was about a 2 to 3 year period where dinnertime was often a struggle. But he got over it, and now he's a great eater. Thank god! So if it should happen to you, it will pass.

  5. Nice post!
    I do identify myself to AP, but I don't feel I have to take the whole package, I take what I like and forget the rest, fortunately I have a brain, and like to use it. And I just hate being told what I have to do, whoever it comes from.
    So of course sometimes I do feel I don't fit in some AP discussions, but I don't really care. Some people (AP or not) judge me for my choices concerning the education I choose to give my daughter, so what?
    I'm her parent, they're not, so their opinion isn't really important to me as long as I believe I'm doing well enough (and anyway, I have to admit I do judge them too, I just don't tell them they're totally wrong, but it doesn't prevent me from thinking so).
    But sometimes I feel I'm not behaving like I should, at least not like I would like to, because there's something deep down inside of me that I don't really understand, an anger that's too strong for me to keep under control.
    And then I'm glad to find people who basically share most if not all of my opinions concerning education, people who can help me analyse (and not analyse for me) what's going on inside of me and look at the situation with a new eye, people who won't tell me that my daughter just deserves a good spanking, which won't kill her anyway...
    So ok, I don't always agree with them, when that's the case I say so and try to explain why (you never know, it might help someone think about it and decide to use their brain), not to convince them at all costs, which would be vain anyway) but just to state that their way is not the only way.
    But if their way works for them, well, good for them, we'll see when our kids grow up if theirs are so much better balanced and happier than mine (I sure hope not, but who knows!)
    And in the meantime, I'll just keep on doing my best to behave according to my convictions (and who cares if that's not what Mrs X or Mr Y wrote in their book).

  6. I absolutely loved this post! Thanks for being honest :) I love the idea behind AP and did the same things as you with both my kids. Funny thing is, my little boy (kid #2) was an ornery little guy and refused to be held, rocked, cuddled to sleep. So much for AP. It just wasn't working for him. As much as I would have loved to co-sleep with him for a long time it was just not going to work. Same parents, same treatment, but totally different kid.

    I think you're doing a great job. I'm kinda curious about who and what inspired your post because apparently I'm out of the loop with the AP crowd.

  7. Wow, this is a great post! It doesn't matter how you raise your baby because you only have to answer to yourself and your hubby. I don't care if my son is a clingy Mama's boy when he gets older. That's the good part about being a mother. =)

  8. Hah! I look forward to you guys joining Co-op when Zeph turns 18 mos... ;)

  9. I commented on this ages ago. Darned Blogger! It eated my comment.

  10. I love this post. Love, boundries and good nutrition, there you go!


Yay! Thanks for saying nice stuff about my baby.