Attachment Parenting vs Psychological Attachment
At first glance, attachment parenting sounds great, doesn’t it?
What parent wouldn’t want to be attached to their baby? I mean, most of us naturally feel a profound connection with our babies and the idea of growing that connection sounds wonderful.
Touted as a simpler and more natural approach to child rearing – and made popular by books and websites by proponents such as Dr. Sears – Attachment Parenting – or AP – has become quite popular.
But in my experience and opinion the concept of attachment parenting gets more credit than it deserves.
[Note: I realize there can be barriers to feeling attached to your newborn. Serious issues like post-partum depression can inhibit a mother’s feeling of attachment with her new baby. If you believe you may be experiencing PPD, please talk to a professional to get the help you and your family deserve.]
I’ll be honest with you, I thought I was an “attachment parent” simply because I felt strongly about the importance of the attachment between mother and baby.
I was mistaken.
I didn’t realize that attachment parenting meant I should live by a strict code of bed-sharing, baby-wearing, and the motto “Beware of Baby Trainers.” In fact, proponents of attachment parenting will tell you – in no uncertain terms – that you should be wary of anyone who tells you what to do with your child.
The irony is that that is exactly what they are doing!
Psychological Attachment vs. Physical Attachment
After having four of my own children, studying infant mental health, and working in the sleep consulting business for numerous years I believe a solid psychological attachment with your baby is what is essential – not how much time baby is in bed with you or worn by you. It’s not even centered around the daily number of hours you are with them.
Recent research has shown that a deep and nurturing psychological bond with baby is essential to the growth of an infant’s brain. The trajectory of a newborn’s future mental health is set early and is greatly influenced by their bond with a caring adult. It is also essential in the development of a sense of empathy, which is something that can not be learned later in life.
However, you should not be misled. Attachment parenting is not the only way for a parent to nurture a strong attachment with their baby.
Dr. Sears, and others like him, promote the idea that the only way a parent can foster a secure attachment between baby and parent is by breastfeeding, baby wearing, and co-sleeping.
Does that mean the mom who, for any number of possible reasons, is unable to breastfeed won’t have a strong bond with her baby?
Or what about an overweight mother who can’t co-sleep with her baby safely?
Or what if you have sciatica or another physical issue that prohibits you from wearing your baby all day – are you at risk of damaging your bond with your child?
Many parents have to return to work after a short maternity leave. Is that ideal? Maybe not. Is it reality? For many, yes. Does that mean they are “bad moms” or their children will suffer? Absolutely not.
New Moms Shouldn’t Be Made to Feel Inadequate
I’m sure that advocates of attachment parenting never intended to add ammunition to the mommy wars, but that is what has happened.
Look, I don’t want any new mom to feel inadequate. If not being able to abide by the rules set by an “expert” in parenting makes you – or any other mom – feel like you are falling short, then I suggest you find another expert!
It seems like I’m making a joke, but I’m not. With all the experts, doctors, and advocates of this or that method of parenting out there I am quite sure you can find someone who aligns with your beliefs and preferences.
Please, please, please, don’t feel bad about yourself because you aren’t able to stick to someone’s system, suggestions, or seven steps to perfect parenting. There is no reason to suffer through things out of fear of not being a good enough mom.
Trust me, for every mom who swears by bed-sharing, on-demand, non-stop breastfeeding and baby-wearing, there is another mom who swears by bottle feeding, sleep training, and enjoys going back to work.
I’d go even further to say there are moms who have successfully (gasp!) created their own combination of the above!
It’s totally understandable that as a parent you are looking for answers and want to make sure you do the best you can to help your baby grow into a smart, well-adjusted, happy human being.
Honestly, the simple fact that you are spending time thinking about how to do that, and are willing to try different approaches, means you are a good parent. Beyond that it’s up to you to do what feels right and works best for you and your family.