Is Attachment Parenting Bad for Women?

Have you ever been so tired that you literally can’t see straight? So exhausted that you break down crying because you can’t remember what you need to do next?

I have. And so have many, many mothers I know.

It’s not just sleep, either. Even if our kids are sleeping through the night, we are running ourselves ragged trying to keep up with Mrs. Jones, who has three perfectly manicured toddlers and a baby in a moby wrap, all with genius-level IQs (thanks to Mrs. Jones’ homemade flashcards at an early age). Never mind the fact that we’ve never actually met Mrs. Jones – we’ve been told she exists, and that’s enough.

Some of this exhaustion is to be expected – I mean, babies don’t sleep well for a long time (months, usually), and figuring out how to keep a whole human being from either killing himself or turning into a psychopath is no easy feat.

But the rest of it? The rest of it is just more of those horrible, unattainable standards that make women feel like failures.

Feminism was supposed to give women equal rights. If we wanted to, we could work and have kids at the same time. Or work and have no kids. Or stay home and raise kids – if we wanted to. Unfortunately, it turned out that we’re expected to manage all of these things – plus do all the crap we did in the 50s. There is an unbelievable amount of pressure on women, and everyone has a different opinion – which of course means, you can never do anything “right.”

If you’re a stay-at-home-mom, you have let women everywhere down because you aren’t “feminist” enough to work. Being a mother isn’t a contribution to society – you’re a loser and a disappointment to feminists everywhere.

If you’re a working mom, you’re a letting your children down – daycare? You’re letting someone else raise your children? You hideous beast – what kind of mother are you?

But whether you’re working or staying at home, there’s a new set of standards guaranteed to make you not only feel like a failure, but cause you to lose your damn mind in the process. I bring you Attachment Parenting.

Never Let your Baby Cry (or they will develop an anxiety disorder)

(Disclaimer: obviously I’m making these points dramatic for the sake of good humor, but really – this is how it feels to be a hormonal mother to a newborn baby. I say this, too, as a mother that is still breastfeeding a 17 month-old, co-slept for 5.5 months, and wore her infant everywhere. So don’t get all offended, Dr. Sears.)

1. When your baby is born, you need to begin breastfeeding immediately. Breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world. Your baby will bob it’s little head, rooting around for your nipple, which he will find in moments and begin to nurse. If it doesn’t happen that way for you, it’s because you are doing something wrong and have failed as a mother. Also, you must breastfeed exclusively – at whatever cost. If you can’t do it, you are a failure as a mother and your child will be damaged FOREVER. FORMULA IS THE DEVIL’S WORK. Breast is best.

2. Wear your baby. All the time. They need to feel close to you – after all, they were in your womb for nine months – you can’t just LEAVE THEM SOMEWHERE. It’s called the fourth trimester, asshole. You better figure out how to take a poop with a baby strapped to you – otherwise, you’re inattentive and have failed as a mother.

3. Put your baby down for bed swaddled, drowsy but awake. They will fall asleep quietly in a few minutes. If that doesn’t work, you suck. But because attachment theory is a set of guidelines (not rules), here are a few other ways to do it: nurse them until they fall asleep or your nipple falls off. If the latter, switch sides and apply lanolin to the first nipple. Shush them. Bounce them up and down while sitting on an exercise ball. Play white noise. If your baby is still crying, you simply aren’t trying hard enough.

4. Co-sleeping is the best way to sleep, but make sure you do it safely so you don’t suffocate your kid. What? The idea of suffocating your helpless newborn scares you? You can’t put your baby in a freezing cold crib all by himself! We are social creatures! All other societies share beds! We Americans have it all wrong and are causing our children to have insecure attachments, which is why they are all shooting up schools! Do you want to raise a murderer?! Talk about being a failure as a mother.

5. Whatever you do, don’t let your baby cry. At all costs, don’t subscribe to “convenience” parenting (AKA selfish parenting). If you let your baby cry, it’s because you value your own sleep, personal space, or desire to have a life over your child’s emotional development. You are not only a failure as a mother, but a horrible person as well.

And so reads Attachment Theory to the hormonal mother of a newborn, amiright?

When you’re in the midst of the hardest thing you’ve ever done, to be constantly told “hey – you doin’ it wrong” really isn’t helpful. And to be told that you simply need to try harder when you’ve already tried as hard as you can possibly imagine? Also really not helpful.

These “guidelines” make women feel guilty – because really, there’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re failing this tiny, helpless little person who you love more than anything. These “guidelines” make us push ourselves to the limit and beyond – and what do we get for it? Are our swaddled, moby-wrapped, breastfed babies really better off for it? Maybe – but not if their mothers are exhausted, depressed shells of their former selves.

Let me tell you a little story. When C was a baby, I belonged to a mother’s group at our local hospital. The group was my saving grace – being around a group of women who were going through the same thing I was made me feel less alone. When C was 5.5 months old, I was so tired I truly could not see straight. I went to my mother’s group, which I’d been looking forward to all week because FINALLY SOMEONE WOULD UNDERSTAND, and I broke down crying, BEGGING for help. C had been waking up every hour – literally every hour – for a month, and I couldn’t take it anymore. The whole “sleep when the baby sleeps” was a joke – her naps were only 30 minutes long, and I had to nurse her and pat her back until she fell asleep, which took 45 minutes in and of itself.

The nurse who ran our group said, “this is what babies are like – they need their mothers. Have you tried co-sleeping? Nursing her in the middle of the night using the side-lying position?” Yes, yes, I had tried that.

“Well, my daughter didn’t sleep through the night for 27 months,” she said, shaking her head.

I can’t even describe the devastation I felt when I heard 27 months. TWENTY. SEVEN. MONTHS. I wouldn’t make it. I left that day feeling totally deflated.

The next week I went back to the group in the exact same position, but I really couldn’t deal with it anymore – and after taking the wrong way home and ending up in a bad neighborhood, my sleep deprivation was a danger. My mother had been saying, “Sara, you need to let her cry. She does not know how to sleep, and you can’t teach her by walking around in the kitchen in circles for an hour.” But I couldn’t let her cry, because the guilt that I was failing my daughter was too great. I picked up Dr. Weissbuth’s book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, and realized that my mom was right – C did not know how to go to sleep by herself, and the sleep-deprivation was actually damaging to her. In my attempt to follow Attachment Theory, I was damaging both my child and myself. My baby was 5.5 months old, and I told the group that I was considering cry-it-out.

I am not exaggerating when I say there was an audible gasp – not just from the nurse, but from nearly every mother in the room. How dare I even SUGGEST letting my child CRY?! What kind of mother can listen to her child scream? She’d be terrified! Left to cry alone, with no support! Too little to understand what was going on! She would be damaged forever! The guilt was awful, and now I felt like I couldn’t win. I either broke her trust by letting her cry, or I caused long-term damage to her IQ by letting her get more and more sleep-deprived.

If not for my two mom friends, I would not have done it. And there’s no way to tell for sure, but I have a feeling that C still wouldn’t have any idea how to put herself to sleep. We would both be totally miserable.  

I still follow a lot of the points of Attachment Theory; I even find them helpful or sometimes simply agree with them. But the guilt I feel when the ideas don’t work? I flat-out think it’s damaging to women.

And even with that in mind, I still have the guilty feelings running through my head a year later. Want to check your email? Respond to a work crisis? You’re a terrible mother. Inattentive. Your daughter just wants to interact with you – learn from you. And you, you evil bitch, care more about your iPhone than your own child.

Which brings me to…

Respond to your Child’s Every Need (or they will be stupid)

You are solely responsible for your child’s emotional and intellectual development. Entertain them at all times. They don’t even know that their hand is part of their own body for months, but if you don’t show them black & white flashcards, their IQ will be 20 points lower than your neighbor’s kid. When they’re older, play puzzles with them. Only use wooden toys, because plastic will kill them. Do not turn on the television before they’re two, or their brains will turn to mush. Do not leave them to play by themselves, or they won’t feel loved.

I mean, really people: what kinds of mothers are we creating here? Self-sacrificing women who give up EVERYTHING for their children. The “good” mother whose kid loves broccoli, has never been exposed to the hazards of TV, listens to classical music and knows sign language. What has she had to sacrifice? Maybe some women don’t feel like they’ve sacrificed anything. But my guess is that the majority of women have sacrificed a lot – and they still feel like they aren’t doing enough.

And are those sacrifices good examples for our daughters? Do we want them to grow up and drop everything for another person? Or alternatively, do we want them to grow up expecting undivided attention, and becoming frustrated when the world doesn’t revolve around them?

When I was little, I played by myself a lot, and I think that has a lot to do with why I have such a good imagination. When our children expect us to play with them all the time, are we really doing them a service? Or are we teaching them to rely on other people instead of themselves?

I know they say “kids with good attachment are more confident earlier, blah blah blah,” but I don’t know if I buy it. One thing that has surprised me about kids is that so much more is “nature” than I ever expected. C is, by nature, a very shy kid. I don’t think any amount of cuddling will make her more secure around of strangers. Meanwhile, some of the kids of parents who did cry-it-out and bottle-fed their kids are running up to strangers, smiling at doctors, and playing with kids they don’t know. They have secure attachments to their mothers, just like C does. They are happy.

I think we’re putting too much pressure on women, and I don’t think this method will raise healthy, independent children. On the contrary, Attachment Theory is the opposite of feminism. You can’t have kids and your life – you have to give up everything for them. No, Attachment Parenting doesn’t say, "you have to give up everything for your children," (in fact, it says "take care of yourself when you need to," but it’s such an afterthought it has to be a joke). But you do have to give up everything. Because it’s impossible to do what is asked of you AND have a life. And to pretend otherwise is wrong.

I am not advocating that you leave your baby to cry in a corner while you play around on Facebook or paint your toenails. But I am advocating for some balance here. What are we doing to ourselves? Let’s stop giving the side-eye when someone says they had to let their kid cry it out, or that they turn on Sesame Street every morning, or they answer their emails while their kid chews on blocks. There is a middle ground between sacrificing nothing and sacrificing everything, and every mother I know is doing her absolute best. Motherhood is hard – let’s give ourselves a break.

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62 Responses to Is Attachment Parenting Bad for Women?

  1. Danielle says:

    Love this post!!!

  2. mariemuffin says:

    I love reading your posts, because I really feel you’re telling the side almost nobody talks about. Thank you!

  3. Laura says:

    This post is awesome! Thank you. It is hard to be a mother, every kind. We can all just do our best.

    And I agree on the nature part, its amazing. My daughter (gasp!) goes to daycare full time. And there are a few kids within a month of her, and the differences in their verbal and physical development is amazing. Even though they are around the same care givers 5 days/week.

  4. Zoe says:

    ack, this post makes me so sad that mothers are put under so much pressure!! I love that you see that it’s not all or nothing…I think C’s gonna have a great childhood :)

  5. Dianne says:

    I laugh, then cried when I read this post. I remember getting the exact same respond in my mommy group when I, a sleep-deprived and very emotional, stated that I would like to try the cry it out. I too felt guilty, but in the end it was the best choice for me and the baby

  6. Carin Folman says:

    Before our son was born, I bought a book called Smart from the Start (which I still haven’t finished reading and he is 9 months old, and who has the time!). I did get far enough to read that babies’ brains NEED some down time, where they are just chewing on blocks. A lot of time when I come home from work, I’m too pooped to interact with him in an enthusiastic way, so yeah, sometimes he chews on blocks while I sit on the couch having MY down time, and I watch him peripherally while I’m reading Stieg Larsson on my kindle. We’re good moms.

  7. carin says:

    Nice that it used my whole name in my above comment. Thanks Google. Sara, if possible can you just delete the above comment so the internet doesn’t have a permanent history of the fact that I am lazy?! :)

  8. Sara Olsher says:

    LMAO Carin! That’s hilarious and seriously made me LOL. I edited this comment to add your other comment, and deleted the other one. ;)

  9. carin says:

    And another thing! Whenever I start to worry or feel guilty that I’m not doing something “right,” I think to myself, “well you know I bet Einstein’s mother didn’t <insert here=”” whatever=””>.” For example – all the multivitamins and fish oil I’m supposed to be taking while breastfeeding so my baby’s brain develops “properly.” You think Einstein’s mother took fish oil supplements? Doubtful. You do what works for YOU. And while you’re at it, go buy an awesome pair of boots. Stacy and Clinton always say that a happy mama leads to happy kids. Can we all hang out? !</insert>

  10. Amy Isaacson says:

    Will you be my parenting guru/mentor/role model/teacher? No, seriously. I love you.

  11. Krista says:

    Just want to say I love you. And this. I don’t know how many women may be offended by it, but wow @ your experience… It breaks my heart to see the things you’ve gone through to try to be the best mom you can be. I think often about how glad I am that I read Dr. Weissbuth’s book before Ali was born because I really felt like the sleep things were a lot easier that way. I read a lot about attachment parenting, but I guess because I was a working mom I never bought into the principles much, or maybe it just went so much against what I thought was necessary (after reading the sleep book) that I didn’t go there. I remember worrying about what or who was right, but I think I “lucked” into finding something that worked (relatively well) pretty quickly. It is still hard, though, when one of them cries in the middle of the night, to let them continue to cry. But I realized that has more to do with my own selfish desire to go back to sleep (can’t do that when they’re crying) and to make them be quiet than it does with what THEY need (which is to learn how to sleep through the night without crying, except of course if something is wrong, which usually becomes evident pretty quickly given their patterns.) Parenting is no easy feat, and you’re totally right that all of the standards we put on ourselves makes it less so.

  12. Krista says:

    love this response!

  13. Also lol-ing at Carin!

    And intrepid author and Mommy Sara- YOU are a riot. And also so very insightful. I love this and am saving for someday when I have little ones!

  14. Sarah says:

    Thank you for this post. While I agree with the core principles of attachment parenting (basically the idea that you can’t spoil a newborn/young infant), I feel like in an effort to distance ourselves from the old parenting methods from 30 years ago we’ve swung too far in the other direction. There is definitely an obscene amount of pressure put on mothers, and it’s made us all so insecure and worried that we often judge and lash out at each other when we should be supportive. I feel like there’s also a lot of assumptions people make about how others are parenting, when as others have said, no one really knows your family and yourself as well as you do.

    I’ve been seeing similar posts to this on a few others parenting blogs I follow, and I really hope these ideas will gain momentum so we can move away from the current mentality that says it’s okay to question and belittle every single thing mothers do.

  15. Lacey says:

    Oh hooray! Finally, someone points out some of the ludicrous elements of attachment parenting. Some of it is good, some of it is just a bit unbalanced. My child will distrust me and feel abandoned because I taught her to put herself back to sleep when she wakes in the middle of the night? Unlikely. She can’t even remember where her water bottle is that she dropped two minutes ago. And every single member of my family is happier, healthier and more content with life because we are all getting regular sleep – you can’t really beat that. I think (in some forms), attachment parenting has just become another way to lose ourselves in something else …. putting your needs below your babies. That’s an inherent part of parenting; do we really have to come up with more and more ways to sacrifice ourselves?

  16. Saraharrison08 says:

    Excellent blog Sarah. My daughter is 14 months and I think we’re a success given that she is still alive, loves to laugh and only occasionally turns into a heinous crying monster.
    She watches TV, especially when I need to get something done. I rock her to sleep every night (Oh No! I don’t put her to bed awake!) but when she wakes up in the middle of the night I typically let her cry it out, mainly b/c I’m too damn exhausted to get up.

    I just can’t prescribe to all the BS they put other there nowadays. I often find myself justifying my actions with the idea that women have been doing this FOREVER without all the millions of rules and guidelines, so I’ll be just fine. My daughter will grow up healthy & happy. Even if I allow her to watch Jack’s Big Music Show everyday.

  17. Michelle says:

    Thank you, Sara!! I am a new mom to a two-month old and this post has made me feel better about what I’ve been experiencing internally. It’s been hard living in a country where my hospital can’t garner enough interest from new moms to form a support group, so thank you for providing support and speaking out via the internet!

  18. Twopinksuitcases says:

    I think the title to this post should read “Attachment Parenting” not “Theory”. AP may draw some concepts from AT, but they are not the same thing! (Thank goodness! I actually support a lot of AP, but as works individually for every family. A set of rigid rules that people follow like a strict dogma is not helpful to anyone.)

  19. Sara Olsher says:

    Very good point! I’ve edited the title. :)

  20. Amy says:

    Yeah, I seriously never understood why one guy writes a book, based on nothing but his own opinion, and millions of people decide that is the only way to raise a child. Huh? Who made Dr. Sears the only living breathing human who knows anything about child rearing??? Really baffles my mind. And also, why do we look to primitive cultures as THE way to do things? I don’t say they are wrong, but their methods are based on certain realities, like one bed FOR the whole family. They often just don’t have more than one. Anyhoo, I think that there are a lot of people with a lot of opinions and the only ones that really matter are yours, your partner’s and your child’s opinions about what works best for your family. My child did not really like to be worn 24/7. She liked to move. She didn’t sleep well with me and still doesn’t. She sleeps much better by herself. I tried to breastfeed for a year, she quit me at 8 months. So what can I do? I guess I have to join the bad mother club with you Sara! Rock on.

  21. Amy says:

    Same concept comes up in may books, Neufeld calls it creative solitude, or emergent play. They have to learn to play by themselves, or they will always be saying they are “bored” without constant entertainment.

  22. Dana M. says:

    Hysterical and amazing! I was laughing so hard, I was crying. So well said. I have always followed my own heart when it comes to parenting my kids. Only a mother knows her kid(s) best and should do what she feels is right…and who care what everyone else thinks! In fact, Alyssa is crying herself to sleep right now, while I enjoyed your blog!

  23. Rosemary says:

    Love this post do much! It’s true how much pressure we put on each other. I remember going to a baby wearing group recently and nearly had myself shot because I couldn’t breastfeed.

  24. Marisa Telles Martin says:

    I agree… and I think, to take it a step further, we need to stop looking for external validation that we’re good mothers. External commiseration, absolutely, but in the end, we are the best judges of our lives so we should stop wishing and hoping and trying to get other people to tell us we’re doing a great job.

    We’re doing a great job!

    So, hey, when my kid is working himself up into a tizzy, I put him in his crib for 5 minutes and walk away. Sometimes I do that when I’m working MYSELF up into a tizzy (though that’s rare). Often, by the end of the break, he’s calmed down or fallen asleep. I used to worry about what that meant, but now I just let it go. What it means is that’s what I did, and who cares what it means? It’s done.

    I trust him even more than I trust myself, and he will quickly indicate to me if something isn’t working, so we’re good. (Also, I deleted Attachment Parenting from my Kindle. It’s WAY too easy to get that sh*t into your head. My kid is bottle-fed, I work full-time, and he sleeps in his own crib. We are very comfortably and healthily attached, at least as far as we’re concerned, and who cares what anyone else thinks?)

    OH, do I sound defensive? Ha, ha, ha.

  25. Marisa Telles Martin says:

    Carin, I call that giving him time to “work,” a concept I totally stole from Montessori. Baby brains need time to think (as does my non-baby brain, ya know?) so thinking about it as his work time helped me remember he needs it just as badly as he needs interaction.

  26. Awesome post as always, Sara! Rock on.

  27. Sally Kuzemchak says:

    Thank you for saying these things—things that so many moms are afraid to say. I especially like your comments about feeding. We’re all trying to do the best we can for our kids. Motherhood is not a contest.

  28. jennifer says:

    oh lordy. I sent to my first birthing class last night and we got the whole “Breast is best” lecture. Now, I actually do believe that and trust me, I will try my hardest and exhaust all my resources to feed my child. But I refuse, REFUSE, to be shamed if for some reason I can not produce enough milk for my child.

  29. Hrbananah says:

    I’m not even a mother and I hear ya! Preach on! I feel like this same mentality goes on in education. Teachers are expected to be perfect, too. If any one of your students doesn’t measure up in some capacity at any given time (usually on a standardized test) it can’t be something the student is responsible for. It must that you, the teacher, didn’t nurture him/her enough. And since you are, therefore, not perfect you must be an utter failure and removed from the classroom. You must just not be working hard enough or not care enough about your students. Just like mothers, you can’t win.  Never mind the fact that most teachers I know kill themselves for just those reasons. And never mind the fact that as you say, this approach is not raising healthy, independent kids. It’s so counter-productive to throw the baby out with the bathwater. And a lot more destructive than letting them cry. Not sure if you’ve already seen it but this article deals with mommy guilt in a good way, too:

  30. Straycat1981 says:

    I think your an idiot if you think AP is all or nothing.
    No one but YOU caused yourself to feel like it had to be.
    I will however say that I do believe CIO is bad for children,  repeat studies have shown that…..also, none of my kids learned self soothing as babies …..they sleep better then anyone’s kids I know.

  31. NN says:

    “Let’s stop giving the side-eye when someone says they had to let their kid cry it out”
    No, I don’t think so. And come on, with the “every mother I know is doing her absolute best”—there are plenty of parents doing dreadful jobs, and leaving infants to sob is abusive, and there’s nothing wrong with calling out that sort of BS.

    I want to ask where the rest of the family was in all this; where’s Dad, why isn’t he spelling off Mom so she’s not going nuts, and… And we have a depressing narrative about a cold Grandma encouraging Mom to just leave the kid, instead of “I’ll sleep on the sofa tonight and spell you off so you can get some rest”—why?

  32. Sara Olsher says:

    I completely agree with you – both about agreeing with the core principles of attachment parenting, and about swinging too far in this direction.

    I really wish that women would stop bashing one another. With very few exceptions, I think it’s wrong to judge another mother without having walked a mile in her (probably very worn out) shoes.

  33. Sara Olsher says:

    I think there’s a lot to be said for attachment parenting, and although some of Dr. Weissbuth’s stuff worked for me, some of it really didn’t (the man seriously lost credibility the minute he said “teething does not upset sleep” – SERIOUSLY?!).

    It may be my area of the country, but the judgement here is so awful with the whole attachment parenting thing. People say CIO is abusive – which, having your job, I’m sure bugs you as much as it bugs me. ;)

  34. Sara Olsher says:

    ” She can’t even remember where her water bottle is that she dropped two minutes ago.”

    LMAO Lacey!! That’s totally true. Even the AP folks say that you’re supposed to let your baby cry for some amount of time before responding to them at night – but of course, I had to hear that when it was about 8 months too late. All I heard was “you’re not doing enough, and that’s why your baby is waking up 10 times a night.”

  35. Sara Olsher says:

    LMAO! Will you settle for BFF?

  36. Sara Olsher says:

    LOL – so funny. Yes, I think that’s a good way to bring yourself back to the ground!

  37. Sara Olsher says:

    You are totally right – we DO need to stop looking to others for validation. I think it’s easier said than done, though…in the end, none of us have a damn clue what we’re doing. It takes a woman with extreme confidence to do something this monumental and not question herself, especially when so many other people say “you’re not doing it right.”

  38. Sara Olsher says:

    Aw, I’m really sorry to hear that your hospital has no mother’s group! :( Community is really what makes it easier. Thank god for the Internets!

  39. Sara Olsher says:

    It would be great if we all lived in a culture where community was valued, women could help raise one another’s children, etc etc. Unfortunately, we don’t.

    C was the exact same way – she cannot sleep when she’s near me. She’s too “spirited” as they say.

  40. Sara Olsher says:

    I think following your heart is the only way to parent. I wish people didn’t see things as so all-or-nothing.

  41. Sara Olsher says:

    The breastfeeding class I attended was very much the same…I feel like they use scare tactics to try to get women to breastfeed because so few women do (I think I read that only 20% of US women make it to 6 months?!). But it’s really not helpful. I was EXTREMELY committed to breastfeeding, and some of the crap they spewed at me in that class HAUNTED me. I burst into tears at the hospital because we had to supplement with formula to get rid of her jaundice. That is no good, I tell you.

  42. Sara Olsher says:

    You’re actually just proving my point – my issue is not so much with attachment parenting, but with the high-and-mighty attitude and judgment that comes along with it. I’m glad that YOUR kids sleep so well – but you really shouldn’t judge others without knowing what they have gone through, what their kids are like, and what their family situation is.

  43. Sara Olsher says:

    Maybe things are different in your neck of the woods, but I don’t live in a community where women crowd around one another to help raise one another’s children. I would LOVE that – but unfortunately, that is not what life is like here. As I said above, you really shouldn’t judge others without knowing what they have gone through, what their kids are like, and what their family situation is. My issue isn’t with the principles of attachment parenting, but with the judgment of people like you – judging me, my mother (?!), and my husband – without knowing anything about any of us. I’m glad that AP worked so well for you – but that’s YOU. Not everyone.

    I also take issue with your use of the term “abusive.” To call CIO abusive is to show no grasp of what CIO is, no concept of what ABUSE actually is, and condemns a large group of women who love their children (gasp!) as much as you do! And when I say that “every mother I know is doing her absolute best,” I’m obviously not saying that every mother on the planet is doing her absolute best. I’m saying exactly what I said – every mother I KNOW is doing her absolute best. Your judgment helps no one but yourself.

  44. Sara Olsher says:

    I so completely agree with this comment – your experience is ideal. It SHOULDN’T be so all-or-nothing.

  45. Madame D says:

    Aw, I’m sad to read that Attachment Parenting felt so strict and crazy to you! I’m a pretty laid-back first time Mom (or so I’m told) and I always took it as more of “guidelines,” not a “if you don’t do x you’re a terrible mother,” which I’m hoping is what AP advocates meant with it. Glad that you were able to find some things that worked for both you and C in the end, even if it was stressful!

  46. Sara Olsher says:

    Unfortunately most of the AP advocates I came across were more like the anonymous commenters above. :-/ I wish that more moms had a laid-back, “this is what works for me, what works for you?” type of attitude!

  47. I find this odd, because I was a member of an attachment parenting group for years when my kids were little. I wore my babies, breastfed, etc… but the things in this post? That isn’t what we ever would have advocated for a new mother, and it’s not what I ever found. We had parents who, for whatever reason, couldn’t breastfeed. My middle child much preferred her crib to co-sleeping. We had a combination of working mothers and non-working mothers, and even had a few stay-at-home dads in the mix. (And they were all supportive of my decision to start working when my youngest was six-months old.)

    Because the thing our group always said about attachment parenting, was that it isn’t one-size-fits all. You have to work with what works with your family. Yes, baby needs to be put down every once in awhile. Yes, mommy needs a break and SLEEP. No one in our group would have freaked out about someone needing sleep. We had all been there at that point.

    As our kids got older, we would frequently joke as they would run away from us at the park, as we sat on a blanket at chatted with each other and mostly ignored them, that we were detachment parenting. It always, always, was about what was easiest and works best for your family and your individual child’s needs. No two kids are alike. No two parents are alike.

    Sometimes I felt like my needs were coming in second, sure. But I think you’ll find that’s the case with all new parents. (Hey, I think you’ll find that with new siblings, too.) There’s a balance that needs to be met. Attachment parenting may not be the answer for everyone, but I’d hate for a new or soon-to-be mother to come across it and dismiss some or all of the ideas in attachment parenting because of it.

    (My children are now 9, 8, and 6. They go to school. Two at the top of their class, one solidly in the middle. I guess I didn’t play enough IQ games that I never heard about until this post. I also let them watch TV. Actually, I think that’s what they’re doing now—I’m detachment parenting again.)

  48. Mommyof3 says:

    I read this when you first posted it and wanted to comment but I could not from my phone. I did not read it again so I apologize if you already say any of what I say;D It just means great mind think alike!

    So let me start by saying how VERY VERY thankful I am that I was far to busy raising my teenage nieces when I was pregnant and when Oz was born to read a bunch of of books or blogs or anything. I did what I felt was best, I listened to my mother who was and is amazing. I asked friends and relatives when I needed advice and then I did what worked for us. Again when I had my second child, still raising my nieces and dealing with a 2 year old and 4 teenage girls leaves little time for reading. I did what worked for us. I came to find out later that I was doing some AP stuff. I also tried CIO which didn’t work for us. My son slept in our bed, my daughter never did, she never liked it. I put her in her crib because that is where she slept best (and from the time she could talk she would tell you when she was tired and go to bed and she sleeps AMAZINGLY! I never tried CIO with her because at bed time she went to sleep, Lucky me!). I did baby wearing with both my kids when it worked. My son liked it far better than my daughter. My older kids are 10 and 8 they are very sweet, smart and super loving! They are kids they act like kids. LOL
    Now with my 3rd child I had different friends I had load of other people now bombarding me with information and I used the dreadful internet and all that happened was I began second guessing myself! After 2 amazing kids were already sharing my like with me I began being worried about so many things, was I putting her in the sling enough, I felt bad when I would lay her down in her bed at night so I could get some things done before I went to bed. I felt terrible when I stopped breast feeding and switched to formula! GASP:D I felt so bad all the time and I still do! It is ridiculous!

    I am about to play the devils advocate her and piss off loads of people, but listening to a lot of AP people I hear lots of selfishness in what they say. They mask it with “its good for my baby, I read it!” really though I feel like a lot of times parents, moms especially keep up the AP stuff because they want the snuggle time, they want to be the person and only person their child needs ALL the time. I am not saying all parents are like this. But from what I have experienced there are more then a few. Going along that same line I feel like the reason they are SO SO pushy about it is because if everyone else is doing it then THEY must be doing the right thing, right?
    In the end being a good parent is about making your child feel loved, making sure they are fed, and have a roof over their head. At the end of the day if all my kids have full bellies, are snuggled in their warm beds and I have told them I love them. I count that day as a win.

    Great write up as usual Sarah!

  49. Sara Olsher says:

    I think using your own intuition and judgment is the key to being a good parent. Every kid is so different – which is why there’s no one-size-fits-all type of parenting. Tuning out all the extra noise is one of the more difficult parts of parenting. Except in cases of true abuse or neglect, I think other people should mind their own business.

    To me, the most poignant part of your comment is this:
    “I feel like the reason they are SO SO pushy about it is because if everyone else is doing it then THEY must be doing the right thing, right?”

    Women are very pushy about motherhood. I think it’s because being a mother is SO important…there’s a lot at risk if you’re not doing it right. Which is why people (not just AP parents) get pushy about their opinions – it makes them feel better that they’re doing it better than someone else.

    This is why I think vigilant AP is bad for women. They’re pulling other women down instead of lifting them up.

  50. sandy says:

    LOVED this post! I had a similar experience at my breastfeeding support group – all the women just nursed and nursed their babies to sleep for hours and hours at night and I was just horrified that this was their solution for when their baby wouldn’t sleep/cried at night. Dr. Sears’ book did not work for me at all…I was physically tired from carrying my baby all the time and feeding her all the time. I used some guidelines from Secrets of the Baby Whisperer, Babywise and Moms on Call and now my baby sleeps great even if it means sometimes she cries for a minute on and off while she falls asleep at night…and she is still a smiley, happy and good natured baby even though I don’t carry her everywhere and nurse her all the time like I used to…and now I am much happier and well rested :)

  51. Crystaaalball says:

    Hi Sara! I have to comment on here because I truly appreciate everything you’ve been writing about your experiences with your daughter. I’m not sure if you remember us – you made our save the dates for our July 4th wedding a couple years ago :) We had twin girls in August, and let me tell you – i deal with the EXACT same issues that you describe here and in your other posts. With breastfeeding, sleeping… you name it, and a lot of why i feel like I’m driving myself crazy is trying to get myself, and the babies to fit into this perfect mold of how a mother/child is supposed to be. WIth sleeping (our current struggle), i’ve decided that they just need to CIO too – they are smart little buggers, and they know now, and nothing else will work other than for them to cry and learn how to self soothe. And with two – it is impossible for me to do it alone when they aren’t sleeping well.

  52. Mina says:

    i’m not a mom, but like the others, i think this is awesome! i can’t get over the “fourth trimester”…that is too good…

  53. Jen says:

    Awesome post, Sara. I’m not a mom but I think that you are addressing things that most parents think about, and you did it honestly. I don’t know what it is about child-rearing that makes people behave so nastily to each other, but way to rise above it, saying what you think without being judgmental of others.

    You rock.

  54. Carijo3 says:

    You are awesome! This could have come straight out of my mouth “do we want them to grow up expecting undivided attention, and becoming frustrated when the world doesn’t revolve around them?”. I have met kids raised using the attachment theory, they do think the world revolves around them and then they struggle like hell at school when they learn that it doesn’t. Plus, they are kind of assholes.

  55. Hayley says:

    I loved this whole entry… And read the whole thing while my child practically gnawed on my toes to get my attention. I would have stopped, had you not been encouraging me to take my first break of the day. Thanks for making me laugh and cry.

  56. EBrickner says:

    Do what works for you and your family is the only advice I ever gave in the five years as an LLL volunteer and twenty years I have been a a parent. I do not judge nor do I think that one kind of parenting works for every person. I became a breastfeeding counselor with LLL because I had such a tremendously hard time breastfeeding my first baby not to be called a breastfeeding nazi or any other rhetoric that divides women. We are all parents for goodness’ sake. Let’s be nice and play nice! I quit asking people what they do because I was so sick of people of people asking me that and then judging me for staying home with my babies. I was an editor and writer of a n 8 page newsletter, volunteer for CCI and a bunch of other things that kept me sane. No one has a right to judge you and babies learn to sleep whatever you do eventually. I am now taking child psych and so glad I listened to my inner voice that told me to take care of my baby the way that worked for me. Well and I had amazing help from many amazing mothers who were kind and nice to me. I did not let the turkeys get me down. And no I will not brag about my children here because I hate that too. Parenting is not a competition! I am a feminist and I figured out I could not take my children to daycare and pay for that on top of a crappy retail job and have it make any sense. It takes a village to raise a child but the only villages I see are on Tv. And I do not find those villagers helpful when taking care of my children after postpartum hemorhagging or any other complication of life.

  57. estela albuquerque says:

    There is a doctor here in Brazil who defends extra-utero pregnancy… that is, using artificial uteros, like incubators, so that women don´t need to go through what he calls “the ordeal of pregnancy”. He says pregnancy is bad for women´s bodies. Wouldn´t you LOVE that?

  58. Kathleen Mikulis says:

    A blogger I read had a very similar problem to the one you had with Charlie, so of course it reminded me of you.


  59. kerri fronczak says:

    THANK YOU for this!!!  I read another mom’s blog on sleep deprivation and someone commented with a link to your post.  I had a total break down earlier this week and flat out begged my husband for help. I have a 9 week old screamer who doesn’t sleep and a 2.5 year old and I work full time.  Can you say train wreck?  I had to have a complete and total meltdown in order to see that with this kid, it just isn’t possible for me, the mom, to reply to her every need.  I actually had my husband take her to his parents the past 2 nights so I could sleep.  Yep. I’m a terrible mom.  I spent 2 nights away from my breast fed infant.  Ironically, the little turd slept both nights. What does that tell you?  Maybe being away from her stressball mother was actually relaxing for her.  Anyway, thank you thank you for your honesty and candor.  I think way too many moms are killing themselves trying to be perfect and are afraid to admit it’s impossible to do what is sometimes being asked of us.  These little munchkins can be so hard. Thanks for putting it out there.

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