Attachment Parenting

Attachment Parenting Rules?!

52 Comments 12 April 2011

What is Attachment Parenting?

“Attachment Parenting is about forming and nurturing strong connections between parents and their children. Attachment Parenting challenges us as parents to treat our children with kindness, respect and dignity, and to model in our interactions with them the way we’d like them to interact with others.” – Attachment Parenting International

Attachment parenting has a mission: to create strong, healthy emotional bonds and connections between parents and children. Simply put, children have needs, and it is a parent’s job to fill them. When these needs are met, babies neurological development is enhanced.

To help families fulfill these needs, Attachment Parenting International has created a guide called The Eight Principals of Parenting:

  1. Prepare for pregnancy, birth & parenting
  2. Feed with love & respect
  3. Respond with sensitivity
  4. Use nurturing touch
  5. Ensure safe sleep, physically & emotionally
  6. Provide consistent & loving care
  7. Practice positive discipline
  8. Strive for balance in your personal and family life

Attachment parenting sounds really nice!

Without delving deep into the explanation of each category, I could say I would like to be that kind of parent to my child. These guidelines seem to be coming from a good-hearted place (for the record, I don’t think we need “guidelines” to know how to parent – go with your gut!).

Upon steeping in the attachment parenting community, I quickly found categorizing types of parenting isn’t very realistic.

While the premise of AP regards parenting as loving and
nurturing,the mothers who diligently practice, (and I mean to the T) attachment parenting do not always come across as such to other mothers in the community.

To put it bluntly, I have often wondered if I, or anyone for that matter, is practicing attachment parenting well enough. Based on my experiences, and the first hand accounts of friends who have felt the AP wrath, here is a different version of the eight principles.

The Dark Side of Attachment Parenting – Eight Rules to Live By (or else):

  1. Prepare for birth by planning to give birth naturally. Millions of women have done it before and so can you. Don’t be a wimp. A real attachment parent gives birth naturally in a hospital, birthing center, at home, or unassisted.
  2. Circumcision is not attachment parenting. In fact, it goes against everything AP stands for. You cannot expect a child to feel nurtured when such bodily harm is inflicted. Even if you practice other attachment parenting habits, one of the first crucial bonds between mother and child has been broken.
  3. Breastfeed you child. Breast is best! If you can’t, (which isn’t likely as breastfeeding is what we were designed to do next to give birth) rather than use formula, go to a milk bank. Or better yet, find a wet nurse. There are plenty of women out there who will gladly donate their milk or feed your baby for you.
  4. There is no need to ever become frustrated, irritable or impatient with your child. They are new to this world after all. If you find yourself losing patience, take a small time out. But remember, this is your duty and they are only young once. There is no time for negativity. p.s. time outs are bad, as is telling your child “no,” or turning on the TV for any amount of time under the age of 2.
  5. Hold and wear your child as much as physically possible. Your child doesn’t need a swing, your child needs you. So drop everything and pick that baby up. It’s the healthy thing to do.
  6. Cloth diapers are the only way to go! You care about the environment right? Our Mother Earth? Then don’t ditch your nappies! Cloth is easy, affordable, and you’ll be doing plenty of laundry anyway. What’s another load (or two)?
  7. Sleeping with your baby is safe and natural. Your baby wants to sleep with you! Bed-sharing enables a quicker response time to baby’s needs. Dad/partner may have to sleep on the couch or in the guest bedroom for a while, but trust us, you will all sleep better this way.
  8. Eat organic food whenever possible (meaning all the time). If you cannot afford organic baby food, make your own, and when baby moves on to solids, explain to your partner how important organic food is and suggest they find a way to make a second income (because you are a stay at home mom, isn’t that correct?)

Is a less “attached” parent a detached parent?

The funny thing about that list I created is, I fall neatly into each category.

I birthed at home, breastfed without difficulty, slept with my daughter since night one, have always carried and worn her, fed her organic food and I’ve stopped working to be a stay at home mom.

Time and time again, friends have shared horror stories of condemnation from those who proudly wear the “attachment parenting” label.

They have been virtually harassed for being half-assed AP by evangelists. So much so that those mothers have decided  not only to skip the joining the AP group all together, but remove themselves from several crunchy online “communities.”

The difference between how I live and the way I described, (with sarcasm) in the list above is: I don’t judge other mothers for choosing differently. And I don’t think I am better than them for what I have chosen!

Not all women who consider themselves attachment parents are critical.

I wouldn’t dare to lump everyone together in one big category (ha!). I know several lovely “AP moms.”

But in all seriousness, a few rotten eggs have nearly ruined a community that could be very beautiful.

Imagine mothers who believe in informed, gentle birth and practice positive parenting. The fact that AP isn’t that is downright sad. I don’t think it would be like this if we were face-to-face with each other. I never hear such snarky and demeaning remarks in public as to the degree that I read online.

I am SICK & TIRED of the mommy wars!

We’re talking about battles within our own self-prescribed tribes.

If we cannot find unity within our own circles, we have no hope for spreading the love and positive change to the rest of the world. We will only be seen as we are: a group of petty, critical moms.

How did this happen? I understand parenting is a serious game, and we do have a great duty as parents to try to do right by our children, but why are we so harsh? Why such anger?

*** *** *** *** ***

What are your thoughts about the attachment parenting community? Have you felt judged for not practicing AP “well enough?” I would love to hear your thoughts – please comment below!

Your Comments

52 Comments so far

  1. bringbirthhome says:

    Oh shucks, I forgot to add not vaccinating to the list! I tried to stick with 8. :/

    • michelle says:

      absolutely love this article… we need to not have so much hate and negativity towards other moms, we want our children to be raised in a positive manor so in my opinion the last thing i want my son to see is me being judgmental or hateful towards another human being that may not see things quite the way i do :) thankyou for this! i recently left a fb page because the comments were always so negative and horrible, and anything but peaceful, this is probably on of the first posts that i actually enjoyed reading all the comments! such love and positivity and thats what we all have to remember is the important thing about parenting no matter what style you chose! thankyou again for this <3

  2. Chrissy says:

    I remember going to meet some online friends for the first time, I double checked that my child wasn’t wearing gender stereotyped clothing or licensed paraphernalia. I so didn’t need to, the two mum’s that started our local AP community are the most non judgmental, accepting mum’s I’ve ever met. I think judgement comes from within more then it comes from extended communities. We choose to judge our own action alongside other mum’s we believe to have the AP gig all sorted out. We have NO idea what goes on behind closed doors. I do think that online communities can be very black and white on lots of things but if we opened our tab’s to other communities online you may find that sticking with only AP mum’s lessens your empathy and understanding of other groups. I have found the most supportive online community in a regular mum’s forum, regardless of parenting style they will drop everything to support and nurture you in real life and not just online. Now that’s my kind of community.

  3. Christy says:

    Love, love, love this post! SO true. I have been so put through the ringer & practically called a child molester & horrible mother because we chose to circ. It was not my decision alone, it was also my husbands, and like he said, he has a penis! I don’t! lol! I’ve started avoiding conversations/groups/lists where it comes up because I’m sick of defending our position of choosing what we felt like was best for our child for multiple reasons! I hate how judgmental other mommies can be. :(

  4. Kate Donahue says:

    It’s true of any community – unfortunately, not just AP parents. I’m not ______ enough for many groups. I have given up trying to be. Everything I’m not makes me everything I am.

  5. One love! says:

    I believe that condemnation of another mother is just a woman’s way of dealing with her own fears of inadequacy. I don’t think it actually has anything to do with the other mother’s decisions. As an AP-style mom, I couldn’t care less about the choices you make for your own family. I don’t need your decisions to validate my own personal experiences. But some women need that external confirmation…and that leads to conflict.

    You find it in every parenting arena, not just AP.

    I also don’t think that circumcision and vaccination are AP issues; they’re human rights issues. The lines get so blurred though when talking about parenting and every comment comes across as an attack. It is such a shame that we have come to be so defensive of our choices.

    Society is hard enough on parents- there’s just no way to kee everyone else happy. So my personal belief is that you do the best you can at the given time with the information that you have. Learn as much as you can but filter the information to fit your family.

    Removing AP from your blog categories is only going to perpetuate the hostility. When taken in context it’s a very gentle approach to parenting which is something our very violent world needs more of. Removing the category may remove the potential for another mom to come into a style of parenting that serves her and her family well. Don’t take it off just because there are extremists out there who give it a bad image.

    • bringbirthhome says:

      You are very right One love! Judgment is everywhere, in every community of people. I had to write this post after dealing with some of my own experiences over the past month, specifically when the circumcision issue was brought up. This blog was attacked in the name of attachment parenting (being against circ). By the way, I’m not going to remove it from my categories. There is no shame in AP – just the harsh criticisms I am speaking out against.

  6. Kirsten says:

    Unfortunately, a lot of AP parents are still stuck in behaviourism. Except instead of trying to control the behaviour of the child it becomes all about controlling the behaviour of the parent. Many of the “prescribed behaviours” do increase the likelihood of a close attached and nurturing parent-child relationship. But only if the parent is looking at their child instead of their friends. I see a lot of said behaviourist AP parents really struggling with AP once they get out of the toddler years because they aren’t looking at the relationship, they are just looking for an “alternative” behaviour. If you can’t meet other parents where they are at, and respond to them with compassion what are you modeling to your kids? That doesn’t mean that you don’t give information, but that information needs to come with support and only after you’ve spent a lot of time listening to where they are coming from.

  7. Cassandra says:

    Don’t forget that on the internet, everyone has a voice. When discussions come up, every single person is given the opportunity to speak about it because there are no time limits and people don’t have to be quiet so others can speak. When you have discussions in person, there are limitations and people who might otherwise never say anything at all because of those limitations can find a voice online. The problem with that is suddenly everyone’s position on every topic is known. You might never judge another mother because you have no idea what she thinks and you just assume she’s a good person. On the internet, she does speak and you do know and suddenly you’re handed a reason to judge her and far too frequently that opportunity is taken.

  8. Shelley says:

    Great post!
    So, where do I fit in?? I don’t NEED to feel like I fit in! I do what I like and others do what they like. I have done what I believe is best for my family. It really doesn’t matter what other people think. I have been judged for so many things and used to care but I really don’t care anymore.

    I am a natural birth advocate (have birthed 3 naturally including a planned vaginal breech which I had to fight the hospital system to do), but then I don’t co-sleep and I don’t go to my babies every single time they cry, I do let them whimper themselves to sleep (although often they just fall asleep without crying anyway), I do immunise (even though, admittably I am not sure that I should be), I am VERY anti-circ! (But I am very careful and bite my tongue when my friends get their boys circ’d because it really isn’t my choice. All I can do is tell them why I didn’t circ my son and often my friends just do it because everyone else does it – they don’t research into it AT ALL! Crazy!

    I don’t wear my baby in a sling at home, but everytime I go out I wear my baby in a sling. I don’t let my 4 year old or 2 year old or 7 month old eat any chocolate, lollies, ice-cream, etc which people say is cruel. Breast in my opinion is DEFINITELY BEST (but almost ALL of my friends formula feed and I NEVER make them feel bad about doing so and when friends are having troubles breastfeeding, I just try and encourage them but never make them feel bad. No one is perfect. I am definitely not an AP Mum but I LOVE my kids to bits, I’m a stay-at-home Mum and would/never have used childcare. So I guess you could say I am a bit all over the place! The 4 things I am most passionate about is:

    1. Loving my kids and teaching them love, care, respect and non-judgement towards others.

    2. Natural birth – I really believe that it
    is the best start possible into the world!

    3. Against circumcision (in my opinion, it’s abuse but I can’t make other people not circ their kids if they want to because they aren’t my kids)

    4. Breastfeeding is the perfect food for at least the first year of life! (I would never bottle feed, not even expressed breastmilk). I have been there for each and every single feed.

    However, even though I feel strongly on these 4 things, I don’t push others to do the same. Instead, if a friend is pregnant I would give them a copy of “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth” and hope that it will encourage them. If they ask my opinion on birthing, I will most definitely share. But, if they don’t, I would just leave it at giving them the book and that’s all.

    With circumcision, I am so so so against it and I have cried when friends have gotten their babies circ’d. I would recommend my friends watch a circ video beforehand and I would share all my reasons for not doing it. I would also share that my husband is circ’d but EVEN HE didn’t wat our son circ’d. That one usually suprises people because most of my friends do it just because Daddy is circ’d.

    At the end of the day, we need not to judge (especialy not out loud). Yes, of course, we are going to judge inside our heads but we shouldn’t go further with it. We are here to support and encourage one another, not put people down.

  9. Alisa says:

    I think what you have done here, and other mothers frequently do, is confused Attachment Parenting with Natural Family Living.

    “Attachment Parenting” as a phrase was coined by Dr. William Sears, based on his experiences reading The Continuum Concept, raising his own children that way, and watching parents over several decades of practicing pediatrics. He came up with the original guidelines because those practices tended to create the most harmony in the families he worked with.

    A look through his original books, however, show a full support of vaccinations, no commitment either for or against circumcision, a brief mention of cloth diapering, and virtually nothing concerning the other issues often associated with Natural Family Living, such as organic foods and clothing, wood or cloth toys, homeschooling or alternative schooling, limited television time, etc.

    NFL parents almost always practice AP, but I know many AP families who are otherwise mainstream.

    There are eccentrics and snobs in every walk of life. I do both AP and NFL on many levels but the other day I was raked across the coals for letting my 7 month old suck on a piece of candy. If I let every harpy with a high horse get to me, I’d never go online, attend any play groups or interact with other parents at all. And I’m one of those harpies – I can be vicious when the discussion turns to circumcision. But part of feeling good in your skin is letting the negativity role off and reminding yourself that you do what you can and have your own priorities.

  10. Gena Kirby says:

    Hi! It’s Gena Kirby, I just had to say SOMETHING here, for so many reasons. One, I am a board member for API. I know Barbara and Lysa (the founders of API) and these women are sweet and gentle and ONLY want parents to know that there are alternative ways to parent beside the way many of us have grown up with. They are NOT militant and they do not believe in guilting women or have ever tried to make parents “feel bad” about their decisions. I believe that with ANY belief there lie extremists that always make (Christians. Jews, Muslims, Intacivists, lactivists, etc you name it…)their members look bad. Let’s not throw the baby out here with the extremist bath water. API has great information, not judgements, nor rules. La Leche League, API, Christianity, ANY OTHER GROUP HERE…has a group within it that embarrasses the rest of the group, we are humans, this will happen..It’s important to be fair and say THESE FOLKS DO NOT REPRESENT THE WHOLE or the original folks…they are extremists and that, is THAT…otherwise we are perpetuating the mommy wars by pointing fingers and saying “she did that to me!” or she “said that to me!”.
    Point 2…well, I have no point 2 I love your bog and I love you, thanks for letting me say that!

  11. Maria Ping says:

    I feel like I’m not quite AP “enough” sometimes. We are a non-vaxxing, extended bf, cding (no longer since our LO potty learned) bed-sharing family, BUT we live in an upper-middle class community, we don’t homeschool, I wear make-up and shop at the GAP *gasp*, shave my legs and we have babysitters so we can go out for cocktails alone :) And we enjoy it!!!! I love my children but am ok not being with them sometimes and even drop them off at my mom’s house for a night sometimes. Oh, and I’m not ashamed to say that Dora the Explorer has taught my kids how to count in spanish. I know in the AP world I’m the equivalent of a dead beat mom. But in the mainstream world I live in, I’m considered pretty crunchy and AP. YOu can’t win no matter what so I say, F&*% them all and live however you need to to be happy and raise happy kids. That’s all you can do.

  12. Kate says:

    I have so much compassion for Kaitlin and others experiencing the wrath of the “there is one perfect way” crowd in all this! Now that I am a grandma, here are a few things I have learned:
    1. children are resilient–they will survive what we throw at them…in all our love.
    2. all of us are hurt–and we often react out of our hurt.
    3. true love forgives…over and over…and true love does not need everyone’s approval.
    4. Parenting REQUIRES a sense of one’s own flaws AND a sense of humor.
    5. My children, who are now happy, healthy adults doing work that benefits the world, survived my own growing up as they grew up. That means they survived all my imperfections…and there were many!

    With the exception of real abuse or neglect, can we not all just give each other a break? If I use a stroller and you don’t–who cares? If i nurse my toddler while laboring, and you think that is NUTS…really, what hangs in the balance? We all need a better sense of humor…and can I say again that I love and support Kaitlin for all she is trying to accompish with BBH?

  13. Angel says:

    Actually, I have been (I am?!) one of these judgmental moms. I don’t think I’ve been nasty or rude much as I hardly ever comment (and I try to not be rude) but inside I’m like “why?! are you formula feeding at night? Don’t you know you can co-sleep?” I try to sit back and relax. Realize that what is really important is my family, and it’s comforting to know that it is within my power to make these decisions for myself. and so it must be for every family. When I can realize that then I know how important it is to respect the autonomy of other families (just like I try to do when communicating with my son)

    On other hand though some things do conflict too much, they touch that painful forbidden spot. It creates division and space and I struggle to cope with these things. I’ve heard my entire life that the power of forgiveness is peace. but how do you satisfy your humanity into forgiveness of the horrid qualities we possess. Is it really, simply, just gaining understanding of the complexity of world that creates & drives the people who abuse their children, cut them, hit them, & neglect them? For. Give. Give up what came before. but then how do you continue? move forward together? separate? Is it at this point that it becomes a question of loneliness?

    Interestingly I joined facebook when my son was four months old. After I gave birth to him at home, and had been co-sleeping and breast-feeding all that time without knowing anyone else who was making the same decisions, I was feeling a bit lonely and disconnected. There I discovered a community of people who shared my parenting choices, and It was fun for a while to connect but l soon found the edge. The lack of respect people have for one another online (net-rage?).

    Lately I’ve considered getting off-line. Going to meet all my neighbors and their kids. We don’t make the same choices. We don’t believe the same things. but I think we all want our children to be happy and healthy and that is what is important.

  14. Heidi Weaver says:

    I’m an AP mom and have definitely felt the need to “prove” my AP-ness.
    Lately I’ve really felt like some aspects of AP style are utterly exhausting and I can’t bring myself to admit that to my AP friends. Overall, it’s just a few rotten eggs. But as in ALL circles, social, political or otherwise, the rotten eggs usually get the most attention.
    From one “trying to be polite” AP mom to another, thanks for the article. :o )

  15. Liz says:

    I would describe myself as an attachment parent, I fall into most of the categories above (home birth, breastfed, bed-shared, cloth diapers, organic food, no vaccines, etc)…but I completely agree that the “AP” community is very extreme and exclusionary. I often feel they somewhat “compete” to see who can be the biggest martyr for their children.
    I chose my version of “attachment parenting” based on what felt right for me and my baby. I also read, and loved, the books by Dr. Sears (who always says what is good for the mother is good for the baby, and if you resent it, change it).
    We should all do what is right for our children and our family within our means and capabilities. I definitely feel like what I am doing is right – but I don’t make a point to go around finding where other people are wrong. I am a stay at home Mom of a toddler with an organic garden, cloth diapers to wash, and no TV…where would I ever find the time to do that anyway? (ha, ha!)
    Anyway, just wanted to say I agree with you and your decision to remove yourself from a supposed “community” that is not as it seems.

  16. Sara says:

    The idea of “Attachment Parenting” has its foundations in the work of John Bowlby’s Theory of Attachment. It says that if an infant’s needs are responded to in a consistent and caring manner from a primary caregiver they will form a strong bond (secure attachment) that will lead to feelings of being able to trust that the world is a safe place where their needs will be met. Children that are responded to inconsistently, not lovingly, or at not all, or don’t have the opportunity to bond w/a primary caregiver will not form a strong trusting bond (insecure attachment) and will grow up feeling the world can’t be trusted & won’t meet their needs. This is a widely accepted theory in child development & has been played out through observational research.

    Am I an AP parent? Well, I kinda thought I was since I care deeply that my children get their needs met, I am a responsive & very involved parent. I don’t do CIO, I bed share, exclusively and extend-ly breastfeed, I wear my babies, and had natural births (one at home). I thought I had the checklist covered…Yeah that describes my parenting, is what I thought when I ran across it

    However, on several of “those” sites you talked about, I recently learned that according to their “rules” (and here I thought it was just a checklist of guiding principles), I am NOT an AP parent or if I am I am doing a half-ass job.

    My wrongdoings?
    -My baby has a swing (and worse yet he LIKES no make that LOVES to be in it sometimes, I will even admit (but don’t tell anyone) that sometimes he has slept in it!).
    -I worked PT and went to college, meaning that my child was being cared for by someone else (she was a lifelong family friend that loved my son, but that doesn’t get me off the hook for abandoning him to the care of someone else)then when he was 2 he went to daycare PT (also ignore that he truly loved going to learn & play w/his friends, this is something I made up to make myself feel better about abandoning him).
    -I don’t wear/hold my babies ALL the time, sometimes they don’t want to be worn/held (I also am mistaken about this, I should’ve worn them anyway & they would’ve gotten used to being worn all or most of the time).
    I have also been known to NOT drop everything & run to my baby b/c they are crying a couple of time sI had to put them down crying…mostly it’s cause I was taking care of my older children b/c they “needed” me more right then (even w/kids *sometimes* you HAVE to prioritize & can only meet one kid’s need at a time regardless of how hard you try, IMO anyone says differently is either lying, delusional, or only has 1 kid). Sometimes it’s cause I HAD to have a shower (and how am I supposed to get my whole self clean if I wear a baby in the shower not to mention how do you NOT get soap in their eyes and what if they hate the shower & being in it w/me makes them cry harder?). What if I just need 5 damn minutes in the shower to wash up & rejuvenate (apparently the fact that I sometimes need a minute to myself makes me questionable).

    -I am trained in childhood guidance. I practice positive discipline & natural consequences, and I know A LOT of them. And I believe in the benefits of timeout (if used appropriately and done “correctly”). And telling my child NO! I try to frame it in the positive as much possible but sometimes NO just works better…
    -Sometimes, I DO get overwhelmed & frustrated w/my kids. I try not to and I try not to show it…But it does happen (sometimes I forget they are just being kids & truly believe they are in a conspiracy to drive me mad, more points lost…)
    I made my own baby food, and I buy as much organic/whole food as I can, but my kids have also gotten some processed food, an occasional candy bar, and even a Happy Meal or two.

    For all of these reasons I am considered a half ass, at best, AP parent. I don’t measure up. I guess the fact that I have loving, well adjusted, STRONGLY bonded, well behaved kids in spite of my AP failures is just dumb luck…

    I OK w/it though. If being an AP parent means that meeting some checklist of rules is more important then meeting my child’s individual needs or considering what is best for my while family, as a unit, AND that I am required to judge other Moms for the parenting choices they make…then I don’t wanna be a part of their stupid ‘ol club anyway… :-)

    GREAT topic! Great post! Once again I feel like you climbed into my head & wrote what I was thinking/have experienced.

  17. Cindy says:

    What I love about the API guidlines is that they are not specific. When it says to feed with love and respect, for example, all people might in act that out in a different way and are still meeting the guideline. For my family that meant for me to exclusively breastfeed my baby, but to another mom it might mean nursing and pumping, but I would never say she was no longer AP. I really never intended to give my parenting decisions a label of any sort. After the homebirth of my first baby, I found it easy and natural to follow my instincts and began looking for information that supported my feelings. That’s when I found that there was a whole world I never knew about.
    I was very disappointed when I started looking at online communities and found so much conflict between the moms who said they were “peaceful parents.”. I do think that a lot of moms set themselves up for criticism though by posting things online that you wouldn’t normally say face to face with a friend. That’s why I choose not to participate when I don’t have something positive to say.

  18. Mom of 3 says:

    I have to admit that this is the first time I’ve read your blog (follow you on facebook). Let me tell you, I love, love, love this post!! DH and I are AP/NFL as much as we can, but there are certain areas where we just can’t make that move. First is organic. Yes, we know organic is best and we try to give our babies organic when first starting solids to abou year one, but we just can’t afford to feed 5 people organic. We go all natural for the most part with the exception of the occasional (GASP!) box of Mac & Cheese. Another one (why I didn’t give my typical posting email or my real name for fear I am going to get flammed) is discipline. We believe in positive discipline to an extent, but there are some things that, in our opinion, just need to be disciplined physically. We’re not belt/rod people, just an open-handed swat on the leg, then lots of cuddles and talking through the issue. I’d much rather swat them once than try for a year or more to keep them from flipping the tv on top of their heads!

  19. Sheila Pai says:

    I am sure as the owner of the blog and this FB group you experience more of this negativity than I do, and for that I am both sorry and grateful.

    1. thank you for working to make this a safe space, and a respectful space. it is good and good learning for us all.

    2. as you may know from my own recent blogpost on humility and togetherness, these things are at the forefront of my mind currently. i am striving to have people actually feel what i intend when i speak and act — the space i want to create for them to come into the discussion.

    no matter how much effort i take to keep my opinions to myself about what other people do as parents and to find the right words to say what i believe and do, no matter how hard i try to be respectful, sometimes i get the feeling (or can tell) that simply by saying my own personal truth people the person i am talking to is hurt, offended, defensive or even angry. it feels as though my sharing is bad but their sharing is acceptable. the only difference i can see is in the greater social acceptance and knowledge about their parenting practices and beliefs versus mine.

    this leads to the next….

    3. now that i have been thinking about things for a while and you added your two cents to the mix, i am having some other thoughts. i am thinking about the way that even with a mix of AP and NLP and whatever feels right and good to us, that i have to fight the urge to shut down sometimes when someone shares about a tough hospital birth or shares their cry it out success story. i don’t feel immediately comfortable and welcomed to say that i had a phenomenal homebirth or that i am a little tired because we cosleep and my little one was nursing a lot or restless. maybe this lack of welcome is what others are feeling when i share my experience.

    i am now wondering if the real problem is that it is not ok to share…..for some reason. is that possible? why would that be? because it definitely seems true. there is not a generally accepted and expected way of sharing mother stories or parenting ideas in open and honest ways, both about the hard and the wonderful experiences we are having. it does seem the expectation is that there’s an answer and some of us are supposed to have it. which one of us is it? ….. obviously no one has it. that is the point.

    OR, last thing — is it the classic wondering if we are “good (enough)” mothers? and we can prove that if we somehow know something or did something “right?” i hope not, but seeing how own my mother’s good enough guilt continues to touch us both into the next stage of both of our lives i better dig deep on that one…..

    i don’t know, but it’s too dizzying. i just want some honest conversation so we can all learn from and grow with and support each other. i think at some point we are going to have to consider an intellectual debate/conversation as separate from a personal conversation, though. otherwise, it seems difficult and emotionally challenging to have both at the same time. perhaps parenting is just too personal to not consciously separate the philosophical discussion. is that even possible or desireable?


    can i add a link back to this on that post of mine i mentioned above? it’s so what i’m talking about. i may just link back twice. this is good stuff. i hope more people comment.

    in appreciation and gratitude and respect, as always…..

  20. Barbara says:

    Why must we judge ourselves so?

  21. Melinda says:

    Judging others happens when we lack confidence ourselves.

  22. Javana says:

    I liked the thought of attachment parenting but to be honest, the no time outs and no saying no, really turned me off. Super Nanny works – have you seen the show? And this comment, “If we cannot find unity within our own circles, we have no hope for spreading the love and positive change to the rest of the world.” I definitely don’t need another critical community to join – it reminded me far to much of the problem within christianity currently. Too much judgement not enough love. With that said I already to most of the other things and would like to learn other techniques to build a positive relationship with my newborn.

  23. Great topic! I am a mom and an LPC. My son is now 16 yo. I practiced AP, in that I breastfed, slinged, & bed-shared. I needed to wean him at abt 2 yo, I just didn’t want to do it anymore. I felt sooo guilty. You know, he cried one time. Once. And that was it. So, you know, I began studying the actual Bowlby studies and attachment, human development and then many years later, I am now an LPC in private practice. Well, lots of women come in feeling really guilty about not doing enough for their children. About weaning at 12 months, about needing some space in their beds. So, I have read up on tons & tons of valid & reliable material to be of objective service to these moms & their families. The literature objectively shows that being a good enough mother comes in many styles. So , I help women discover this so they can feel good about themselves & their family.
    I want to embrace all the moms out there who are good enough.

    • bringbirthhome says:

      @Kathy Morelli – Great comment. I really appreciate you sharing those thoughts. You’re so right, and I’m glad you’ve got some experience & have done the research that literally backs up the claim that being a “good enough mother comes in many styles.” Amen!

  24. melody says:

    I.LOVE.THIS. great thoughts and great writing as always kaitlin :)

  25. holly d says:

    I had my parenting dissected on diaperswappers. Someone started a poll about a discipline issue on my blog. I found it by accident after 70 posts had been made. Discipline is an area I struggle with and as a pregnant mama with a deployed husband, that whole debacle was very stressful.

  26. Katie Mulder says:

    I also appreciate this post! The only time I use the term attachment parenting is in a google search. I have always tried to steer clear from labels. I have always felt like labels make groups and groups can lead to clique-like communities which ostracize and judge others. (No, I don’t think this goes for all groups/communites) But I have definitely felt this many times since becoming a mother.

    I do what I do. I don’t call it anything. I love my baby so much I feel like if she could speak in sentences her first one would be “alright mom, enough kisses!” I steer towards natural choices, because it feels right to me. I sleep with her (when she will let me) because I love it. You get the point. I try never to do anything in the name of a group I’ve subscribed to. I live the way I do for my family.

    I so wish I could read comments,posts, articles, where mama did not proclaim herself as “AP-Mama here..” or “intactivist” or “feminist” I just want to read what they have to say and I am sure along the way, I will gather what they are all about. I don’t know, perhaps I am the only one who feels this way..but I say, enough with all the labels. Just BE. I understand that labels exist for a reason, but I think they should be used to help others gather knowledge, not as a badge to wear.

  27. Rikki Daniels says:

    I joined a meetup group in my local community that had “attachment parenting” listed as part of what they are about. I made it clear from the beginning that I refuse to label myself AP because I believe that every parent should do their research and make decisions based on what is best for them, not a set of rules given to them by someone else.

  28. Amie says:

    Sheila Pai had a great point about sharing at all. We homeschool and we’re the only homeschooling family at our church. Any time I mention homeschooling, even just in passing, parents become defensive. So many people who feel “attacked” are simply assuming that if they made a different decision, you are judging them.

    I have also struggled with not being AP enough. My inability to prove myself comes from things like not liking the same indie music as the other AP moms, not joining the right food coop, buying my raw milk from the wrong farmer, etc. Some of the moms are so picky that using fitted dipes instead of prefolds is unacceptable!

    The rules are ever-narrowing and it’s impossible to keep up.

  29. Allison says:

    Thanks for this, I am always feeling I am not “crunchy” enough for my crunchy friends. Lets remember, we have not joined a cult, we are simply brought together by similar parenting choices (yes, they are indeed choices!). You may agree with some things I do but it’s likely you will not agree with ALL of my choices, this is diversity of opinion and it makes life sweet. Respect your peers as you respect your children, they have their own minds too!

    ps. I love Dr. Sears because he is all about choices and options and not about subscribing to one “correct” way of doing things!

  30. Danielle says:

    Great post! I did a post about this on my blog a bit ago; after I was booted from a certain AP-esque group for saying maybe we should cool the judgment.

  31. Marie says:

    Clearly you are not at all sick of the “Mommy Wars” since you are willing to add fuel to the fire.

    • bringbirthhome says:

      @Marie – the point of the post was to drop the labels and accept each other. Read your comment and ask again, “Who is adding the fuel?” This is a post about love & acceptance. Sorry you didn’t see it that way.

  32. Sol says:

    I think we should drop the labels and support one another. I don’t see anything wrong with saying “I’m an AP mom” but I think it becomes an issue when you say “I’m an AP mom and you can’t be because blah blah blah.” What works for one family does not always work for another.

  33. Mary says:

    I love reading all of these comments! I am not.a mom (yet), but I find it so important to have compassion for moms and families alike. There is no form of parenting that fits for every mom or every family, and thank goodness! We are all our own beings in our own realities and recognizing this can be amazingly liberating. Having survived my own childhood I have come to the conclusion that every parent in the moment is doing the best that they can; if they could do better they would choose a different response. Recognizing this has also helped me to heal many of my own issues with my upbringing and I believe will serve me well in my future role as mother.

    I believe wholeheartedly in the principles of AP, but see them as guidelines to encourage compassionate and loving exchanges between you and your child.

    Thank you everyone for all of your comments and I hope that we can all be more compassionate and loving to others, but most importantly, to ourselves.

  34. MammaOfTwo says:

    I find labeling parenting styles sets us up for feelings of inadequacy. Or at least this is how I feel. I have had both my children naturally, midwife assisted and have also successfully breastfed both. However, I had to wean my son of three years old as I was begining to experience negative feelings toward breastfeeding and him, stemming from abuse I suffered as a child. Attachment Parenting doesnt seem to take into account the parenting styles/effects that our parents style had on us, or the effect mental health plays on those suffering from it.

    That being said, I co-sleep, wear my babies, breastfeed, keep them close to me as possible,dont believe in the “cry it out” method but I do vaccinate, I do get angry and frustrated at times, I do allow a candy now and then and I do find a stern voice can be helpful. I dont always buy organic food as its not always in the budget. I also suffer from depression, anxiety and OCD which I only discovered after having children, and I do find that plays a HUGE role in my ability to parent. I find now with my son being 3 that I have a lack of patience as well, and THAT doesnt fit the model of “attachment parenting”. But I am trying. So why label it then? We have to take what we need and leave the rest. I am not always a confident mother. I am often plagued with the fear that something I do may screw them up somehow. But I love my children, and that is the greatest gift we can give/feel. No matter what, my children will grow up in a healthy home with its share of ups and down and most importantly they will know how much we love them.

  35. Leslie says:

    This is my first time reading this blog and my first time hearing about all of the different labels for parenting.
    I am the mother of a wonderful almost six year old little lady and am pregnant with my second bundle of awesomeness. I have read the entire post and all of the comments (I really love listening to other mothers and learning different perspectives on issues we all deal with) and all I have to say is BRAVO!!
    From what I have read everyone here is doing what is best for them and their families, and that is all it takes to be a GREAT MOTHER!
    As a mother I don’t believe we get told enough or tell each other enough; you are beautiful and strong and are doing a wonderful job!
    So give yourself a hug or a pat on the back and raise your glass to yourself and every other mother in the world who is doing the best she can for her family!

  36. Kimberly says:

    I too have gotten tired of all the mommy wars. My biggest peeves with the online communities fall into two categories: The AP moms (who do all the things you listed above) and the non-AP moms (who do everything the exact opposite, but feel the need to defend themselves to the death for their choices)

    I try to stay away from the online communities, and just stick with my group of half-assed AP moms. I think that we have a very awesome balance of AP mom, without getting ridiculous. Great post!

  37. Christina S says:

    I loved your post! I joined an AP mom’s group in my area and while they were all very nice and non judgemental (from what I could tell) I still didn’t feel like I fit in. I consider myself an attached parent but there are different types within the AP community, as you mentioned.

    I try not to judge others for their choices of formula feeding, cry it out, keeping their kids strapped in a stroller all the time, and other things that go against what I do as a parent. But when my choices are critisized for spoiling then I feel the need to defend myself and my choices. I just wish that alternative styles of parenting were more widespread in all parenting communities. Nobody fits into a box.

  38. Joni says:

    I consider myself an “attached” parent but even I, who practices the 8 principles mostly, feel like this is yet another way we feel guilty for not doing it all. It’s counterproductive. Truly. I blogged about it last week. ( It’s a nasty downward spiral that makes other moms (and us) feel like they aren’t doing enough. There is no place for judgment in a world where we can walk in each others shoes. I avoid these “communities” because they aren’t communities at all, they are places where one mom ridicules another mom for her bad choices. It’s absurd.

  39. Chantal Kendrick says:

    When I was pregnant, I had heard of AP, didn’t do a whole lot of research, but understood the general idea. I was certain that I would parent this way. Then my baby was born, not the way I wanted (emergency c-section), my first day with her was NOT with her since she was in the NICU with meconium, and I was recovering from said c-section. I didn’t hold my baby until day 2. Although I am a pretty level-headed person, I was getting frantic and believed that I was ruining my babies life, and she had only breathed air for 2 days! After a reality creating conversation with my wonderful husband, I remembered that I am a good person, with a good head on my shoulders, and I am an instinctive woman, thus I was also able to be a good Mom just by following my instincts. I was going to co-sleep, but baby hated it, and ultimately, so did I. I also meet Moms whose kids have been attached to them, and their children cry a lot and seem scared. I have put my daughter in swings and play pens and she slept alone, but she is curious and confident (at 6 months). So, I finally realized that it’s up to each person to choose. The information about various styles of parenting is useful so that you can try, but in the end, there is no formula. And really…the children turn out OK. It is only with complete and utter abuse or neglect that I think we can say parenting has failed.

  40. Lisa says:

    I enjoyed reading the comments on this post just as much as the post itself. The comments show that there are many, many mothers out there who have felt the premise and practice of attachment styles resonate with their mother’s intuition. They also show that there are many mother’s who struggle, who feel inadequate, who feel judged, and who long for something better – a community of women who really support each other. These things humble me, encourage me, and fill me with hope.

    Reading posts and comments like the ones above, makes me believe that the “I am AP but you aren’t be” mamas are the vocal minority.

  41. Kara says:

    As a mother and a feminist, and a person who has studied oppression a good bit, I am always disappointed when we (yes me too) participate in wars of philosophy. This is really just another form of violence we do to ourselves and each other. It is a result of internalized oppression. The result of the oppression of women being ingrained so deep within our collective conscious that we participate in and perpetuate our own oppression. I think many of us in this community (AP) may consider ourselves progressive, feminist or whathaveyou, but easily fall into the trap of keeping other women down based on their parenting choices, informed or otherwise.

    Let’s stand together and support each other with love, encouragement and information, delivered in an empowering, safe, nonviolent way.

    Great post, thanks so much!

  42. Lauren says:

    “Circumcision is not attachment parenting. In fact, it goes against everything AP stands for. You cannot expect a child to feel nurtured when such bodily harm is inflicted. Even if you practice other attachment parenting habits, one of the first crucial bonds between mother and child has been broken.” <——what you put there is fact. Why lump it in with the "dark side of AP????"
    I am not a nasty person, and love many mommy friends I have who are not AP, or who are partly AP….but male genital mutilation is a black and white issue. Don't cut babies. Period. I'm frankly appalled by your tone…

  43. memomuse says:

    This was a godd article. Funny too. I consider myself AP but I joke that I am going to be an AP drop out. There is a lot of pressure, and we do put it upon ourselves for the most part. Where the heck does that come from? Moms need to unite because we all are in it together. It just makes it easier to judge someone else than judge ourself, but when we judge someone else we are judging ourselves…now I’m confused! I love this post. And those on-line communities are way too intense – some people are not only on their high horse, they are riding up on a ladder on their high horse. The higher the horse, I think the more they are thinking to themselves (inwardly) that they are sure f&*^ing things up. But the big secret is – we all are thinking that. There just seems to be so much shame saying it aloud!

  44. Jeremy says:

    Gotta chime in as an AP papa (unless some don’t think I’m hardcore enough)…

    I think you hit it on the head when you talked about not being judgmental of others’ parenting styles. My wife and I learn what we learn and follow our instincts. Everyone veers from the “path” a little here and there…But following your 8 (9…Vaccines are an important, but touchy subject!) points for AP are pretty right on.

    However, I do feel that babies are suffering out there. Lots of them (and therefore society is suffering). How can I not be a little judgmental of those who Ferberize their baby before 6 months (or at all). How can I not feel bad for babies who aren’t held, or spend more time in a stroller, seat or swing? How can I pretend that formula is anything other than Imitation Breast Milk, and that parents who say things like “Oh, breastfeeding just didn’t work out for us,” or “He just didn’t like it,” aren’t completely removed from every parenting instinct (unless they are formula feeding for medical reasons)? How can I not be judgmental when parents feed their kids processed garbage (that they think is healthy because it is fortified with some nutrients)?

    I think these (and many other) things play a huge role in the shaping of our society. Jane Liedloff talks about this in The Continuum Concept, and I think it’s pretty right on. The gist of what she says is that so many people are lost (and turn to drugs, gambling, destructive relationships, etc) because they are missing that absolute love and closeness of “in arms” mothering and parenting from early on.

    However…My wife and I believe, what is most important is that we are giving our child the absolute love and support for her to develop strong and healthy self-esteem…that and good health via the food she eats and the surroundings she is in. With those things, we believe, she will have the tools to live well and be her best, physically and mentally.

  45. Sandi says:

    Wow, I love this blog–just found you. I am very AP-ish (homebirthing, breastfeeding, babywearing, organic eating, cosleeping, etc.) but I just wanted to say, we are Israeli Jews and we circumcised our son. I was very conflicted about it, to be honest with you. It cannot be expressed in words how much I love my son. For example, he could not sleep more than a few minutes without being held the first 6 months of his life so he slept ON me and in my arms that entire time. Until he was over 20 pounds i did that. I never ever let him cry without an incredibly compelling reason, and nothing comes to mind. But yes, I circumcized him. Our reasons stemmed from having to weigh the pain of circumcision vs the pain of not being accepted as a Jew by our Jewish community and his country. We felt that choice was obvious. I was very relieved to say that he barely even cried and seemed great just after the circumcision. We tried to do it in as humane a way as we could, and I believe we succeeded. On a side not, my husband, who is circumcised and spent the first 2 months of his life in an incubator is so SO much healthier or a person emotionally than I am. while I certainly certainly believe in parenting with compassion and love and touch and responding sensitively and faithfully to cries, it does make one think about what makes for confident and secure individuals. Believe me, my husband tops that list, and he received no such parenting (though there was plenty of love, most of it was “tough love”).

    Truth is, I am very judgemental of other moms, though I try not to be. I feel so passionately about being home with my baby, and about never letting him cry, its very hard for me not to be judgemental toward other moms. I try, but I dont really succeed. I mostly just keep quiet. I know a lot of that stems from my fears of not being as excellent a mom as I want to be, even though I actually do feel I am a very loving mom to our sweet baby boy. He is just the light of my life, my day, everything. I hope that someday I can have the confidence I see so regularly demonstrated by my husband, someone I admire very much, and judge others less and accept myself and everyone for the best we can do. I am working towards that point, but hell, it sure is a long road :)

    lots of love to you moms, what a nice blog you have here :)

  46. Nicole says:

    I enjoyed reading your post. I agree with you completely. I didn’t know about AP until a few years ago and had already had a couple boys the main stream way. I was also parenting the main stream way because that was all I knew, but I didn’t feel right doing so and was searching for a better way. I was so excited to find a group in my area that practiced AP. My sister-in-law brought me to a meeting and I felt immediately judged. She talked me into staying in the group to learn what I wanted because that was why I was there. So I stayed for 2 years and learned ALOT! I went from my first child- crib only, timed feedings, cry it out, do what the doc wants and feel like a horrible falure of a mother to my last-birth plan, breastfeeding only, co-sleeping, and researching before I go to the doc to tell him what I want done with my child and feeling happy that I am doing what I feel is best with my child. But I still felt looked down apon by a few of the mothers (they told me they didnt like me or how I was chosing to parent) because I was transitioning from main stream discipline to positive parenting and I chose to add in a few middle steps and do positive discipline before positive parenting. Most of the other moms in the group were suportive or just kept to themselves. SOO I decided to reach out to main stream moms that want to change but don’t know how and help them learn some new parenting strategies with no judgement of their past actions. FYI- I feel that everyone has their own choices and opinions about parenting, so do what YOU feel is best for you and your baby/child.


  1. I’m a Better Parent Than You Are ………….Aren’t I? « alivingfamily - April 13, 2011

    [...] Birth Home wrote this post that provides an entertaining overview of Attachment Parenting (AP) and Natural Living and Parenting [...]

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