I come from an extended family of red-meat-eating hunters & I am a vegetarian. As soon as I became a person independent of my parents, I started making choices that I believed in. I wouldn’t buy new– only thrift store clothes. I boycotted Nike for their use of child labor & at 15, I once refused to set foot in a steak house while on vacation with my family. I became vegan after a number of years as a vegetarian & learned about organic & local foods, & all of this led to an interest in human rights in general. This is a way of life to me because it seems that the world is in need of guidance & every choice we make has to count.
The most gigantic responsibility I have, the most important choices that I make are as a parent & there has been little more significant in my life than learning the philosophy of Attachment Parenting. What a blessing it has been, especially as a single mother. I have learned through my own experiences this far that this style of child-raising is particularly valuable in single-parent situations. I have a compassionate soul, so I likely would have figured some of these standards out on my own, but having a doctrine to illuminate the various choices available has affected my existance in a way so profound that it comes second only to actually becoming a mother.
Some readers may not know that Attachment Parenting is more than a crunchy, whimsical, loving parenting philosophy, but actually has its roots in scientific data. The Attachment Connection, by Ruth P. Newton PhD., is an important book that illustrates experiences that medical professionals had with children who were hospitalized during the 1950s. These studies describe sick kids whose parents weren’t allowed to room-in with them during their illness. (Oh boy, here come the tears.) For whatever reason, doctors thought that children would heal faster if their parents weren’t present. The children would cry out for their mothers & would receive no attention in return. The children would show signs of emotional despair & still receive no warmth. These children would then detach, similar to what we see when children are subjected to the “cry-it-out” method. This book details various other similar situations that have been studied by professionals & shines a light on many other dangers inherent in not responding to a child properly.
Human babies are born in a totally dependent state, unlike many other animals. Some animals can walk mere moments after exiting the womb. Human babies usually have a full year before they are able to conquer such a feat; our babies can’t even hold their heads up. They need us. They need to be securely attached to us, emotionally & physically. Humans are programmed to be disturbed by the sound of a baby crying. This disturbance is supposed to spring us to action, alert us to an unmet need, help us keep our children alive. In centuries past (& in some cultures today), humans would carry their babies on their backs until they were able to crawl & walk, nurse them as needed, & sleep nearby. Yet somewhere along the way we lost this path & parenting became significantly detached.
I theorize it has to do with my least favorite era: the 1950s. Before this time, economic stagnation due to the Great Depression & World War II kept life in the U.S. fairly simple. Parenting skills were handed down from generation to generation. Breastfeeding was normal & food was whole. The average house wasn’t large enough to stash a baby in a room to make him cry himself to sleep. But an era of abundance dawned & parenting changed. Mass production was introduced. Many U.S. citizens found themselves with cars, TVs, & frozen dinners. Consumerism became the American way, with an emphasis on purchasing things for the family rather than giving the gift of a present parent. Formula became the prefered infant-feeding method, as it was supposedly ”scientific” & “sterile.” The suburbs were formed & houses got bigger, allowing for children to have their own rooms & for the male-dominated medical community to insist that independence in a child was a necessity early on in life. It is a distinctly American concept that independence must be forced on children well before they are ready. There was also a population explosion in the 1950s that led to a blossoming market for parenting advice. It seems instinct was thrown out the window & strict disciplines took root.
It is because of such a period of detachment that we have parents & medical professionals who baselessly claim that leaving a baby to cry is effective & good for them, or that circumcision or spanking are not damaging. It is because of this era & the consumerism that followed in the decades to come that we have parents who prop their infant up with a few contraptions rather than hold them regularly. We can thank the 1950s & subsequent years for the abundance of commercialized formula & packaged food products. Mothers no longer had to take advice from their mothers & their mothers’ mothers.
Many of these notions & theories are still around today, & children need vocal proponents of Attachment Parenting to combat the falsehoods & the emotional dangers. I remember reading one mother’s blog where she tried to make light of being a “detachment parent.” The general attitude was “Yeah, I let my baby cry by himself, I don’t breastfeed, I’ll spank him, & I don’t hold him often, but hey– I still love him!” I don’t doubt that this mother loves her child, but I, for one, can’t so casually laugh off parenting choices. The truth is that in 2010, we now know that a baby who is left to cry by himself, is not breastfed, is physically disciplined & is not shown affection often has a greater risk of growing into an adult with serious physical health issues ranging from diabetes to obesity & various forms of cancer, as well as mental & emotional problems with attachment disorders, insecurity, criminal behavior & anger issues.
This is no way to create the next generation; we don’t need any more broken people. Our world is full of violence & suffering & we need to fix it. It’s not about simply criticizing others’ parenting choices (I promise!). It’s about reading, researching & getting this information out to the general public. It’s about taking a firm stance on how we create the next generation of humans & what emotional state they will be in. It’s about practicing the “Bs of Attachment Parenting:” Birth bonding, breastfeeding, babywearing, bedding close to baby, belief in baby’s cry, being wary of baby trainers, balance, & before cutting off genitalia– research! I co-slept with my son for 16 months but the simple truth, much to my dismay, is that he likes his own bed & we both sleep better with some space between us; these principles are amendable to unique situations. If a woman can’t breastfeed, she can choose to commit herself to providing excellent whole, organic nutrition to her child. A woman who has a cesarean birth, who might miss out on the first moments of birth bonding, can embrace babywearing & co-sleeping. The point is to stay connected with your child, be present, & not prescribe to outdated information. Many of us can’t blindly trust the previous generation’s version of parenting, or even present-day doctors’, so we must look at the data ourselves. An attached child is a secure, happy child who has a better chance of growing into a confident, non-violent, productive member of society. Attachment Parenting is the bandage on the gaping wound that is so present in our world today.
How are you celebrating Attachment Parenting month, Dear Reader? What AP principles do you espouse? How do you spread the word & advocate for children? For more information on Attachment Parenting, visit: http://apmonth.attachmentparenting.org/
About Kristen Tea
I am a 27-year-old single, attached, informed, lactivist, intactivist, peaceful Minnesotan mother of almost 4-year-old Sun Ronin a.k.a Sunny Boy. I am an artist & lover of expression. I'm also a student with many things to learn, including nutritional therapy, lactation consulting, doulahood, yoga instructing, & more. I believe that unplanned pregnancies do not have to equal uninformed motherhood, & women have the power to restore humanity to everything we touch.