1. Liz says:

    November 18, 2010 at 7:26 am

    OMG- I just read the article, and it really pissed me off. I am probably only a pseudo-attachment parent, and it still pissed me off. To some extent, I get her point. Babies aren't accessories, and no one should fool themselves into thinking that if they bust their asses to make their babies/children feel secure that there will be no problems along the way or later in life. However, to suggest that it is a "cultural myth" that "nurturance matters deeply" is ludicrous. If you ask me, she's just justifying leaving her child for long periods of time. I bet her daughter would have been perfectly happy to have been taken along on her trips. Is it an assumption of Attachment Parenting that children never be left with other loving adults, such as granparents or aunts or uncles? Is it an assumption that attached parents never work? That's what she made it sound like. I'm also a little tired of hearing how motherhood brings women down. It is part of being a woman, if one chooses for it to be. That's how it is. No matter what systems we put in place, if a woman chooses to be a mother, it is going to be a responsibility and perhaps even an inconvenience at times. To me, Attachment Parenting is about accepting that responsibility and making your child a priority without making him or her feel like a burden.

  2. Martha says:

    November 18, 2010 at 7:34 am

    @ Liz, Go Girl! All so true. AP parents work, and leave their kids with grandparents, etc. I also agree that Jong's essay was dripping with guilt over the way she parented her own daughter. I'm also tired of hearing about how motherhood brings women down. Sure, if you believe that mothering is a burden, then okay. But if you believe that motherhood is just as righteous as working at a law firm, or being a school teacher, or whatever else you want to dedicate your life to, then nope, not a burden.

  3. Liz says:

    November 19, 2010 at 4:07 am

    Hi again. I just went to a blog that I frequently lurk (sounds so creepy) and was very surprised by what I found. The blog itself was in complete support of Jong's article as were ALL of the comments. Keep in mind, this is a blog I frequenlty read for the funny and insightful quips about parenting. As I read farther and farther down the thread, the comments became more and more about how not everyone can or wants to breastfeed. The more I read, the more it seemed as if Ms. Jong's article had been solely about a woman's right to choose whether or not to breastfeed. I have a couple of thoughts: First, the article was not about breastfeeding. To me, it was much more in opposition to all that is Attachment Parenting, including simply nurturing your child(ren). I'm pretty sure Ms. Jong states in the article that she herself breastfed.

    This leads me to my second thought: To many, breastfeeding is the badge of Attachment Parenting. If you don't earn the badge, you can't be a member of the club. Remember how I referred to myself as a "pseudo-attached" parent? I give myself that title mainly because I did not breastfeed. I coslept, I baby-wore (?), I bottle-nursed on demand and with nurturing closeness. However, I have always been reluctant to stake my claim on Attachment Parenting due to my choice not to breastfeed. In reading the blog comments, I could feel the resentment. These women all felt like they were out of the club. They were willing to back Jong's article 100%, regardless of much of the content probably being against their beliefs and practices, just so they could give the finger to "Attachment Parenting" in retaliation for their exclusion from the club.

    Please know that I am not bashing breastfeeding. It is the undoubtedly the optimal way to feed and nurture an infant. I would always encourage a new mother to breastfeed and will always have mixed feelings about my choice not to. However, I'm concerned that a large group of people are feeling turned off by a very valuable set of parenting practices and ideals based on one parenting choice, made very early in the process. Isn't Attachment Parenting supposed to be about a lifetime of parenting? Do we really want people giving up on AP if they made a different nursing choice? What are your thoughts?

    I have not yet commented on the blog in question. I needed time to think it out a little. I was so taken aback by the AP bashing that I was afraid I'd be too reactionary. Plus, I really felt like I needed to come back here first. Thank you, once again, for bringing making me think. 🙂

  4. Martha says:

    November 19, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    Hey Liz,

    What a thoughtful comment! I'm a bit curious about the other blog. This is all really good food for thought. I'm not sure where to start so I'll just start throwing out my thoughts.

    I believe that, historically, AP was extremely pro-breastfeeding, so much so, that some women were pretty militant about it. I think that some of the AP ideals stemmed from La Leche League ideals. I know that the two organizations are pretty intertwined, in social settings, not the actual organizations. Although, I know they do support each other in theory, I don't know if they are technically or legally enmeshed.

    A little personal history: my mother was a La Leche League leader in the 70s. I grew up hearing that side of it and I always knew that if I decided to parent that I would nurse.

    I think the slinging and co-sleeping came along as sort of younger siblings to nursing and since there were some safety issues with those, they were tread more lightly upon as being absolutely necessary. So, the breastfeeding stance was clung to with obsession. (I also co-slept and my mother wore me in a sling. However, I have other issues with the ways my siblings and I were disciplined and related to.)

    I agree that most people equate AP with breastfeeding. Not necessarily all moms who breastfeed are AP, but I think it's widely held that most AP moms do breastfeed. I am a part of a very active AP group here in Austin and I don't know any moms who bottle-fed by choice.

    I came to AP by way of knowing that I wanted to nurse, and I didn't want to spank. Those were the two ideals I had for parenting when I was pregnant. I happened upon this group purely by chance and I learned so much from going to meetings and reading a wide variety of books recommended by my new mama friends.

    That is my nature to research and go straight to the roots of anything I am implementing into my lifestyle.

    I don't think that is typical. Not saying that my way is better or worse. I just don't think it's typical. So many people, AP-ers included, often just stick to what their friends are doing, and those end up becoming the ideals. The ideals often become oversimplified and overblown in importance, which is what I think happened with breastfeeding and AP.

    However, I think parents who stick with AP for the long-term, DO their own research, and lots of reading, because each developmental stage requires a new set of "tools" to deal with the challenges. I do know many moms who have read just as many or more parenting books than I have. I think that much about AP parenting, like any parenting methodology is still pretty subjective, except for a few things. Nursing, not CIO-ing, and not spanking. There are other things that are widely agreed upon, but those, I think are the things that most AP-ers stand firmly upon. Baby-wearing is done, but nobody bats an eye if you don't do it. And co-sleeping is considered a personal choice. The main thing is being an aware night-time parent, and not letting babies cry it out or leaving them alone and scared in the dark.

    When I was new to AP, I watched a pretty nasty thread on our local listserv shred a new mom apart because she wanted to discuss CIO. (She had twins.) She left quickly.

    I felt badly for her, even though I didn't agree with her take. I thought that the other moms were pretty harsh, but AP is criticized so highly in the mainstream, that I think many feel they have staked their claim on certain points to draw the line.

    I don't really hang out with many moms who don't parent the way I do, so I think I am pretty cushioned from the views of AP out in the real world.

    To answer your questions though. I'd say that you ARE an AP mom. Nowadays API takes a less militant stance on breastfeeding and says, feed with love and respect. If you are feeding on demand and in a loving way, I don't think there's anything wrong with that.

    To be totally honest, I think that in the early days of mothering I'd have judged you (silently) for not nursing, but after 2.5 years of nursing and co-sleeping, I have stopped being so idealistic about my mothering.

    I was highly idealistic early on. At one point when Annika was around 6-7 months old Toyin started talking about supplementing and I about had a shit-fit. I was pretty hysterical over the idea.

    Overall, what I'm trying to say is that, I think new mothers have really high ideals. ALL new mothers, not just AP-ers. And I think that AP moms tend to take a really serious stance on breastfeeding. Most will tell you that they don't believe you must breastfeed to be AP, but in the same breath, they will say, that for themselves, breastfeeding is a must.

    Nowadays, I realize that the tender infant years are so important to instill trust, affection, and love in the relationship with your child. And the later years you must maintain it. That is what I've come to accept as being an "attached parent." Maintaining a loving connection with your child. I have pulled this out of all the literature, and the online and IRL discussions with other AP mamas and a couple of daddies. (We do actually have a couple of stay-at-home dads in our little AP world in Austin, and they obviously can't breastfeed. I'm pretty sure their wives pump during the day and nurse at night.)

    But however you choose to maintain a loving connection with your child, whether it be by nursing, or cuddling with a bottle is up to you. The theories behind AP are rooted in attachment theory, which I'm still learning about. But as far as I can tell, nowhere in attachment theory does it state that nursing is the, be all and end all, of a securely attached child.

    I do, however, believe that many NEW AP moms believe this, and many people are turned off by the highly idealistic, and energetic enthusiasm that new AP mamas put into their, sometimes, in-your-face nursing styles.

    It does bother me to think that there are a lot of moms out there who might never come to learn about the positive discipline methods, and the loving ways you can tend to tantrums, connect with your children in playful ways, etc. simply because they chose not to nurse.

    I'm in no way trying to say that I don't believe nursing isn't important. I'm glad I did it. And I'd do it again. But I know it's not for everyone and it certainly does not make anyone a better parent. There are many, many ways to promote physical bonding, and feed your infant other than nursing.

  5. Liz says:

    November 19, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    Thanks for the in-depth response. As soon as I finished reading the blog comments, I knew I had to come back here and get your thoughts. As I mentioned earlier, I too am concerned about a group of people missing out on all the positive aspects of AP parenting because they chose a different method of nursing their infants.

    Of course, it only makes sense that breastfeeding would be a very big part of AP parenting. After all, it is trying to promote attachment from the ground up. And it goes without saying that breastfeeding would be a natural first step toward attaching and bonding. But for me, it’s very much only a part of the process.

    I'm really such a mixed bag. Breastfeeding was going to be difficult for me (for a variety of reasons that I could probably have gone to great lengths to improve but not correct), so I chose to forego it in lieu of a less stressful situation. However, I hardly ever let anyone else feed Olivia. I understand attachment. Babies (and puppies LOL) usually bond most closely to the one that feeds them. For me, bottle nursing was never about the luxury of being able to hand her off to someone else to feed her. It was about avoiding tubes, syringes and hours of pumping. As it turns out, I had to go to great lengths to simulate the closeness of breastfeeding. I was up with her every two to three hours for months and months. Instead of being able to pull her in close and nurse her, I had to turn on a night light, mix a bottle and feed her while keeping her slightly upright – all while keep her close to my body and making eye contact. I loved every minute of that closeness. I truly did. But it was challenging.

    I digress. It just seems crazy to abandon all the other tenets of AP parenting based on breastfeeding or not breastfeeding. It was really weird to see all the blog comments touting the Erica Jong article. Again, I’m not saying she had no points at all. However, the blog commenters were hyper-focused on the breastfeeding issue. They were willing to validate and promote everything else she said, if they could glean from it that they were good mothers even if they didn’t breastfeed. I'm still pretty sure that the article was about Attachment Parenting not breastfeeding.


  6. Martha says:

    November 19, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    It sounds to me like you put a lot of thought into your feeding and early days of mothering. I'd say that is very much attachment parenting Liz. I say wear your AP badge loud and proud! 🙂

    I want to also say that when I said I would have silently judged you, I don't want you to think that it would have mean spirited like, "Oh, she's a horrible mother." I just mean, that back then I think I attached way more importance on the actual physical act of nursing, instead of realizing that what was more important was the physical closeness and nurturing touch.

    I think it takes a while to really understand the difference. I mean, when you nurse a newborn/infant, the hormones flow, the physical touch comes naturally, you can't help but pay attention to your baby. So, I think that nursing is important especially for new moms because they need to really feel the act of it. It promotes the bonding in a physiological sense for a new mother so her body can learn.

    Thanks for bringing this up Liz. It's been a while since I've given much thought to all of this. Lots of fodder.

  7. Liz says:

    November 20, 2010 at 3:26 am

    Thanks! I hear you about the "judgment". To be honest, I always wonder why a new mother has chosen not to nurse. Its a natural first step to bonding that I think should be utilized, if feasible. For the record, I went back to the blog and found comments that referred to other issues in the Jong article as well, not just the breastfeeding issue. Now I have to decide if I'm going to take the time to go back to the article and cut and paste a few quotes that I found particularly heinous and write my own comment. This has been fun!

  8. admin says:

    November 20, 2010 at 6:14 am

    This was fun Liz! Thanks for the interesting chat. I didn't say it, but yeah, I definitely think that Jong's article was more than about breastfeeding. I specifically remember her referencing her own experience breastfeeding her daughter.

  9. Dawn J. says:

    November 20, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    As caregiver to four little ones, my experience and understanding of what it is to be an Attached Parent/Caregiver is constantly evolving and growing. Beautifully written article, Martha, as well as thought-provoking and kind comments to one another from both Martha and LIz. Kudos.

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