1. Dawn J. says:

    December 9, 2010 at 4:24 am

    There are three women who I am close to who either don't breastfeed at all, or who do a combination of breastfeeding and formula. Without exception, each tried to breastfeed exclusively and was unable to, for three separate reasons. Each mother knows with all her heart the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding and tried with everything she had. Each of these three mothers parent with Attachment Parenting principles – they co-sleep, they baby wear, they feed with respect, but more importantly, their utmost focus is on their children, they're involved, they nurture, they teach. They are beautiful and kind mothers who were just unable to breastfeed. And sadly – EACH of these mothers has told me she is embarrassed to go to AP functions. One actually expressed that she'd be mortified to pull out a bottle at one of the AP playgroups/meetings for the judgment she knows she'd be silently receiving. What a shame they've missed out on this community. Thanks for opening this much-needed topic of discussion.

  2. Liz says:

    December 9, 2010 at 8:35 am

    Wow. Thanks for this post, Martha. You know I agree with everything you said. Initially, I came to find about AP parenting because we chose to co-sleep and babywear. Olivia really seemed to need this closeness in order to relax and rest. I really wanted to respond to her in ways that helped her feel attached and secure. Of course, there is a lot of controversy re: co-sleeping, so I sought out support and found AP. As I read through the website and blogs, I was sure this was how I wanted to parent. However, as you know, I was unable to breastfeed. In reading through the AP material, it seemed obvious to me that if you didn't breastfeed you couldn't really call yourself AP. It really saddened me. Personally, I think the emphasis should be on the importance of closeness and nurturance during feeding. Of course, it goes without saying that the number one way of insuring closeness and nurturance during feeding is breastfeeding. And I'm not overlooking the nutritional value of breastmilk. However, I think nurturance during feeding also contributes to the immune system. I can't tell you how many times our pediatrician beamed about Olivia's growth and health and said "you breastfeed, right?" I really think it was our lifestyle in general that kept her so healthy. When I told him I wasn't going to breastfeed, he was very supportive and emphasized the importance of skin to skin and eye contact. I don't think anyone should feed formula just so they can prop bottles and pass off feedings on a regular basis. Nature intended close contact during feeding, and I think it is a very important part of the initial bonding process. Olivia was so attached to the feeding process that she kept herself on an almost completely liquid diet for well over a year. She didn't take much of an interest in solids til she was nearly two. She just wanted to be held and bottle nursed. And I'm not gonna lie – as an older baby, Olivia used her bottle as a pacifier. During the later part of her second year, she was always carrying a bottle filled with water. I tried to take an AP approach to weaning her. And believe me, I faced a lot of criticism (mostly silent) for taking such a soft approach to sleeping and feeding. And I've often had to defend my decision to practice AP parenting, without any real support or connection to the AP community. In any case, I completely agree with you. AP parenting is a lifelong approach that shouldn't be so closely tied to breastfeeding that those who feed formula can't feel like a part of such a valuable support system. Thanks for the post.

  3. Martha says:

    December 10, 2010 at 8:31 am

    Thanks for the stories Dawn. I hope that your friends would reconsider. But I know that their fears are not unfounded.

    Liz, I hope that you can tell, this post was also inspired by you. It sucks that you have to parent this way without any community support. I wish it were different. Maybe it will take people like you just joining up and talking about your decision to make people understand that it isn't all about breastfeeding. Thank you again for your thoughtful words and insights. 🙂

    • Liz says:

      December 10, 2010 at 11:00 am

      I think I would feel much more comfortable in an AP setting now that Olivia is nearly three years old. Breastfeeding isn't really an issue for us at this point. It's much easier to feel confident when I have her as living proof that bottle nursing can be an adequate substitute for breastfeeding during the early attachment process. I'm always happy to share my thoughts that feeding time for an infant should be an intimate, loving experience, regardless of whether one breast or bottle feeds. Thanks so much for taking the time to shed some light on this issue.

  4. jimomma says:

    December 13, 2010 at 12:54 am

    I just wanted to add that I belonged to an online community for several years for AP & in that group we were about half & half for breast & bottle feeding. IRL there are very low breastfeeding rates in my area, so I am usually the odd one out when in mommy groups. I think if you feel you are AP & you follow the basic ideals, then you should never feel on the outside & if you feel you are receiving silent judgment, then be careful it isn't your own voice you are hearing rather than what the other moms are sending out. I had to work from the time my first was 6 weeks. I had a mom say to me "I don't know how you can be AP & work full time, that seems so contradictory to what AP is all about" – and I just took a deep breath & said I could understand how she might see it that way because she doesn't get to see what our days are like & how I structure them in order t best meet his needs. Then I said, "I am really glad that you don't have to figure out how to be AP with your baby & work full time, I wish I didn't have to either because it is really hard to balance." AP isn't about the things you can't do or the things you can't control, it is about what you CAN do and the things you CAN control & what you do with THOSE choices/decisions. I know my presence helped other moms to understand the "working mom" side of AP & your presence can help moms understand how you feed with love & respect regardless of what you are feeding & what it comes out of. It can be hard when we don't like something ourselves (in your case bottle feeding, in my case working) to understand that we CAN quit beating ourselves up about it & when we do, we don't have to take what others say or think about us to heart any more…and often they probably aren't saying or thinking anything about us that is any worse than the thoughts we have already had about ourselves (since we each seem to be superb at beating ourselves up the worst).

    If you are looking for an online community that I KNOW doesn't care if your baby is formula fed I could point you in a couple of directions. Frankly – other than this blog post I never knew AP groups made a huge deal out of it if you couldn't nurse.

    • Martha says:

      December 13, 2010 at 3:03 am

      Thanks for your perspective jimomma! It is nice to know that there are varying beliefs and different types of AP groups out there. My daughter was not bottlefed. She is 2.5 and still nursing. And my local AP group is fiercely pro-breastfeeding.

      What prompted much of this post was the comments from Liz, (see her comments above) and my noticing for a long time now just how much attention AP people (whom I knew) seemed to think that breastfeeding was really the only option.

      You are right though, about the judgment factor. It is definitely a good reminder to try and remember whose voice you are hearing when you think other might be judging you.

      It's ironic that you were chided for being a working mom. Here in our community, while there are definitely a lot of stay at home moms, we also have plenty of working moms and nobody seems to think it's a big deal. Although, I have heard women say that they wish they could be AP, but can't since they work.

      I agree with you that AP can work, if you just make it work. Control what you CAN control and make sure you treat your child with love and respect while doing it. That is so so very important.

      Thanks for reading!

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