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Beyond the boob, what’s attachment parenting?

TimeTime magazine certainly has our attention.

When the magazine hits stands next week it’ll be partially concealed. TV stations blurred it, radio talk hosts are weighing in, and thousands of comments are being posted online. All the fuss is about Time magazine’s cover of a mom breastfeeding a three-year-old boy.

For a feature story about “attachment parenting,” which is also called extreme parenting, the magazine photographed Adam Grumet with his mouth over the partly exposed breast of his mom, Jamie Lynn Grumet.

Time editors say the point of any magazine cover is to get the publics’ attention. Oh, it has.

“I think is awesome. I am so tired of people condemning moms who nurse pass one. I plan to nurse my baby for as long as she wants.”

“I don’t have a problem with the cover picture, it’s the ‘are you mom enough’ wording in the big headline that makes it offensive, as if you are not ‘mom enough’ if you don’t breastfeed your three year old or practice attachment parenting.”

“That is so weird. I breastfeed, and if I’m still doing it after a year (or 18mos tops) I will be pumping. If they are off a bottle, why would they still be on the boob? Put it in a cup. It’s just for the mom’s enjoyment at that point. I have a 3 year old and cannot imagine breastfeeding him. That’s absurd. In this society it is wrong.”

“How does her husband deal with this?”

Time2That’s a sample of the comments on a moms’ message board.

Most people are initially focusing on the shock value of the cover and making a judgment based on their own experiences – myself included. When KIRO’s afternoon talk host Don O’Neill asked me about the issue on the Ron and Don Show, I told him I thought it was odd to breastfeed a pre-schooler.

Looking beyond the cover, what is attachment parenting?

Attachment parenting isn’t new. People who are into this style of parenting tell me it’s a return to the instinctual behaviors of our ancestors.

The version of attachment parenting Time writes about comes from Dr. William Sears, a pediatrician and the author or co-author of more than 30 parenting book.

Some of the values associated with attachment parenting include natural childbirth or home birth, stay-at-home parenting, co-sleeping, breastfeeding well past the first year, homeschooling, anti-circumcision movement, natural medicine and support of organic foods.

Here are the eight principals of this kind of parenting style:

1. Prepare for pregnancy, birth, and parenting. Proponents of attachment parenting believe it is important to eliminate negative thoughts and feelings about pregnancy. Doing so, they say, readies a mom for the emotionally demanding work of being a parent.

2. Feed with love and respect. Breastfeeding is the ideal way to create a secure attachment. It also teaches infants that parents will listen to their cues and fulfill their needs.

Time33. Respond with sensitivity. With attachment parenting, parents consider all expressions of emotions, including repeated tantrums, as real efforts at communication. Those efforts are to be taken seriously and understood rather than punished or dismissed.

4. Use nurturing touch. Attachment parenting advises maximum skin-to-skin touching. Ways to achieve that include joint baths and “baby-wearing” which is carrying babies during the day in a sling.

5. Engage in nighttime parenting. With co-sleeping, an infant sleeps in the same room with parents so they can feed and emotionally soothe the child during the night. Some parents sleep in the same bed with babies. It’s thought that this creates an even more secure attachment.

6. Provide constant, loving care. Proponents of attachment parenting advise the nearly constant presence of a parent. That includes during walks, parents’ night out, and work. They advocate against childcare for more than 20 hours a week for babies younger than 30 months old.

7. Practice positive discipline. Parents are advised to distract, redirect, and guide even the youngest of babies, and to model positive behavior. Attachment parenting aims at understanding what a child’s negative behavior is communicating. Parents are encouraged to work out a solution together with a child, rather than spanking or simply imposing their will on children.

8. Strive for balance in personal and family life. Parents are encouraged to create a support network, live a healthy lifestyle, and prevent parenting burn-out.

The benefit? Dr. Sears and other supporters believe that a secure, trusting attachment to parents during childhood form the basis for secure relationships and independence as adults.


Photos courtesy Time magazine: Jamie Lynne Grumet of Los Angeles and her son, age 3; Dionna Ford of Kansas City, Mo., and her children, ages 4 years and 5 months; Jessica Cary of Brooklyn and her daughter, age 3. See more photos here

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