Saturday, September 8, 2012

My view on Attachment Parenting

My view on Attachment Parenting

As a young woman who grew up as the oldest in her family I was always interested in parenting philosophies. When I headed to my adult years I began to discuss different views with my parents, and more recently with my husband. A few years ago I started to hear more about the popular Attachment Parenting philosophy. At first I was intrigued but withheld judgment. I was waiting for research and results. In the meantime, I have read every article and blog post I could find on the subject - pro, con, and indifferent. I’ve also been closely watching the children of parents who subscribe (to varying degrees) to attachment parenting.

For the purposes of this article I am painting in broad brush strokes and summarizing attachment parenting with the popularized 3-B’s: Breastfeeding, Baby-wearing, and Bed-sharing. From the research I have done attachment parenting theory stems from psychologists’ research of primitive tribes, particularly mother-child interactions in Amazonian tribes.

As mentioned before, I’m the oldest of 7 children. I am not yet a parent, but expectantly wait the day when I am blessed with the privilege of motherhood. I am not unfamiliar with birth and bringing up babies. I grew up seeing my mother breastfeed, and carried my brothers and sisters around in front and back baby carriers.

I have decided that it is finally time for me to carefully pen my views on this topic. My concerns with the attachment parenting craze are three-fold.

Child Centered

The American culture we live in is extremely self-centered. As Christians, particularly Christian families, we are called to fight against selfishness and live a life of obedience to Jesus Christ. As parents we should be laying our lives down for our spouse, and be modeling a life of other-centeredness. Attachment parenting in practice is extremely self-centered and child-centered at its core. It places the parent-child relationship (particularly, mother-child) above all other relationships. Reflecting on the fact that the most important part of a traditional, healthy parent-child relationship is the parent-parent relationship, attachment parenting encourages misprioritization. One of the most horrifying results of attachment parenting’s co-sleeping or bed-sharing is what should be called “relationship replacement”. I know of one father who has been sleeping on the couch for the better part of 2 years because his toddler son will only sleep with the mother in their master bed. In that family’s dynamic the husband has been replaced by the son. They now have a daughter and the toddler son and baby daughter sleep in the big bed with Mom while Dad sleeps on the couch. Dad has been relegated to the role of guest on the couch in his own home. I can almost guarantee that this toddler son who already has little respect for his father will grow up to despise and hate his father for allowing this unhealthy relationship to develop. Yes, babies have needs. They get hungry, wet, and scared at night. That doesn’t mean they have to sleep with us. Good parents are one cry away from their babies.

A child-centered philosophy of parenting is also selfish for each parent because the parent’s value as a person is mixed up in their child’s need for them. This is particularly important for women to recognize. As a woman I believe I can challenge other women in this area. Our value and priorities must be in this order: my God and how He sees me as a woman and His daughter, my husband and his view of me as his helper, partner, lover, and sister in Christ, and then my child and his view of me as his parent. If I get those out of order then I am mis-portraying my own values system to my child. Children are so smart that they will easily pick up on these inconsistencies in our worldview and practice. As they say, the proof is in the pudding. One of the most heartbreaking observations among parents who have homeschooled their children is the rampant divorces that are taking place. As their younger children grow up the parents realize their marriage has fallen apart. These parents have incorrectly prioritized their children over their spouse. I think this mistake is easy to make and know that when I become a parent I must hold myself to a high standard.

Missing Long Term Vision

My second concern flows straight from the first one, particularly this: attachment parenting lends itself to a short-term vision for your children and your family. One of my parents’ sayings during our childhood was: “We are not raising children. We are raising future adults.” I didn’t realize the profundity of that philosophy until I had made it to adulthood. My transition from child to teenager to adult was very smooth and I credit that to my parents’ challenging us to grow and mature. My parents worked hard to make sure that we realized we were not the center of the universe, not even their universe. We were loved and cherished, and never for a moment questioned or wondered about their love for us. However, we fit into their lives, not the other way around. I fear that the short-term concern of parents who follow attachment theories for their baby’s or toddler’s needs encourages only raising children, not adults.

Let me expand this thought further with one example. While I am a huge proponent of breastfeeding, I am not a believer in extended breastfeeding or that children should determine when they want to wean. Breastfeeding is a good thing. It is the way God designed babies to be fed, and science has proven that it makes for healthier, happier and more wholesome children. However, in what other case is it acceptable to allow children to make the decisions for their life? Never, unless we want to raise disobedient, selfish, and unhealthy children. I don’t think any parent would want to start their child on that path.

The family is the child’s first government. Children, even babies, must know that their parents are their authority and that their job as little ones is to listen, learn, and obey. When my Mother realized that her little one was not as interested in eating or could handle solid foods well, that’s when she weaned us. It was a different age for each of us. She realized that breastfeeding was not about her being needed by her child. Her job as a parent was to grow her children up, not plateau them at any stage. Attachment parenting in practice makes the parent’s concern to be what the baby needs or wants now, not what they need for the future, which is a short-sighted perspective.


My final concern also stems from my parents’ influence on my life. They taught me to always dig for the motivation behind any movement. If you know me, you know I’ve dug for why my generation isn’t getting married, among other things.

I keep asking myself, “Why?” “Why are so many of my fellow homeschool graduate Moms enamored with this theory?” Perhaps I’m most concerned about this because it’s ambiguous, and it could be a different reason for each person. I will always defend each couple’s right to raise their children the way they think is best, so long as it does not counter the Word of God. I still think that it is important for us to ask ourselves why we might be attracted to this theory, or what our personal motivation is.

Are you attracted to this theory because it is the newest idea out there? Or, because your friends are doing it? Or, is it because you are craving to do something different that your parents? As young married couples with families we must guard against reacting to our parents’ little mistakes in a big way.

We should certainly learn from our parents, but we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. I can’t answer why you, my reader, is interested in attachment parenting theory. Regardless of your reason I would challenge you to think about your motivations, be thoughtful in reading both sides, and count the cost.

One final encouragement

As we raise Godly families let’s remember that theories, plans, and ideas should never be our hope. We must only hope in the Lord, and follow the principles He has given us in His Word. Let’s turn to those principles, stay in constant prayer, and model Godly lives as we raise the next generation.


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  2. I am the mother of 10 and my major for my 4 yr degree was Psychology so I've studied may theories, their origins and the believed outcome.

    As a Christian, I am most interested in what the Lord is calling me to do as a parent. I recognize that each of my children will likely be called to a different role in the body of Christ & each is very unique in their interest, skills and personalities....all of these, I believe have been formed by an Almighty God for His unique purposes for each of my children.

    So having established my education and personal beliefs, let me say that I use the method that works for each child...that is each child has their own method(s), which is greatly dictated by what the Lord leads me to as working best for that child. Children have so many differences and need different experiences to mold them for God's use. To make a decision to follow a single philosophy in parenting is to close your heart (& a spouses heart) to God's voice as He calls you to be the parent He needs for His child.

  3. I think that there are varying degrees of attachment parenting that you are speaking of. I do get your concerns and I think that they are very valid. However, being the parent of 3 children I have found that to some degree attachment parenting was the right thing for us. Our first daughter did not sleep well unless she was in bed with us. We found that out quite by accident since I was so tired of getting up in the middle of the night that she fell asleep nursing and so did I. It was detrimental to my health that I get sleep and also detrimental to my marriage. My husband and I didn't mind having her in bed with us and we had no problems weaning her from our bed. We found time to be "together" without sacrificing our relationship. My daughter is a great sleeper now so any myths that we heard about creating sleep problems are unfounded.

    My second child wanted nothing to do with us at night. She is still a champion sleeper too. But both daughters nursed until they weaned naturally. (it was pretty early-like 9 months or so)

    My son was my final child. He nursed until 18 months. He never took a pacifier or a bottle. He slept best with us. Neither my husband nor I wanted to be up in the middle of the night listening to a baby cry or rocking them back to sleep.

    I think what makes sense to me most about attachment parenting is that God has wired women to respond to the cries of their infants. We have an actual physical reaction-if we are nursing....well, we leak. There is a good reason why God hardwired that into us. The cry-it-out method is relatively new and is born of self proclaimed "experts." I have a feeling that women in Bible times wore their babies, slept with their babies and nursed their babies until they were toddlers. Cribs were unheard of until this century. The reason we do not do this today is because we are rushed, career oriented, and it just doesn't seem "normal" anymore.

    I guess the thought that I am trying to convey here is that when the time comes you choose what is right for your child. But know that you can take some wisdom from the attachment parents even if you do not fully agree with them.

  4. Very well written, Elysse. I've had some of the same concerns about AP, especially since there aren't that many grown-up children that are products of AP. At least I haven't met any yet.
    Thank you for this well-written (and non-emotional) article.

  5. I know this is an older post, but just followed your link here. I think that the idea AP is coming back around is more because it is what was done and is still done in many countries around the world.

    I used to stare at the foreign women that lived in the city, where I lived, trying to figure out how they kept that young child on their backs. I worked hard, outside on a piece of land, and had no place to set my baby down that was safe and longed for a way to safely wear him, just to keep him safe.

    Baby wearing has been around since bible times. So has bed sharing. If you go to any historical forts and look at their sleeping arrangements, you will find that most pioneers and in history people were not as finicky about room and bed sharing as we are as spoiled Americans that believe we "need" our privacy. It didn't effect their marriage relationships too much. I think they had to use their imaginations a bit more. I have been in old cabins where there was one bed, very large bed above the oven for the whole family. Sometimes that included the grandparents as well.

    This is not a fad. Much of it is going back to the roots of society.

    However, I believe that above all, you need to make sure to check your heart in all things. But just because you have a wrong heart attitude about something, doesn't make it something wrong to do.

    I remember a mother telling me that she felt sewing had become an idol for her, so she was going to stop doing it. At that time, their family had no money, she had boxes of fabric and her children were wearing very worn out clothes. She chose to let them wear the worn clothing because she felt she had to give up her idol of sewing. I struggled with being obsessed with cooking. I remember thinking about it when my friend gave up sewing that perhaps I should step back from cooking. I immediately checked myself! I needed to change my heart attitude, not what I was doing.

    The same with attachment parenting...which was named by modern society. If your heart is not right about it, change it. But it doesn't make the actions of it wrong.