I’m trying not to get too worked up about yet another study telling us that if we’re not attachment parents, we are destroying our children. But you know how good I am at that.
I try to remain calm. However, the first sentence of this article uses the word “retard” in reference to children who are not raised in the attachment style. That leads me to believe that the author does in fact mean to provoke her readers.
The author goes on to say that “ill-advised practices…such as the use of infant formula, the isolation of infants in their own rooms or the belief that responding too quickly to a fussing baby will ‘spoil’ it…(are causing an) epidemic of anxiety and depression…rising rates of aggressive behavior and delinquency…and decreasing empathy, the backbone of compassionate, moral behavior, among college students.”
Whoa whoa whoa. Slow down now. I think there may be a few things – just a few other factors – that occur between infancy and adulthood that could cause anxiety and depression. Just a few?
And I refuse to believe that widespread practices of only a generation ago are such all-out catastrophes. My mother formula-fed me, let me cry it out, and put me in a – gasp – playpen when I was a baby! So I would be SAFE while she cooked my dinner! And good Lord, I survived all that trauma and abuse.
Am I depressed, angry, delinquent, and unempathetic? I like to think I’m pretty normal, a successful small business owner, happily married, doing my best to raise well-adjusted (non-attachment) children. I’m pretty sure that being put in a crib as a baby didn’t destroy my life.
And then there is the age-old argument presented as revelation: “This new research links certain early, nurturing parenting practices — the kind common in foraging hunter-gatherer societies — to specific, healthy emotional outcomes in adulthood.”
Hmm. I remember watching the movie “Babies” where the Mongolian baby was tied to the bed while the mom worked. While other people in the theater gasped in horror, I thought, that’s genius! (Maybe I’m wrong.)
I’m sure if you really looked at it, you could find just as many societies around the world where people don’t sleep with their babies. Or like us, a society that is torn in its beliefs with many different experts wringing their hands over it.
So, we’re not a foraging hunter-gatherer society. Those third-world moms (who I’m sure love being seen in that light) probably don’t have to get two kids to school and be in a 9:00 meeting looking awesome with a box of gluten-free muffins we picked up at the organic bakery on the way in because the new client has a wheat allergy (probably due to formula feeding).
Beyond the questionable parenting advice, what upsets me most about these studies is the implication that it’s all mom’s fault. If you didn’t co-sleep or nurse, your kid is done for. They’re depressed, anxious, and maladjusted, and it’s because you let them cry too much as a baby. Nicely done, mom!
What these studies fail to see is that it’s not co-sleeping and breastfeeding that teach empathy, good behavior, and general well-being. It’s what happens BEYOND infancy. Good and/or bad habits can be established during those early years, but it is parenting throughout childhood that sets a child’s path.
And guess what? We can do everything right (impossible) and still have a child who is depressed or anxious. Co-sleeping does not a perfect world make. It doesn’t affect biology or socioeconomic status or many other factors in a child’s life.
I understand that the people promoting these studies have good intentions. But from what I can gather, they are being presented by women who don’t even have children. If I started doling out advice about brain surgery, I think the patients might be taken aback.
When I was about to give birth for the first time a wise friend told me, “There are no blue ribbons. All we want is a healthy mom and baby out of this.” The same can be said for parenting. We’re all just doing the best we can.
If you’ve had success with co-sleeping and can string together more than 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep, then awesome. If it’s working and you’re happy, keep it up. But consider yourself lucky, because you are among about the 8% of people who’ve been able to make it work. (That’s not a research-driven statistic – it’s my anecdotal experience. Just to clarify.)
For the rest of you: there is hope. You can still be a good mom even if you can’t stand having a baby in your bed. Because here’s what it takes to raise children: Consistency. Boundaries. Lots of love. High expectations for good behavior. Consequences. Being able to say no. Having to be the bad guy no matter how hard it hurts. Being pushed to the limit emotionally and still give your child what they need from you in a loving way. Facing both demons and fingerprint-smudged walls on a daily basis. Being able to laugh through it all. A good night’s sleep. And not taking everything so damn seriously.