What’s going to happen to attachment parents when their children grow up?

Mature mother asks for forgiveness from daughter

Attachment parenting has evolved from a parenting philosophy to a parenting identity.

What do I mean by that? I mean that the specific parenting choices associated with attachment parenting — natural childbirth, extended breastfeeding, babywearing — have become the greater part of the identity of many women. Consider Allison of The Alpha Parent, Tracy of Evolutionary Parenting, January of Birth Without Fear and other women who blog incessantly about why their parenting choices are better than yours. They have constructed their identity not simply around their children, but around the specific choices they have made in raising their small children to school age.

When your identity revolves around parenting choices for babies and small children, what happens when those children grow up, and, inevitably, away from their mothers? In other words, what happens to an attachment mother when her children no longer want to be attached? I worry about those mothers and, even more, I worry about those children.

Of course, attachment mothers can stave off the day when their children no longer want to be attached by having more children, and by homeschooling the ones they have, but eventually even that has to end. What then?

The central task of parenting, and one of the most difficult aspects of it, is to teach children to be independent adults. That means gradually withdrawing to the background and letting your child negotiate daily life with friends, teachers, and coaches. It means letting your child solve his or her own problems, even if you think you could do it better and more expeditiously. It means letting your child accept the consequences of his or her actions, even if you could erase those consequences through your intervention. It means letting your child face emotional hurt and disappointment, even when it is incredibly painful for you as a parent to do so.

How are attachment mothers going to handle these transitions when they have convinced themselves that letting a baby cry herself to sleep will cause brain damage, or that a family bed is an appropriate place to welcome a child on a nightly basis. Will they let their children grow up? Will they let them become independent? Will they let them “detach?” And if they do, what becomes of these women who have defined themselves by their parenting choices? Will they have any identity at all when their children become independent or will they resent that independence and attempt to stifle it?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. We’re living in the midst of it right now, and most attachment mothers are years away from these milestones. We know that in the past many women experienced sadness and depression around the “empty nest” because their primary identity was “mother,” and although they are still mothers, there is no one present to actively mother. I suspect it is going to be much worse for attachment mothers, not because they have chosen attachment parenting as a way to raise children, but because they have chosen attachment parenting as a way to define themselves.

Who is an attachment mother when her children have “detached”? Can she let them detach? Or will we have raised a generation of children incapable of independent existence because their mothers are incapable of defining themselves except with reference to their children?

  • Anna T

    I, too, have read the same thing as Rachel: that the researchers who observed Attachment Parenting in primitive cultures, also observed that the children in those cultures became independent much earlier than is common in the West (no clingy preschoolers!). The theory was that a baby/toddler who is raised through AP, has more confidence to “detach” and become independent later on.

    However, the idea of permanently “attaching” a child is wrong on so many levels. I doubt many parents are doing this consciously, but… (perhaps this is slightly OT) I have this friend who has had 7 children and feels it is enough, but her husband is yearning for a son. So what does she do? Instead of working this issue out with her husband, she is desperately trying to “stretch” her lactational amenorrhea by breastfeeding non-stop the youngest daughter, now almost 1.5 years old. I’ve seen her literally FORCE a breast on the child, who obviously doesn’t want or need to be breastfed at the same rate as a newborn. The girl sleeps in the same bed with her and is attached to her like a limb, and what’s worse, the mother herself is incredibly frustrated because she can’t leave her with anyone else. I’ve seen her snap and even yell at the toddler. This is just WRONG… not because she still breastfeeds (I’ve breastfed toddlers, too), but because of WHY and how she does it. This isn’t now about the child, it’s about HER. I honestly believe she is inflicting psychological damage.

    It’s very easy to get lost in our identity as mothers… after all, once you have a child, being a mother is such a big part of who you are. But it is important not to forget those things that had made you a person *before* you were a wife and mother.

  • Rachel

    I realize this is an older article, but I disagree with the author. I found myself fitting into the attachment parent category, even though I didn’t really understand what it was at the time. And now my 3 & 5 year old boys are very independent little men. I read that the theory behind attachment parenting was to build up children’s confidence & create independence not to build fear into the parents who raise them for what will happen one day when they leave the nest.

  • Guest

    I’m not sure whether I’m an Attachment Parent, but whatever I’m doing I hope to end up with what my in-laws have – caring children and grandchildren who still visit (unlike my side, where my brother and his family have moved to a different country and the grand kids don’t like their grandparents).

  • K&R’s peaceful mother

    I’ve been labeled a ‘attachment-parent’ for my rearing habits, and as far as I understand my kids are just going to be sensitive healthy independent individuals who are outside the mainstream. They already show their love for the world through how they treat animals, and their aversion to violence and gore. They’re so inquisitive in nature and they always want to explore. Probably they’re become spiritual, but very carefree, spiritual and blissful. That’s how we raised them 🙂

    • KarenJJ

      Come back to us in 20 years and then tell us what a great job you’re doing raising them then. You’ll have some evidence then besides your own hopes and ambitions and ego.

    • mindlessthinker

      They show an aversion to violence and gore? How do you know this? Every living thing on Earth has to understand violence. It’s how every creature has lived, survived, and thrived for millenia. You’re setting them up for emotional breakdowns whenever they finally are exposed to it in a heavy way because they won’t know how to process it.

  • kumquatwriter

    I think a lot of people are defending themselves because a label they also claim is being questioned. Similar to Christians defending their faith when someone is pointing out issues with *some* Christians. To take this simile a bit further, this post is about Westboro Baptists, not all Christians.

    I hope that makes sense.

    • Carolina

      I think it does – I just wish we could give a better term for the lunatic bloggers she mentions. AP and helicoptering weren’t the same things for me.
      I did a lot of things that were AP and loved it. I breastfed for a long time because I liked the bonding, it was really convenient for me, and my daughter wanted it too (I cut her off at three and she negotiated for resumption of nursing for two weeks in complete, complex sentences). I didn’t bedshare when she was an infant, but she was in my room because it made it easier. Now that she can walk out of her room and into our bed, I’m fine with it – whatever let’s everyone get enough sleep. I made much of her baby food, because I like to cook and it was fun for me. I tried to respond to her needs as an infant, and she’s an amazing, fearless, self-sufficient little pre-schooler now. She’s super-independent, but still loves to cuddle. Whether it’s nature or nuture, it’s all working nicely for us.
      My mother also did a lot of these things (plus cloth diapers) while working full-time. There just wasn’t a cute name for it 35 years ago.
      Of course, I work full-time, use babsitters, and had a c-section, so I’m probably not sufficiently in the cult. I just wish people could discuss parenting options without making it into a religion.

  • I hate posts about parenting on this website. It makes it very easy to discredit the information about midwives, and its painful for me to read. There is actual research available about parenting choices and their outcomes, but generally people are doing what they think is best for their family.

    the worst part about being a mom is that you get to feel guilty no matter what you do. Someone is always trying to tell you that its wrong or stupid or will screw your kids up. This kind of post is no exception.

    • Busbus

      I am sorry you feel that way. I actually like these discussions, too, because I feel that there aren’t many spaces where you can discuss these kinds of thoughts around parenting. I also find that this blog doesn’t critique any particular parenting choice as much as it critiques putting your own parenting choices on a pedestal and claiming that they are “the best” – not just for you, but for everyone.

      I agree that there is a problem with guilt-tripping and shaming mothers in our society. Sometimes, it seems that every decision a mother makes is up for discussion (and critique) by others. I think part of this obsession stems from the idea that every. little. thing. a mother does matters so. so. much and that you will screw up your kids royally if you make a single wrong step. (A lot of AP proponents make these kinds of arguments – eg, brain damage from a little bit of crying.) And everything that a child does or that happens to a child is frequently blamed on the mother (even diabetes, if you listen to BF advocacy ads!).

      This type of mother-blaming is a real problem in our society, and it is especially vicious given that many mothers face so many real problems (poverty, bad housing, bad schools, no paid maternity leave, no subsidized child care, etc.) and have little support while raising their kids. These societal problems, and the myriad ways that society fails mothers, fathers and children (especially those who are not comfortably middle class) is usually not even mentioned by those who, implicitly or explicitly, blame mothers or hold them responsible for all that ails our modern life.

      When it comes to parenting, the main thing I take away from this blog is that it *doesn’t* matter all that much if you BF, formula feed, co-sleep, sleep train, etc. etc. – that these are really minor details, and that real science can find few, if any, differences in outcome from these choices. Therefore, if you live in a family where your kids are generally loved and cared for, you can make whichever choices work best for you and your family and stop worrying. I find that very relaxing.

  • MichelleJo

    I find this whole decision making on what kind of parenting style you are going to practice is strange. Although I am my kids’ parent, I don’t think of parenting as a verb.

    Maybe I’m wrong, but I see feeding a baby as not letting him go hungry, dressing them as keeping them covered and warm, taking them to the playground so that they can run around and let off steam, putting them to bed at night because otherwise they would be tired, and so on. I discipline them as necessary and try to keep my anger in check even when it’s tough. I do what needs doing being that they are young, and the things I do are going to differ with each child for the obvious reason that each child is different and has different needs. Do ‘AP moms’ have cookie cutter kids?

    Taking care of my children is pretty much the same as I look after my own needs; because they need to be addressed. Yet you don’t hear of different kinds or approaches to ‘self care’. (Oh I could think of a few, but I don’t want to start a new meshugas. You never know where it will end up.) And you don’t hear people discussing how they ‘wife’ and the philosophy behind it. Normal people act in the correct way given the different tasks or situations they are faced with.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      find this whole decision making on what kind of parenting style you are going to practice is strange.

      I’ve been thinking about this as well. As I think about it, my “parenting choices” are not so much that I choose to do X, but they choose me. I can want to do whatever, but my kids, otoh, have a way of deciding on their own what works with them.

  • yentavegan

    Here is the ugly truth behind the AP continuum propaganda. AP encouraged the worshipping of “ancient mothering” practices..antibiotics were akin to heresy. I took terrible unnecessary gambles with my own health as well as my children’s health by not administering antibiotics when prescribed by our doctor. I did however fill the prescription b/c an article in Mothering magazine warned that not having a paper trail could be used against you.

  • Susan

    Have you commented on this study?
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3357045/
    Baby friendly curriculum says epidurals increase the rate of neonatal seizures? Is there any evidence of this?

    • Karen in SC

      We need The Adequate Mother to weigh in. I read it and noted that the effect studied was maternal temperature due to epidural. However, while approx. 44% of epidural mothers developed a fever not due to an infection, 14% of non-epidural mothers also did. The cause of fever during an epidural is unknown and has been previously studied.

      • araikwao

        I also noted that they found an association between epidural and higher c-section & operative vaginal delivery rates. Cochrane review and other meta-analyses state epidural does not increase c-section rate, and I understand that recent literature is less definitive re the operative deliveries,so I wonder if the sample is a bit skewed, after all the epidural group were somewhat older mothers with bigger babies. Also very keen to hear what The Adequate Mother and others have to say.

        • FormerPhysicist

          I would be surprised if epidural and higher c-section & operative vaginal delivery rates weren’t correlated. This has been mentioned before, but it makes sense that labors that have issues and are likely to need interventions are also more painful. It was certainly painful when my first was misaligned and wouldn’t progress. I begged for that epidural, and we eventually went to c/s.

          • Jocelyn

            Same here; very painful labor, got the epidural as soon as they would let me have it (5 cm), eventually needed forceps because the baby’s head was at a weird angle.

          • Lizzie Dee

            It is another chicken and egg issue isn’t it? If you are going to be scared of epis, you ought to be scared of pregnancy, because a degree of risk is unavoidable. Nice if you don’t need one, but as suffering a long, painful “natural” labour can also have complications – not least of which is having to have a GA instead if it does go wrong.

          • araikwao

            Sure, but did the malpresentation cause the super-painful labour or did the epidural? Certain believers will tell you it was the epidural, but I wish they’d read The Adequate Mother’s blog.

      • Carrie C

        Maternal temperature due to epidural is VERY interesting to me;. Ater the epidural I got with my first delivery, I did indeed get a fever not related to infection, which in turn gave my baby a fever and necessitated a longer hospital stay. I very much wanted to avoid that with my second, which is the ONLY reason I went for a “natural” delivery (simply no epidural or pain meds; I did have other small interventions which were needed in my situation and which I am grateful for). I am pregnant with my third now, and though an epidural would be MUCH easier on my husband (for many legitimate reasons)…and, of course, easier on me!…we don’t want to deal with another epidural-related fever.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      I just took a quick look at the paper and one thing jumped out at me. For reasons that I can’t understand, the authors did not distinguish between primips and multips. If you look at the differences between the epidural group and the non-epidural group, the epidural group had much longer labors. Without knowing the proportion of primips and multips, you cannot tell whether the longer labors were related to the epidurals or to parity.

      It is inexplicable to me that the authors did not perform this simple analysis. It could easily turn out that the difference between the two groups has nothing to do with epidurals and is solely related to length of labor, which is dependent on parity.

    • Lizzie Dee

      As always, abstracts leave questions unanswered, but that isn’t what it says. It says that some mothers have an unexpected rise in temperature and. not all that surprisingly, if it is highish, if the mother is suffering complications, then the baby might. The abstract doesn’t say anything else about the labours, and it doesn’t say what proportion of the babies are floppy, have transient breathing problems, or seizures – just that the babies seem to be affected by fever, not affected by epis, but the main report might. The sample of epi mothers was large, and non-epi mothers small. It is another of those “All other things being equal” issues.

  • J

    I’ve come to appreciate your personality — or should I say, online persona — while reading your blog, Dr Amy. You’re harsh and condescending at times, but generally speak a truth that must be spoken. As far as I know, you are the only one who consistently seeks to inform the general public of the dangers of homebirth and homebirth with unqualified attendants in particular.

    But… you’re doing an awful lot of assuming here. I’ll share my take. When I had babies and toddlers, I stumbled on certain choices that are usually associated with attachment parenting, either naturally or online. We live in a developing country, and that shaped most of those choices. I breastfed and cloth diapered for financial reasons first, and for the other benefits later (convenience, mainly). I “wore” my babies in carriers, because the local infrastructure sucks and my stroller wouldn’t work on most roads and definitely not on a crowded bus. I started co-sleeping when a gas conflict with Russia meant our central heating didn’t work and it was -20 Celsius. Etc.

    At some point, I found my way to… mothering.com. There were all these people who were doing the same stuff I was doing. I became convinced the label “attachment parent” was appropriate for me.

    So, what did I do when my children grew out of breastfeeding, being carried, and so on? Well, I stopped doing those things and was happy I had my body to myself again :). It’s my understanding that attachment parenting is meant to meet the needs of child and parent, so one stops doing stuff that is no longer beneficial. This should not lead to a mental breakdown and folks who do the stuff you mention aren’t automatically pathological about it, or about their “attachment” to their kids.

    Not everyone who practices things associated with attachment parenting is an idiot, and people who write about it online probably present their views as more extreme than they are because they want an income from their blogs, just like you do.

  • yentavegan

    I can tell you what happens to hard core APer’s like me as their babies grow into toddlers, children, teens and then adults.
    First comes the smug self-righteousness and then the embarrassment. I went through decades of believing that every doctor was an idiot and every teacher a fool. I was angry and frustrated and confused because I “knew” I was a better mother than all those moms who did not co-sleep or breastfeed until age 4, so why were their kids so creative and happy and well adjusted.?
    I thought I had nothing in common with other mothers, b/c APing enforced a cult like devotion and if your weren’t with us, then you were against us.
    I had a hard time re-adjusting my identity. I missed out on so many fun and intellectually enriching adult activities because I adhered to the AP teaching that says children are little for so brief a time and all the adult centered events will still be available after they are grown,.
    But it is not true. I failed to cultivate relationships outside of motherhood. i am lucky that my husband did not get sick of my self absorbed devotion to being the most attached mother on the block. I am lucky that I met women who were kind enough to realise that under my facade of madam know it all I needed mentoring on how to behave like an adult.
    The women who were the most accepting were older members of my synagogue who had room enough in their hearts to include me in their circle.

  • Amy M

    I did ask my mom if she knew anyone who had long term issues with letting go when the children left home. She said “Not really, most went back to work eventually.” (Even if they hadn’t worked when their children were home.) For context, my mom is a baby boomer (62yrs old), she stayed home with my sister and I until we were both in school, and recently retired after 27yrs of work.

    This has been a fascinating discussion, even with the people who didn’t understand the point, but I would suspect that attachment parents will be like everybody else: most will adjust to the empty nest when the time comes, and settle into their new roles as [whatever]. Those that DID wrap up their entire identities into being MOM may feel lost…but so will those who wrapped up their entire identities into being LAWYER, after they retire. People are more than their jobs, and play many roles throughout their lives.

    • Ellen

      Again, conflation. My parents in no way practiced AP with us – we were not allowed to cosleep, were weaned onto bottles at 3 months, slings were unknown, and time-outs were a weird hippy idea – we were spanked for discipline. And yet, in her late 50s, my mother (who was a SAHM) has confessed that she has no idea what to do with herself now we 3 are grown, as a mother is all that she is. While I do cosleep, carry my children until they wish not to be, breastfeed until they wish to stop (my 4 year old has just weaned herself, I am thrilled), and practice redirection and firm but empathetic discipline and boundaries. Does this make me a better mother than my mother was? Heck no! I am different, and meeting our family’s needs differently in a way that suits us. Do I define my identity by my role as a mother? Also no. I am an academic researcher, I always have been. At the moment, my primary ROLE (and most important job) is as a parent, but it does not define me, much less drive some sort of insane desire to smother my children and feel superior. All parents do their best. But it’s more than a bit unfair to indulge in an ad hominem attack AP principles – some people, indeed most, use attachment practices because they genuinely believe that development is best fostered, rather than forced. I personally don’t like parenting labels, they are too restrictive (I’d call myself a “what works for us” parent), but if you want to attack attachment ideas, Dr. Amy, do it based on evidence addressing the ideas themselves, rather than attacking the vocal minority you have decided represents the core of attachment parents. Despite your rants against “sanctimommies”, here you are smugly forecasting doom and gloom for the poor misled, obviously maladjusted mothers, who will surely produce equally dependent, maladjusted children.. When AP’ers are “right” about where others are getting it “wrong”, it’s sanctimony. When you’re “right” about where AP parents get it “wrong”, you’re just right, yes? Bravo on the obviously well-developed and subtle sense of irony.

      I have been thrilled at each stage of development at the signs of growing independence, personally. I agree with you, Amy, the submersion of identity into “mommydom” is nothing to do with AP per se, any more than being a workaholic is a necessary outcome of having paid employment. And someone further down the page made an excellent point about the differences between parenting in this way pragmatically in order to be responsive vs. ferverently conforming to a particular parenting philosophy in order to “fit in” to a community, in the manner of religious dogma – it’s difficult for a casual outsider to judge the difference, but I expect it would make a difference to long-term outcome for both mother and children. We none of us do well in boxes, either when we put ourselves there or are defined by others.

  • “It means letting your child solve his or her own problems, even if you think you could do it better and more expeditiously” And that has absolutely nothing to do with attachment. Not one thing. Not a single thing. You can have a strong attachment to your child and still teach him or her to solve their own problems and be responsible.

    Amy, you need to study AP more. You are clueless.

    • Wren

      AP parents really need to get over this belief that no one else is attached to their children. Baby wearing, breast feeding, co-sleeping, etc do not make or break a relationship that lasts far beyond babyhood.

      • KarenJJ

        It’s the image of secure attachment.. Like wearing a wedding ring – does this make you more married than not? It really says very little about your actual relationship with your partner. How you relate to your kids and respond to their needs and help them grow and learn is what counts.

        A functional family, where everyone is getting enough sleep and food and rest and activity and cuddles and love, is important. The checklist stuff is just marketing.

  • OBNurse

    I agree with a previous poster that AP’ing and helicopter parenting are two different things. I don’t and never have used “attachment parenting” to define me, even though I mothered my children in that way. I think you can raise your children in any way you like and still not label yourself as a certain kind of parent. Being a mom is just one of the many many things I do in a day. I’m also a nurse, a wife, a friend, a sister, and a daughter, among other roles. I wear many hats and being an attached mom was only one of them. Having older children who go to school and have their own lives outside of my “bosom” has been liberating for me, in fact. I’m relieved not to be breastfeeding and co sleeping anymore. I think that because I AP’d so long, I was MORE than ready for the boys to take their next steps into independence. I rarely mourn their babyhood! Breastfeeding and co sleeping for 5 years was plenty, thank you very much. I have mainstream parenting friends who long for more babies, and my theory is it’s because they rushed their babies into independence and didn’t get their fix! Well, I got more than my fix of babies and am happy for them to move on and for me to get my life back. 🙂 Along with my other identities that don’t involve mother hood.

    • Clarissa Darling

      “it’s because they rushed their babies into independence and didn’t get their fix!”

      Where do you get off deciding their kids were rushed? Maybe their kids were ready for independence earlier than yours or maybe they were ready to let their kids be independent before you were. My sister co sleeps with my 3 year old niece. I can tell you that it’s not because she isn’t ready for her own bed because when she stays over at my house, she happily goes to bed on her own with absolutely zero fuss and bother. If my sister wants to keep her in her bed for another 2 or even more years, that’s none of my concern. However, I personally wouldn’t care to have my child sleep in my bed for 5 months let alone 5 years and it has nothing to do with not being attached to them or trying to rush their development.

      • Clarissa Darling

        I would also add that if you honestly felt you’d had “more than your fix of babies” that you could’ve discontinued BF or co sleeping at any point at which you no longer found it enjoyable without detriment to your kids and without losing your claim on being an “attached mom”.

        • ObNurse

          alright alright alright. I was being a little facetious and reading this over the next morning I see that my “tone” was not interpreted the way I intended. What I meant was, for me, all of that AP’ing was exhausting, and for someone who hadn’t worn themselves out doing all other (probably unnecessary) things, having another baby probably wouldn’t seem like such a bad idea. Never meant to insult anyone, for that I apologize. Just a dumb joke gone wrong. And I will add that I was drinking wine at the time, sipping wine while perusing this blog has become a favorite pastime. So despite the fact that I wrote and rewrote that post, I still managed to sound just a little sanctimonious when what i was going for was sarcasm. I blame it on the Malbec and Dr. Amy for getting me hooked on reading her blog.

          • Clarissa Darling

            Ok and maybe I’m biased in interpreting your tone by all of the articles I’ve ready by the bloggers Dr. Amy references. Also Dr. Amy’s fault! 🙂 No harm done, I just think it’s important to correct the assumption that AP moms are harder working and more self sacrificing than the rest of us (and I appreciate your explanation that you didn’t mean it that way). If everyone’s kids are happy and healthy in the end, it doesn’t matter the path you take to get there!

          • Ob nurse

            No worries. I sounded like a jerk. You’d think I’d be more careful posting on this site for goodness sake. I think I even meant to put one of those emocons with the little smiley face sticking his tongue out, this one,

          • OBNurse

            Blog, sorry. Stupid iPhone and I are not getting along today. Plus I have a bit of a Malbec induced headache. Anyway, I’m going to crawl back into my hole now.

          • kumquatwriter

            This thread is one of the reasons I love this blog – look at this! Clarifying! Apologizing! What awesome people come.here – nobody’s so invested that they can’t comprehend “oops, well that didn’t work”

          • Clarissa Darling

            I actually did for a second consider that your post might be sarcasm. Now I feel like a doofus for having taken it too seriously! I didn’t have any Malbec but, I have been kinda sleep deprived lately. Isn’t there a study which shows sleep deprivation can have similar effects to alcohol?

            I remember a time in college when I emailed one of my profs about a concept I we’d discussed in class. I think I said something sarcastically along the lines of “if I can’t figure this out I’m going to quit school” and then he wrote back with an earnest entreaty that I continue with my education. According to Wikipedia there is an established irony/sarcasm punctuation mark–wonder why it’s not available on my keyboard!

          • araikwao

            If sleep deprivation is equivalent to alcohol consumption, then I am as drunk as a skunk!

          • fiftyfifty1

            “Isn’t there a study which shows sleep deprivation can have similar effects to alcohol? ”
            Yes there is, but luckily doctors can overcome this biological problem by relying on Professionalism. Or so some of the old school believe…

          • Amazed

            So I thought. Good to see you haven’t taken our responses as critics of your post or your parenting. Can you imagine what would have happened if this was a post by someone who meant it just this way? They would have come all at arms, furious that someone dares to disagree.

    • Amazed

      “is it’s because they rushed their babies into independence and didn’t get their fix!”

      An interesting theory. I’ll phone my brother right now and tell him that the only reason he was born was because Mom and Dad didn’t get their fix with me! Wait, what? I slept in their room for 5 years? Never mind! It was in a bed of my own, not their bed, so I suppose it wasn’t a true co-sleeping. And my mother went back to work when I was about 2, leaving me for lots of time in daycare and with my dad which obviously did my fragile mind a great harm, never mind that Dad was going out of his way to amuse me. And the funniest thing is, they repeated those same mistakes with my brother and made an additional one by rushing him into independence by placing him in my room when he was about one. Never mind that he wanted to come, that he was thrilled that he was soooo big now, that we had the most wonderful time telling stories and listening for Mom or Dad to pass down the hall so we would shut up and pretend to be asleep.

      We wouldn’t like to be deprived of this experience just so Mom and Dad could get their baby fix with their now toddler.

      I don’t think you meant it that way but by the way you wrote your post, it looks like the only reason mainstream parents want more children is because they don’t get their fix with the first ones. And that’s pretty insulting.

  • Esther

    I’d guess that the examples you mentioned in the OP aren’t merely typical AP parents submerged in their parenting identities. The bloggers mentioned are angling for guru/expert status, for monetary gain and/or as an identity all of its own, which of course can potentially last far longer than it takes their children to grow up. You don’t even have to have kids for that – cf. Jean Leidloff and Darcia Narvaez.

    As for most APers? Some will adjust, some will become pushy grandparents. Just like the rest of us, I suppose. My objections to AP aren’t that they’re ruining the kids by practicing it, but that there’s no evidence that the practices (or all that extra pain and work) really makes any difference in the end product. And also the APers’ false appeal to science in support of their methods.

  • batmom

    I’m only just shy of six months into this whole parenting gig, but I think the problem is less attachment parenting than the combination of parenting ideology as a consumer identity and the American tendency to turn everything up to eleven.

    E.g., if being responsive to your baby is good, then letting your baby fuss must be child abuse. If holding your baby is good, then never setting your baby in a seat must be perfect. If nursing your baby is good, then breastfeeding until three will guarantee a spot at Harvard. If making sacrifices as a parent is good, then whoever can give up the most and post about it on Facebook wins. If letting your child choose healthy foods is good, then one must never use a spoon to feed a baby, for that represents parents forcing choices on a child.

    And, of course, we can sell you something for your new parenting identity.

    Like most people, I went with “do what works because I do not have the time or inclination to follow a clique.”

    • thepragmatist

      I do think it’s very market-driven parenting. All of AP demands extra accessories and they are, on the whole, much more expensive (despite claims they are “money saving”) than the alternative. Eg. Putting baby on the floor on a blanket (my way of parenting an infant) vs. carrying baby in a 150 Ergo everywhere. Handwashing all those expensive cloth diapers vs. buying cheap store brand diapers. Educational toys made out of wood vs. a bowl and a spoon from the cupboard. We are a consumerist culture so I am not sure if AP just suffers from the same consumerism, or if it is in part, fueled by it. I’m on a parenting board and I was just posting about my son’s ear infection. I had two separate women try to sell me something as “consultants”… of course, all natural… except for the part where it’s actually not “all natural”… Haha. Meanwhile, he’s just getting the 18 dollar antibiotic. There’s tons of money to be made in selling all of these products and I have a hard time believing any of them are any better than their mainstream counterparts, unless you start getting into medical grade supplies (my boy has a skin issue that requires 200 dollars a month worth of colostomy powder to make a special ointment, works like a charm though! Bravo DOC!).

  • Felicitasz

    One piece of data is no data but still an example so let me share it: a relative of mine, having practiced “attachment parenting” in Eastern-block Hungary in the late 60s, early 70s. You know, when most babies went to day care and mom went back to the factory or fields to build the socialism, and modern parenting was characterized by early weaning, early potty-training, rigorous schedules, and the like. This woman lived in a village, took advantage of the 3-year-long maternity leave available in Hungary (to this day, actually) refused to go to the hospital to give birth and went to one of the last still existing birth centres instead, carried her babies about in slings she fabricated from cloth diapers, breastfed for 2-3 years depending on the particular child (she had four, none of them went to day care, started public education in Kindergarten year), did all these things we call attachment parenting today. The public nurse of the village tried to pressure her into “modern parenting”, tried to file a complaint with the county pediatrician who saw the children in good health, unusual parenting practices for the era, yes, but nothing the doctor could register as a problem. The public nurse then stopped talking to the woman and told everyone in the village that she is “like a gipsy”, no fit for a “modern” society. She received odd looks or dirty looks for years, but interestingly all 4 babies grew into nice men and woman, they all have functioning marriages and no alcohol problem (very uncharacteristic in that part of rural Hungary), all did well in school and went to college, they are in fact the only family in the village whose children all graduated from high school and work better jobs than the generation before them.
    When they were “out”, their mom went back to her other “womanly duties”, she had more time for baking, did beautiful embroideries, filled the pantry with gourmet preserves, and she read and awful lot, then went back to work when the youngest one turned 9 or 10 I believe.
    This whole thing went totally against the cultural and societal expectations of that time, she too was warned about all the damage she is certainly causing to her children and husband and herself, and the setting of bad example of old bourgeois practices when the woman is “degraded” to housewife and makes other (working) women’s husbands jealous of the hot dinners she cheerfully serves every evening, and the house smells of freshly baked apple-cinnamon cookies.
    Alas, this was actually GOOD for everyone involved, as it turned out. Despite the public nurse’s “worries” about the children.
    I think it is not attachment parenting practices, or philosophy, or even identity that causes the problems today. It is attachment parenting “brainless”, that is, when it is being practiced as a mask, or a role, or for a desire for great-mommy-status among peers, or to compensate for lack of something else, or… to sum it up, when it is not coming as genuine but it is an identity taken up to cover another identity problem. Children have no problems in life when they are not tools through which to prove a point or fulfill something, or compensate for something. However, if they are, the problems are rooted in this dynamic, let it be expressed through attachment parenting or tiger mother parenting, no longer matters what.

    • Deborah

      Very nice comment. I totally agree. Our mothering style is not the issue but the unseen motivations which underpin it. Competition with others, status, how our mothering skills are perceived by others, standards of perfection and expectations ad infinitum, all combine to create the monster of the mother living vicariously through her children and using them, however unconsciously, to fulfil her own need for acceptance and validation.

    • Guest

      “Children have no problems in life when they are not tools through which
      to prove a point or fulfill something, or compensate for something.
      However, if they are, the problems are rooted in this dynamic, let it be
      expressed through attachment parenting or tiger mother parenting, no
      longer matters what.”

      THIS. A million times this!

  • fiftyfifty1

    I dislike the AP movement because it pretends to be based in science but it isn’t. Also because it’s lame to approach parenting with a snobby, “You’re doing it wrong” attitude. It’s a total Country Club mentality, which is pretty ironic because hard-core APers would probably say they are the opposite of the country club set.

    Beyond that, I really don’t care. I don’t “worry” about either these uber-AP-bloggers or their kids. It’s not my style, but it’s not abusive, so whatever.

  • KarenJJ

    I don’t particularly care what happens to these bloggers in the long term. I’m sure they’ll find some other bee in their bonnet to lord over the rest of the great unwashed and “uneducated”. I wouldn’t know how “attached” they are considering they’re writing a blog. Either their kids are older or they’re more image then substance when it comes to motherhood.

    I’m more worried about the mums that get caught up in this BS and get sold on the “scientific benefits”.

    So thankyou “attachment parenting” for bringing us some options. The rest of it is marketing and the same old patriachal mother-guilt crap we’ve all had enough of.

    • SkepticalGuest

      I wouldn’t assume that aren’t really attachment parenty just becaue they have a blog–or assume that their kids are older. Younger children nap. And the often sleep longer at night than you do, freeing up late evenings or early mornings as well. And then there are spouses, who presumably come home from work and can hold the baby or play with the toddler while mom takes a much-needed break. If mom finds writing relaxing and engaging, whatever.

  • Wren

    People who are commenting about this being wrong based on anecdotes of parents who APed being fine and their kids being fine are missing the point. It’s not about specific practices but about the mothers who identify so strongly with being an attachment parent they have little other identity. I have seen that and was briefly there myself.

    I don’t see it here in the UK, but I definitely have seen it in some friends in the US. Their internet personas, their real life activities and their friendships often revolve around being an attachment parent and doing the right things. It is as central to their lives as religion is to some of my other friends. Many of them have hit a crisis when their youngest started school, often leading to another child then. These are the friends I cannot tell my own changing opinions to. In many cases we got close when I was deeply into ap.

    • GuestS

      I have definitely seen it here in the UK. I think it’s just in trendy little pockets of main cities at the moment but it’ll spread!

      • Clarissa Darling

        That’s the problem with extremist ideologies, they spread and end up affecting a lot more than just the people who are extremists themselves. I think of the tea party movement in the US. Though they are in the minority they are currently causing major headaches for the entire country including main stream Republicans who, for whatever reason are choosing to sit back and kow tow. Ok, got off track there, sorry…… Bottom line I don’t care if you extended breastfeed, co sleep or use other A/P techniques. I DO care if you make your parenting choices such a part of your identity that you happily join with other like minded people in turning these choices into an ideological movement which aims to “prove” through dubious science that there is one BEST way to raise children and that people who don’t adhere to it deserve to be shunned as bad parents. Anyone who thinks that A/P as a movement–not the individual practices themselves–isn’t harmful has got their head in the sand. And incase anyone thinks I’m just picking on A/P it’s because that brand of parenting for seems currently to be attracting most of the mommy wars extremists. If there were a hardcore mob of mommy bloggers bullying women to bottle feed and CIO I’d speak out against them too. There might be a few sanctimommies who identify with other styles but, so far it doesn’t seem to be a cohesive ideology the way NCB and A/P are.

      • Wren

        I’ve seen plenty of mums here who do various aspects of AP, but not the full blown identity of AP mother that I have seen in the US. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it over here though.

        These ideas do spread. I took longer than I should have going to the hospital with my second during labour because I was afraid I would be pushed into a c-section, because that was what I kept reading about happening in the US. I actually had great support for a VBAC here as long as it was what I wanted and no problems arose.

  • Paloma

    Well, they will just be miserable the rest of their lives and try to make the decisions for their children throughout their lives, making them miserable too. What I don’t get all along the attachment parenting, the homebirths and every other stupid decision these (mostly) women make is… where are the fathers? Don’t they have an opinion? Don’t they fight for their children? Or are they just agreeing with their partners blindly? When I think it can’t get more ridiculous with what people say, it does! It just amazes me…

    • Antigonos CNM

      I think this is a very important point. It is hard to ignore that when a woman defines herself by being a mother, instead of a person in her own right, she is, to some degree, is trying to make her partner, the child’s father irrelevant. I don’t doubt some husbands are perfectly relieved that it should be so. Some fathers probably aren’t at first, but eventually just throw up their hands and begin to search for other sources of emotional satisfaction after hitting their heads against the stone wall of the mother’s claims that only she can parent properly. Men do compartmentalize more successfully than women, so it would not surprise me at all if a man began giving priority to his working life over his home life.

      Of course, a woman who defines herself only as a mother, whether or not she adopts AP formally, will do almost anything to make sure she remains a mother for as long as she possibly can. If her children manage to escape, then she has failed.

      • Busbus

        Having spent a fair amount of time on AP boards (yes, I’ve gone down the rabbit hole, too), I can say that the topic of fathers disagreeing with their partners’ choices comes up semi-regularly. The chorus on all these threads is always to “stick to your guns” and “educate” the father by giving him more AP literature to read. And the number of couples that sleep apart due to co-sleeping with their children is mind-boggling to me.

        Even in my full-on AP times, I always shared parenting with my partner, he brought our daughter to bed about 1/3 of the time, occasionally gave her a bottle, and was with her during some of my regular work times as well as when I went out in the evening, which happened once in a while. I was always one of the very, very few women in my AP circles (online and offline) for whom it worked that way. A lot of the others said that their baby cried with dad and, therefore, could never be without mom. I always secretly asked myself how hard they had really tried, and how much they were willing to give up just to spare their precious littles a few minutes of crying in their (loving!) dad’s arms; and what both baby and dad were missing out on by not being able to establish a better bond. I do think that this disregard for the relationship between children and their fathers, and between children and really anybody else who isn’t the mother, is one of the big problems of AP.

  • SK

    Somewhat off-topic question: On The Skeptical OB’s blog, if I read far down into the comments, eventually the screen turns black and the words of people’s posts are gray, with a line of demarcation that says, “Woo Themes” powered by WordPress. It is difficult to read. Do any of the rest of you see this? Why am I seeing this? No other Discus platform on other blogs I follow does this.

    • Busbus

      That happens to me, too… What’s up with that?

      Also, on my Android phone, the blog doesn’t show up in the right format – the lines won’t break, and so I have to zoom out a lot and turn my phone sideways to see all of the text at once. (It’s a testament to how much I like this blog that I still read it on my phone sometimes! ;-))

      • KarenJJ

        It’s a nuisance and affects all of us. I’m on the laptop and have tampermonkey installed. A very nice and skilled commenter has created a script for this page so that it doesn’t happen.

        • deafgimp

          It has been a problem for a long time, and everyone complains about it. The owner likes this setup, so we have to come up with a workaround to make the site usable.

    • Karen in SC

      If you use Firefox, or want to begin user, install Greasemonkey. Then install The Skeptical OB fixer.

      What I have found it that I have to re-enable each time after my computer is fully shut down, which confused me at first. If it just goes to sleep mode, no problem. It also slightly changes the layout of the pictures at the top of the page.

      Thanks to the person who created it!!

      • Esther

        Where does one find this fixer? I have the same problem.

        • Karen in SC

          Install Firefox as your browser then go to :

          http://userscripts.org/about/installing

          and install Greasemonkey, then search the userscripts for the Skeptical OB fixer script. You will see a little monkey face in the Firefox toolbar on the right.

          • Amy M

            I have the monkey face….where do I find the fixer?

          • Amy M

            found it….

          • amazonmom

            How did you find it? I really must be missing something.

          • Amy M

            I followed Karen in SC’s link up there and ended up on some userscript site that has about 4000 pages with various greasemonkey things in alphabetical order. I should have written the page number down for this fix, but it was in the 3400s somewhere…

          • amazonmom

            I’m an idiot, when I search for the fixer all I get is SkepticalHatchet.

          • Karen in SC

            SkepticalOB Layout Fixer

            I had to install an Add-on first, I think it was Greasemonkey but it might have been userscript.

          • amazonmom

            Thanks! I will search for it after my 4 year old lets me have the computer back.

          • amazonmom

            Thanks, Got it installed.

          • KarenJJ

            That’s an old one for the previous site. Might delete that one.

        • Busbus

          I got it, too – thanks Karen for the info and to whoever created it!
          As to finding it, I finally found it after I realized that I had to search for the term “SkepticalOB” exactly like that – no spaces etc. Hope that helps!

  • Ducky7

    I think we have to acknowledge that there are different types of AP parents. Clingy parents are damaging whether they espouse AP styles or not. (And there are plenty of clingy parents who are not AP – these are two distinct attitudes, I think.) I think there is a reasonably-sized contingent of AP parents who are attracted to “counter-cultural” parenting styles because of their social groups or intellectual curiosity, not necessarily because it meets some sort of emotional need. If it works for those folks and their kids who are we to judge?

    My dad was all about CIO and bottles and he still treats my 27-year-old brother like a 15-year-old, which is quite damaging to him. Is it not likely that AP parents who have issues letting go when their kids grow up (or who keep blogs meant to diminish the validity of other people’s parenting choices) , probably had some sort of unfulfilled emotional need to begin with? If we observe that they have serious issues with the empty nest, it would be hard to separate the underlying emotional issues and the AP as proximal causes..

    • Sue

      It I read it correctly, the article is more about what will happen to the parents rather than the children.

      It takes fairly severe abuse/neglect to really damage a child – kind things done with love rarely do – though you can certainly teach bad habits, or fail to instill good ones.

      This article is more about those parents who take on “AP” as a personal identity and source of sense of achievement, not just ordinary people who breast feed and baby-carry.

      I suspect what happens is that these parents might continue to hang onto their adult children, maybe being too intrusive in their relationships or care of the grandchildren – maybe not. I;ve not seen research on it. What do the psychologists here say?

      • GuestS

        I imagine that anyone who finds their identity only through their children, regardless of their parenting “technique” (read muddle through) stand to find themselves in a difficult position when their children don’t need them anymore.
        My own mother was a definite CIO, non-bf, no bed sharing etc. type who had a very difficult time ‘letting go’ and still doesn’t know when to wind her neck in. I can see that she struggles terribly not having a say in what we (my sisters and I) do. She absolutely defined herself by Motherhood and still does. I’m the absolute opposite as a parent (my Mother can’t even stand to watch me breastfeed) but time will tell how I manage when mine are teenagers!

      • me

        “I suspect what happens is that these parents might continue to hang onto
        their adult children, maybe being too intrusive in their relationships
        or care of the grandchildren…”

        But that’s nothing new. The stereotype of the overbearing MIL/grandma has always been prevalent. I can’t see that being connected to AP. Are APs more likely to be that way? Who knows. But the clingy/overbearing mom is certainly not a new concept.

  • Zola

    An acquaintance of mine who has two girls and strongly identifies with attachment parenting and who previously was “absolutelyDONE!” with having children is now attempting to get pregnant and “seriously thinking about homeschooling” in spite of being in the BEST district in the state for education now that she is attempting graduate school and perhaps not doing too well. I wonder how many ap-ers are so because they fear failure in the “real world” and do not have anyone assessing them in parenting.

    • Zola

      For what its worth this article rang very true. And the acquaintance who is trying to get pregnant now was very much like a lot of the people posting, how she was very motivated and ambitious etc. There seem to be a lot of deeper issues than surface shows for the AP community. Mommy wars point to that. My acquaintance, by the way, was previously a friend.

    • SkepticalGuest

      This seems quite judgemental here…I know plenty of moms who said they were “done” with having kids who reversed that once the existing kids were a bit older.

      Depending on the mom and the baby, pregnancy can be hard, childbirth can be hard, and infants can be especially hard (think: colic, medical problems, etc.). And so when the kids are young, mom says “never again!”

      But our memories of these rigors are short, and eventually they fade and what we remember is the love of our kids, the joys of having a little one under foot. And then we sometimes think, “What the hell…let’s try for one more!”

    • me

      I think it goes back to the motivations for APing in the first place, tho. I did a lot of AP practices myself, but only because I found, given my children and my circumstances, that they worked best for me, for them, and for my situation. I didn’t shed a single tear when my oldest started kindergarten last year, and am eagerly anticipating my middle child starting preschool next year. I’ll likely put the youngest in daycare at that point so I can get a part time job. Not that we’re hurting for money, just so I can get out more often 😉

      Of course, my mom didn’t seem to have any trouble letting us go, and is really enjoying her “golden” years. I have a good example of how not to be an overbearing mother. That helps.

  • Wth?

    You are seriously embarrassing yourself with this biased article and lack of understanding. The whole idea of attachment parenting is to prepare them to become independent in a healthy manner aligned with their development rather than force them and damage that development in the process. THAT”S GRADUAL. I despise the argument that we need to prepare them for adulthood, so make them independent as a newborn. That is essentially what you are implying and if that’s the case we better hand them a beer too since that’s part of our culture. Yes, obscene isn’t it! And the convincing themselves of CIO damage… it’s called science. I am hoping you’re familiar with cortisol, since you are a a medical doctor. Wouldn’t hurt to do a bit of research!

    • Happy Sheep

      So gradual that 5 year olds are still in the “family bed” or helicopter parented? Or that 16 year olds still have Mommy swooping in to save them at school? Or even better, asking where their accommodations are for orientation at college? Because I’ve seen all of those
      Multiple times.
      And come on, science has shown that CIO does not harm infants, multiple times.

      • Karen in SC

        Let me give you the perspective from the other side of the fence. I have one son in college (a state school and living at home) and we are helping him pay. We have to or he couldn’t go to college. We do struggle with his desire for full independence and our need not to waste the $2000 we pay each semester.

        A close friend of mine has three grown and two in college. They didn’t have those extra couple of thousands so they have co-signed on extra loans for the oldest four. One had to drop out and works retail – will never be able to repay his loan, so it’s on the parents. The third didn’t do very well, took an extra year, graduated and is now floundering also. Good news is the fifth one got full scholarships and is excelling.

        There’s the tough love viewpoint – kick them out at 18 – but I can’t see doing that.

        • Clarissa Darling

          I think independence has more to do with mindset and less to do with living arrangements. My husband left home at 24. In his country adult families under one roof is common through college and even beyond. When he left he was able to transition to a living thousands of miles away in a country he’d not even visited before without any help from Mom and Dad. Contrast this to a story I heard from a family friend who used to be a college counselor. She knew of a mother who drove 4 hours to the school just because her son needed clean laundry and didn’t know how to do it himself. So her son left home 6 years before my husband but, in no way did this mean he was more independent.

          • Young CC Prof

            Mmm, good point. My husband lived at home until he was 32, when we got a place together. But he’d worked part-time for the family business from the age of 12, commuted to a good college, found a good job in his degree field, cooked and did laundry and home repairs and kept a roof over the heads of his aging parents financially. There was nothing immature about him.

            It’s true, you CAN grow up without leaving home, especially if it’s normal to do so in your culture.

    • Sue

      Tell us more about ”cortisol”, Wth. Oh, and the ”science” of the effects of sleep training too, while you’re at it. Reference please.

    • Something From Nothing

      You think Dr Amy is embarrassing herself? Your response is juvenile and you clearly missed what she’s trying to say. ” might as well give them a beer…” Pft.

    • I am hoping you’re familiar with cortisol, since you are a a medical doctor

      Wow.
      Did you really think you could come to a blog frequented by medical professionals and teach them about cortisol?
      Your peers may be easily impressed by your sciencey words but it won’t work with people who actually do this for a living.

    • wookie130

      What is really embarrassing, is the assumption that anything outside of AP practices is “obscene” and damaging to a child’s development. Science does NOT show that AP is superior to other parenting styles, nor does it support one method over another…

      That all or nothing attitude could actually be what damages your child in the long run. In my mind, one has to do what is best for his/her family, which does include factoring in the mother’s needs, and at the same time, not ONLY meeting a mother’s needs.

      Look, I’ve cloth diapered (at home, and yeah, we use some disposables at other times), breastfed (for a short stint, until I learned that I could not any longer), worn my daughter in a carrier (to get supper ready and whatnot), and have laid her next to me on our bed so we could grab a nap. I also put her down, use strollers, let her CIO at short intervals when I think she’ll easily self-soothe at that moment (and luckily she does most of the time), use disposables, I now formula feed, and we do a combo of baby-led weaning and purees. In other words, I’ve dabbled in both parenting styles, and we just do what happens to work for Hannah, and for us.

      I also realize that most of the above decisions I’ve made are decisions that really only effect our lives for about the first year of our kid’s life, and after that, there will be much more important and significant choices we’ll make…because kids grow up, and that first year goes FAST. I don’t feel that anything I’ve decided to do with Hannah these first 7 months will make or break her as an adult, and the implication that they could or would is rather ridiculous.

      • Karen in SC

        Even the fact that it’s now called “baby led weaning” when we used to just call it “beginning solids” leads me to believe the AP practices are more or less expected these days.

        • wookie130

          True, Karen. And really, baby-led weaning = just giving your kids table food. It just sounds more gimmicky and cool to call it BLWing.

          • auntbea

            As practiced in my circle of friends it is giving them table food without preparing it first. Here, kid, have an apple. A whole one.

        • SkepticalGuest

          If I understand it correctly, baby-led weaning isn’t about *what* you feed your kid but about letting them start solids when they are ready. I think it’s supposed to be the alternative to the time-tables that tell you when to start and what percentage of your child’s calories should come from solids versus milk (breast or formula).

          In this sense, baby-led weaning makes a lot of sense. My kid was grabbing food off my plate when he was about 5 months, 1 week old. I fought him for a few days, then let him have at it to see what he would do. He shoved the food in his mouth, gummed it thoroughly, swallowed, and then went for more. Clearly, this kiddo was ready, even though the recommended start time for solids is 6 months.

          Other kids I know, they just weren’t interested in solids. They would play a little, test a little, but weren’t really eating any solids until 9 or even 12 months.

          The whole baby-led weaning, baby-led solids thing seems to mainly keep mom from stressing out if her baby isn’t adhering to a rigid time-table.

          I know one little girl who couldn’t be coaxed into eating substantial amounts of solids until she was 18 months old. She just wasn’t interested. Mom didn’t force it, and the girl is now 7 or 8 and totally healthy and happy.

          It’s nice to not have to battle your kids over food. Or stress out because your 9-month-old would really prefer to eat quiche and pasta and yogurt and cheese rather than formula!

    • fiftyfifty1

      I do give my kids sips of beer occasionally. Did so as soon as they expressed interest in trying it (both before age one). I don’t have any special sort of reason or philosophy to back this up. Seems ok so far.

      • Young CC Prof

        When my brother was about 4, he decided that he wanted to drink beer, just like his daddy. Rather than arguing, Dad let him taste it.

        Just as Dad planned, the taste was such a shock to a little boy used to fruit juice that he lost all interest in beer for about 10 years.

    • Sullivan ThePoop

      Someone lied to you an told you it was science and you believe them. I am sorry to tell you that CIO when practiced appropriately does no damage to an infant.

  • Annoyed

    This is a ridiculous premise – as if AP parents are somehow more emotionally invested in their kids than other parents? Silly. Just another Mommy Wars post.

    • Oiuy

      You’re missing the point. It’s about codependency. When the child grows, what becomes of the mother’s identity? Her self-worth?

  • SkepticalGuest

    It always drove me crazy when I saw APers putting those amber necklaces on their babies. Looked like a choking and strangulation hazard to me. In fact, it is: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/10/11/amber-teething-necklaces-pose-choking-hazard/

  • The really huge problem I have with AP – is the damage it does to those who ascribe to it but then discover that they can’t “perform” to AP standards. The moms who want to breastfeed, but discover it doesn’t work for them. The moms who want to stay at home, but discover that it doesn’t work for them. The moms who have this ideal “AP” lifestyle all thought out – and then for whatever reason – must abandon it. It’s the same damage that’s done by “breast is best” and “promoting normal birth” messaging. I also worry about the impact that reducing a significant portion of the population to their biological function has on recognizing that portion of the population as a valuable part of society. I don’t hate AP – I hate how it marginalizes women and becomes a barrier to the emotional, economic and physical health and well-being of mothers.

    • Lynnie

      I tried the AP “lifestyle” (after my induced hospital birth and breastfeeding “failure”), and all I got from it was a very clingy child and frazzled nerves, plus tons of guilt over my son’s “subpar” beginning. There are some parents and children that it may work for, I wasn’t one of them.

      There was also a darker and a whole lot sadder part of my ill-advised attempt at AP. I guess I was a very poor sleeper and fussy baby so my Mom resorted to a form of CIO with me. I began to unconsciously blame my Mom and how she took care of me as a baby for pretty much all the issues I had in life. It pretty much set me back emotionally for a while. I finally began to realize that my issues are my issues and there isn’t a person alive that doesn’t have some sort of emotional baggage to deal with. It’s just a part of being human.

  • Anonymous

    I have wondered about this myself. My sister-in-law, who attachment parents, volunteers as a lactation counselor, and I suspect that her volunteer work will form a large part of her identity as her children gain independence, and indeed when her youngest weans.

    • Anonymous

      Worth pointing out also: I think this is probably only an issue for people on the more extreme end of the AP spectrum.

      • Wren

        I think it has less to do with where on the spectrum and more to do with how strong the identification is. A mother who happens to do every ap thing out there but doesn’t make that a part of her identity is not likely to have an issue. A mother who just does a few things due to circumstances preventing the others but who strongly identifies as an ap mother very well might.

  • You bring up an interesting point – how are AP parents rehabilitated to be functional members of society – or do they just bear children until their children start bearing children, at which point they become AP grannies? I really do not care if they choose to be AP – I care more that they (and their children) are satisfied with their choice and that judgment is not passed on those who choose differently.

    • I don’t have a creative name

      “I really do not care if they choose to be AP – I care more that they
      (and their children) are satisfied with their choice and that judgment
      is not passed on those who choose differently.”

      Preach.

  • I don’t have a creative name

    OT: I just got a spam entitled

    RE: Free SEO Trial For skepticalob.com
    Creepy… I don’t understand how they obtained my direct email address from my postings here??

    • Karen in SC

      If you register with Disqus, I think it requires an email.

  • sarahh.rosanne@gmail.com

    I don’t consider myself to be part of the larger attachment parenting “movement”, but would say that the way in which we raise our children would be labeled as AP. We are a homeschooling family, more for educational than ideological reasons. My identity at this time in my life is very centered around motherhood and that will probably always stand out as the primary role that I have fulfilled in my life, BUT, I recognize that it is a season. My children are going to gradually differentiate and my role in their lives will change (it is happening every day). I will resume my career part-time, then likely full time … neglected or un-pursued interests will redevelop aside from the role of mother. I think the problem comes when women (or men) fail to recognize that change of season, and especially when they force their emotional need for attachment onto older children. Attachment parented kids can be very secure and benefit from that style of parenting (and almost any style of parenting, though the AP community fails to recognize this), as long as they are allowed to move further into autonomy at the time appropriate to their individual development. It is largely a matter of timing and willful adaptation to changing needs and desires.

  • R T

    My parents seem to have handled it just fine and were relieved to have some alone time! They actually sent my youngest brother to a private boarding school when he was 13. Myself and my other brother, joined the military at 17 and 18 years old. They were extreme AP with unassisted birth, family bed, baby wearing, homeschooling, grew our own food etc. They seemed to have maintained their own identity really well. My mom is a very successful business woman and my father is a house husband who is also her financial manager. Of course, their house didn’t stay empty long. My youngest brother impregnated his girlfriend when he was 19 and again a year later. He moved in with my parents when he was 23 and the kids live there half the time too. My little brother makes a good living though running his own HVAC company and pays them rent. My other brother has a Masters in Public Health and runs the cardiopulmonary rehabilitation department at a major metropolitan hospital. I live on the opposite coast from them and am married with a child. My other friends who were raised AP have good careers. Of the top of my head, one became a doctor, one became a police officer, one became a off shore oil rig diver, one is a professional snowboarder. There are others, but those are the ones I can think of. All there parents seem to be doing really well. Some of the parents run a greenhouse/ garden center and another is a very high level executive at Ingersoll Rand and yet another is a college history professor. I think you need to realize that there was a very big AP parenting movement in the 70s and 80s and all of us children are adults on our 30s and 40s now. AP parenting is not new in any way, shape or form. It’s been done and everybody turned out fine as most children do as long as they are loved and their basic needs met. Only extreme child abuse seriously shapes children in negative ways.

  • patty

    I would consider myself to be an attachment style parent and yet i feel like i still have other identities, i am 6 hours short of my doctorate degree, I work full-time as a professor/counselor at a college, I chair work related committees, but yes, the most impt goal in my life is my baby’s well-being. I breastfeed, i dont allow CIO because of my masters degree in counseling, and i plan to engage myself in my kids activities. what i am trying to say is why cant someone be both: a tender, loving, parent who prioritizes her child, who concerns herself on their emotional well-being and also as someone who can define themseleves without reference to her children? also, as a prior elementary teacher, there is a lot to be grateful for when it comes to moms who prioritize their kids.

    • Amy M

      I agree. I pretty much said as much below…I had a life before children, I will have a life after the children have grown. I imagine most people here can say the same and that is normal and healthy.

      I guess there is a small percentage of women who grew up with their sole goal being to have children, their sole purpose to raise them (right of course), and their sole fulfullment from having done so. Once that purpose is fulfilled then what? Do these women ever think beyond that?

      Now, I am curious…I am going to ask my mom if any of her contemporaries have never gotten over being empty-nesters. Then we’ll have an idea if these women exist, and what they do.

      • SkepticalGuest

        I am not one of those women, but I grew up in an ethnic subculture where, at least for my grandparents generation–and to some extent my parents as well–raising children was the main goal of many women. Or the goal that was expected of them.

        It’s worth noting, that in such cultures, women have other, mostly caregiving, roles before/during/after raising their own children. Such as: taking care of nieces, nephews, aging parents and grandparents, taking care of grandkids, etc. Sometimes they also were expected to help the males in the family with *their* businesses: running the corner store, doing the bookkeeping for the men’s lawnmowing business, etc. They were the ones that planned weddings and funerals, hosted baby showers and birthdays and big holiday dinners. And their houses were supposed to be really clean. I never saw a woman with a shortage of things to do.

        • R T

          Yeah and it’s not like your identity as a parent ends when your children turn 18. There is still a lot of parenting to do in my opinion.

        • Amy M

          Well, my MIL was from a large family, she was the oldest of 10. She took care of her younger sibs, had 3 of her own, then became a nurse. She did a career change to realtor, but she was always a very nurturing type of person, that’s just who she was. After she retired, she took care of her mother and aging aunts and uncles for their end-of-life care….but she took that upon herself, not because it was expected. She sort of had the outlook you mention, but she always worked, so she had a lot in her life more than her children, it was just all related to taking care of people.

          • SkepticalGuest

            @AmyM: I think the level of expectation varies based on the ethnic subculture (if any) you’re part of and also on individual familes.

            My mom and other women in our family did work at times. But I think for them it was, at least in part, because working, at that moment, was the best way to serve the needs of the family. When the family needs money more than your caregiving, you work. When your caregiving is more important, you didn’t work, or at least not as much, or you wore yourself ragged.

            I think there is also a class difference here. Middle-class educated professionals tend to see work as part of their “identity” where lower-income women with less education see work as a way to get money, which is ultimately about supporting themselves and their familes–whether it is helping out with college tuition or paying for summer camp for the grandkids or financially assisting aging parents.

          • Amy M

            Oh hey, for some reason patty’s post came up at yours, SkepticalGuest, earlier. I thought I was talking to you this whole time. Must be disqus flaw.

          • Lisa from NY

            Your MIL was probably an excellent realtor.

          • Amy M

            She was…:)

    • Poogles

      “i dont allow CIO because of my masters degree in counseling”

      Can you please explain what you mean by this?

      “what i am trying to say is why cant someone be both: a tender, loving, parent who prioritizes her child, who concerns herself on their emotional well-being and also as someone who can define themseleves without reference to her children?”

      No one is saying they can’t. Prioritizing your child and concerning yourself with their emotional well-being is not the same thing as making the “AP” title/principles your entire identity.

    • WhatPaleBlueDot

      i dont allow CIO because of my masters degree in counseling

      You’ve bought into bullshit. Sleep training is not the uncontrolled crying those studies are based on. And it isn’t the crying itself that causes harm, which we know from the monkey studies. The baby monkeys who could see their mothers became more upset, but their stress levels by biological markers actually dropped while the baby monkeys who couldn’t see their mothers ceased their reaction, but their stress markers increased. And the ones you’re worried about, the problem isn’t that mommy used Ferber but that mommy wasn’t there. The research is on such profound neglect that it is completely mute concerning choosing between parenting methods for parents who are engaged and concerned. The constant mommy struggle to be the bestestbest parent is absolutely not based on the attachment literature. And it’s kind of embarrassing that you don’t understand that.

      • Expat

        Great reply. You can’t compare crying due to profound neglect to a few minutes of crying because it is nap time and mommy isn’t going to play that game, thank you very much. She knows better than to let baby call all of the shots.
        Some new moms read -no CIO- and let the baby drive them nuts, determining its own schedule, eating at night at 12 months, etc.
        A newborn gets to call the shots, but after a couple of months, that’s gotta end to some degree.

        • Young CC Prof

          Exactly! There’s a difference between letting a baby scream for hours without even trying to help versus letting a baby fuss for a few minutes to see if he calms down on his own. (Or, if you’re really overwhelmed, letting the baby cry for a few minutes while you step into the other room to take a deep breath and drink some cold water.)

          • Dr Kitty

            Absolutely.
            “Your baby must never, ever be left alone to cry” is the WORST advice you can give to the stressed, tired, frustrated, sleep deprived and slightly unhinged parents of a colicky infant.

            They have to be told that if they are losing it, they can put the baby in a safe place (i.e. Crib), close the door, go to another room or out into the garden for 15 or 20 minutes in order to pull themselves together and that this is the safe, responsible parenting choice.

            Because crying for 20 minutes alone in a crib is much, much less likely to cause brain damage than being shaken or hit.

  • SkepticalGuest

    I get your overall point here, but I don’t see how a family bed necessarily means the kids can’t detach or the parents won’t let go. We co-sleep with our 3-year-old, not because some AP guru says we must, but because it works best for our family. And yet we still try to teach him how to be as independent as he can be…how to pour himself a drink, cut his food up with a knife, clean up his dinner dishes, dress himself, put his clothes away, pick up his toys, unpack his backpack from school, etc. In other words, age-appropriate independence.

    I couldn’t care less if others cosleep or use cry-it-out or whatever other strategies there are. This is what works for us. But I do care when an assumption is made that everyone who cosleeps is a helicopter mom who can’t let go of her child.

  • Busbus

    I haven’t posted so far, but I’ve been following this blog for a while. I just wanted to say that I really appreciate the discussions about parenting choices and behaviors, including breastfeeding, AP etc. I like the emphasis on not participating in “competitive mothering”, and I like looking at the actual science behind some of the things that AP-advocates, lactivists etc. promote. I am from Europe originally, and there *is* something very strange going on around mothering in the US. It is much more stressful to be a mother here than it was in my home country. Where I am from, “do what works” seems to be a much more common opinion, and there is no competition on who can make the most sacrifices. Here, it almost seems like you have to adopt a “label” as soon as you are pregnant, so that you have a group you can identify and with and that will make you feel like you are “one of them”. Maybe it has something to do with the general lack of support for mothers?

    • Busbus

      Full disclosure: I very much did the AP thing with my older child. At
      that point I was in Europe, but I was following the parenting boards in
      the US – I knew we were going to move here, and something about the parenting “identities” and ideologies apparently struck a chord in me. But I was still surrounded by others that were much less ideological, and the whole approach to mothering was different – children were generally seen as only one part of your life, not the entirety of your existence. Once we actually lived in the US, I felt more and more suffocated by the whole natural/AP mindset. I started to feel that in a society where there is so much pressure on mothers to be “the best they can be” at all times, mitigate every risk, research every choice etc., the AP crowd – despite their protestations of being unsupported – where really like the poster child for a “good mother”. It started to seem to me that however unrealistically high everybody else sets the bar for what a “good” mother is supposed to do and feel, AP recommendations always go above and beyond and raise the stakes even higher. The attitude of the AP movement as a whole (not necessarily individual mothers) started to remind me very much of the proverbial teacher’s pet – always expecting praise and being miffed by the “unfair” treatment they receive at the hands of other (presumably lesser) mothers.

    • Susan

      . I was thinking the same thing. New motherhood can be a sort of isolating experience probably more so nowadays. Maybe some of the need to identify as AP or FreeRange or who knows what comes from the need I think most of us have, but especially as new moms, to have a community? Saying, I am lonely and isolated and joining a mom’s group is in a way not as ego bolstering as finding your “tribe” of “likeminded mamas”.

      • Busbus

        Yes, that’s what I was thinking.

  • Wren

    I placed a lot of importance on being an attachment parent at one point. I did all the “right” stuff and as a sahm it contributed a lot to my identity. Then I realised that pretty much every parent is attached and I don’t have to do things the Sears way, which is good because my oldest hated most of it. Funnily, my second child loved a lot of it and I did it, but not to be an attachment parent but just because it worked. My kids are 6 and 7 and I am still at home. I fill my days with various projects and volunteer work when they are at school and being a mother is still a huge part of who I am, but I no longer feel the need to identify as a particular style of mother. Ok, I do identify as a sahm, but that is circumstance not identity.

  • Tara

    I am a long time reader but this is my first time commenting. I love this blog and I think Dr Amy is doing a very important work. Using the information from this blog, I was able to gently and lovingly convince a friend to have a hospital birth after a home birth. I have many good friends whose guilt I have alleviated because they couldn’t breastfeed. And as for the other parenting philosophies of NCB, no one should be fear-mongered into relatively inconsequential choices that might not work for their family. I truly despise the scare tactics used by NCB.

    That being said, I haven’t been able to create additional readership of this blog due to what seem to be rather unrelated biases. My very moderate, non-NCB friends tend to find it offensive at times. I have a rather thick skin apparently since I have a large family & I homeschool yet I keep coming back for more. All of my children have been born in hospitals, I never breastfeed past a year if even that long. I do not co-sleep. I do not “babywear.” I let my children play unsupervised outside all the time. I used pacifiers. I vaccinate (and I don’t skip any). Furthermore, I kind of hate it when other people (not my children) call me a “mama.” I would much rather they use my first name. I love my children but I have always felt like my most important relationship was with my husband seeing as he’ll be around after the kids are gone and having two parents that really love each other can only benefit children.

    I honestly don’t think there’s any evidence that most people with large families are simply “replacing babies.” Everyone I know with a large family grew up in a large family and just loved having so many siblings. Seems logical. I don’t know that homeschooling and attachment parenting are related either. I think ALL of the AP parents I know public school and all of the homeschooling parents I know are military families (like myself actually) or just think the local school is putting out a subpar product.

    I thought that one of the main purposes of this blog was to empower families to do what works best for their families (within reason obviously) and especially what is scientifically SAFEST for parents and children (in the case of vaccines and childbirth). Surely we mustn’t then turn around and imply that families who choose to educate their children at home or have more than 2 or 4 or even 6 kids have horrible and selfish ulterior motives. I fear that openly expressing sentiments such as these may be doing a disservice to the very noble cause of educating families and helping them to see through the misinformation of NCB, anti-vax and ANY parenting method personality that claims that “if you don’t do it exactly my way, your kids will be messed up and it will be all your fault.”

    • Elle

      I was homeschooled all the way through high school (and from a large family), and I agree with you, though I didn’t find this post to be critical of homeschooling, or even the individual “components” of AP either – it was really more about how deeply those things *can* become the identity of the parent, which as others have noted, could be just as negative with a career or outside job (and even more so, since jobs are replaceable while motherhood is not).

      Just because there are some parents who homeschool simply because they can’t stand to see their children grow up or move beyond their “control” doesn’t mean that is the motivation of the majority of homeschoolers, and I really don’t think this post was implying that either, at least I didn’t read it that way.

    • auntbea

      Homeschooling? Fine! Homeschooling because you believe that you must be all things at all times to your children and leaving any part of their rearing to anyone else will mean you have not sacrificed enough to be a good mother? Not fine.

  • Squillo

    I don’t know whether “AP parents” have a harder time detaching than others, but I think the need to slap a brand name on one’s parenting choices–“attachment parent,” “natural mama,” “tiger mom,”–is interesting. It does seem to me to suggest something about the importance of identity and the degree to which marketing and branding has infiltrated even the most intimate aspects of it.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      Somehow, the “fuck-if-I-know-,-I’ll-just-try-this-and-hope-it-works-mom” label doesn’t stick, despite the fact that, I suggest, it’s the most commonly used approach.

      • SkepticalGuest

        Hell yeah. Wish we could have a catchy name. Because otherwise, we tend to defy the labels. There is no umbrella that includes me: combo-feeding, part-time working, baby-wearing, fully-vaccinating, homeschooling, stroller-using, cosleeping, non-circumsizing, free-ranging, least helicopter-y mom on the playground.

        You know why I did/do these things? Because it works for me, my husband, and my kid.

        Maybe we could call ourselves: Whatever Works Mamas

        • SkepticalGuest

          And oh yeah, I gave birth in a hospital with pit and an epidural…though my (stupid) plan was to give birth at home. Fortunately, I failed and transferred early enough that every worked out fine. Oh, and we got the Vitamin K shot too!

        • Guest

          I like “fuck-if-I-know.” We could be the “fi-knows.” Our secret hand shake could be a shoulder shrug and a fist bump. That misses.

          Anyone who still thinks they have all the answers after a year or two of parenthood astonishes me.

          • SkepticalGuest

            @Susan: Occassionally, one day, I DO have all the answers. I have solved the mystery of my kid, I know what works and what doesn’t, things go really smoothly, and then–the next day, he wakes up as entire new being, and I’m thrown back into the never-ending science-experiment of parenting.

          • Clarissa Darling

            “Anyone who still thinks they have all the answers after a year or two of parenthood astonishes me”

            The first 2 years of parenting are honestly not what worry me. You know what scares me? Teenagers. I remember what I was like and I don’t think I could call myself a successful mom at least until I get them through that phase (hopefully) unscathed.

          • Durango

            Teenagers have a bad rap–I LOVE having teens! They’re interesting and funny and well on their way to adulthood. Sure they think they know everything, but it’s a small price to pay for how great they are the rest of the time. Toddlerhood was much rougher.

        • Clarissa Darling

          I’d call it “no nonsense” mammas but, then that would upset the APers because the title would imply they’re into nonsense. However their title kind of implies the rest of us aren’t attached to our kids so……

        • Durango

          The labeling is just so weird. So is listing what you do as a parent. I feed my kids, comfort them when they need it, clothe them, give them shelter, etc etc (oh, and periodically ignore them completely)–what possible benefit is it to label your parenting? How on earth did all these labeled parents make friends and find like-minded people before they labeled themselves “AP”? And, to get back to the OP, how can anyone write a blog about their parenting style and not be overcome with complete boredom?

    • Clarissa Darling

      I currently work in finance but, market research is my passion and the whole phenomenon of parenting as a brand really fascinates me. Since I got pregnant I’ve definitely done a lot of thought about what kind of mom I want to be (however I suspect I won’t really know until he gets here). I’ll probably be one of those f-if-I know parents Bofa talks about but, I agree it needs a better title if it’s going to sell any parenting books!

      • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

        And a lot of it is going to depend on what your kid is like. Mine loved the swing and bouncy chair, hated the sling, hated being held unless it was her idea from about the age of 3 months. I didn’t breastfeed because I didn’t want to, but feeding her her bottles was some of the most bonding times we had(her dady think so too). We were in the middle of moving overseas AND I had to go back to work at six weeks. I didn’t exactly co-sleep but when she was sick or had night terrors sometime she slept with us(in a pack and play), or one of us would sleep on the floor in her room.

        She was in daycare from six weeks until she started school when she was 5. We have always been close and she has usually come to us when ever she had questions, problems , issues. She’s 19 now and we’re are pretty good friends but I’m always going to be Mom first, I’m good with that . I learned what worked with her personality and she adjusted to what was going on in our lives.

  • Elle

    That is a very interesting question to ask, and it’s good that you have differentiated between the actual “traits” of AP and taking on “AP” as your *identity*. I mean, motherhood is and always will be a part of my identity… there’s no getting around that and I wouldn’t want to change it. But it goes back to idea that I believe you have pointed out before, in that sometimes, AP is really more about the parents than the children. Many AP practices are practiced because they truly are better for that family, but going out of their way to practice/”educate”/proselytize these things, and joining mother groups based solely on “babywearing” or the type of diaper you use, makes it a much greater possibility that these simple choices will become as much a part of a woman’s identity as the title of “mother,” and that is unfortunate regardless of the label.

    • Amy M

      I have a friend that still identifies as an attachment parent, even though her child is in grade school, and parenting practices are no longer distinguishable from mainstream. When her child was an infant, she had a drug-free birth, exclusively breastfed, bedshared for a long time and used a baby carrier a lot. She stayed home for about 2yr before going back to work, at a very difficult job. She never took on AP as her whole identity, but I do find it interesting that she was very attached (for lack of a better word) to the label of AP, and still is, though the practices she used to identify with it are no longer relevant to her. Now, her child is rarely the topic of conversation, so she is not one of these women who is going to be lost when said child is grown and gone, but that AP thing is still a very important aspect of her identity, nonetheless.

  • Dr Kitty

    My father has a motto about parenting, from Gibran.

    “You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth”.

    My sister has a tattoo of an arrow on the inside of her left arm, pointing to her heart, because of that.

    The letting go is as important as the holding on.

  • Lost in Suburbia

    What you’re talking about is called helicopter parenting. That has little to do with whether or not one is AP. My experience with AP, both as a child who was AP’d before that was even a printed concept, and as an adult who chooses “AP” for my child, is that it helped create good relationships among parents and children. Can AP parents be helicopter parents? Sure! But are all helicopter parents AP? No way! I would not be surprised that parents who post all over social media how awesomely AP they are, are at heart helicopter parents. Gotta compete, gotta make sure their kids is better than other people’s kids (not just the best that individual child can be.)

    • Burgundy

      OMG, we just had a parent at the cashier’s window requesting her kid’s class schedule. When the cashier informed her that we couldn’t do that by law and she needed to have her kid’s permission to obtain it. She went ballistic. She went on and on about how she did everything for her kid, pay everything and she needs to know where was her kid at 24 hours etc. I am going to bring in my toy helicopter and use it to chase away the helicopter parent when they go crazy here.

      • Young CC Prof

        Sometimes, I WISH we had helicopter parents. I teach inner-city community college, and I get students who pretty much raised themselves. Or ones who are working full time and caring for young children of their own.

        • Certified Hamster Midwife

          It’s a pity we can’t perform parental love transfusions.

          • Young CC Prof

            I don’t know about can’t. My father spent five years as a Scoutmaster and about 20 serving the boy scouts altogether. Some of his boys had no fathers, others had fathers they might have been better off without. We also about halfway raised a neighbor kid for several years while his family situation was unstable. He slept at his mom’s house but spent most of his waking hours at ours. I still refer to him as “my other little brother.”

      • patty

        you sound like you work at a college. i do too. and i would not clump up attachment style parents with helicopter parenting. luckily we can just claim FERPA.

  • Burgundy

    I work at a college in California and I can always tell who are the students with parents with identity/let the kids grow up issues. I once had a mom yelling at the cashier window because she could not understand how to obtain a student ID, meanwhile, her 20-year old daughter (the student) just stood next to the mom and busy with her smart phone. Really, who was attending the school?

    • Lost in Suburbia

      So are you guessing that those kids who have helicopter parents are AP parents? I think Dr. Amy is conflating the two issues, when they are not the same. Overlapping, sure. But AP does not always lead to HP.

      • Burgundy

        Where in my paragraph said that the parents with “let kids be independent” issues are AP parents?

        • Lost in Suburbia

          You didn’t, but I was guessing that since you were commenting on an article that discusses attachment parenting, eventual child-detachment, and parental identity issues, that you were perhaps implying that they were. My error. My SIL works in college residence life, and is astounded and saddened by the lack of responsibility in the majority of students who live on campus, and the parents who always try to make excuses or get their kid out of stuff. Not how she was raised, by her parents who would now be labeled AP.

  • Nichole

    You know, Amy, you take the very basic, natural, primal instincts that we women and mothers have and scoff at them. Silly doctor, women are designed to mother. Silly doctor, women were designed to birth naturally. Silly doctor, babies were meant to sleep with their parents. Silly doctor, you spent too much time with your nose in a book, you’ve forgotten the natural way of life and lost touch with reality. You instead create a false sense of reality, one that institutes fear as the dominating factor in lives rather than instinct. Why? Because you stand to gain monetarily with your negative outlook on the natural way of life.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      I don’t know. Fair effort, but in the end, I’m only giving it a 6 on the troll meter.

      • Susan

        Nah she scared my Billy Goat but good! She’d get a 9 though if she included golf.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      Silly, Nichole, no one is designed for anything. We evolved.

    • Ra

      Does this mean that my ovaries “forgot the natural way of life and lost touch with reality” when they didn’t ovulate without medical intervention? Silly ovaries.

      • Jocelyn

        You probably just aren’t trusting your ovaries enough. They’re *designed* to ovulate naturally, so they obviously would if you just believed in them enough.

      • Poogles

        Maybe ovaries are like cervixes – you just need to praise them!

      • Rea

        You’re probably not a real woman. Sorry.
        (I hate it when other women tell other women how they’re supposed to be. Just because you’re a certain way doesn’t mean everyone else has to be Just Like You)

    • Burgundy

      According to the natural way of life, I should had die the first 10 minutes after my birth (twin, 6 weeks early, under weight, not able to swallow, 2 months NICU stay). I will take the modern science over nature.

    • Tim

      Ah, yes, the wonders of nature. The wonders of extra chromosomes, genetic deletions, neural tube defects, 2 chamber hearts, great arteries in the wrong place, GI atresia and stenosis, missing limbs, organs on the outside, mitochondrial diseases, and all the other wonderful and marvelous things that nature just can’t seem to get right. What a wonderful design.

    • Squillo

      How do you decide what’s the “natural way of life” and therefore good and what’s not?

    • Awesomemom

      If co sleeping is so natural and exactly what babies crave then why
      did none of my kids want to do it? My middle son actually refused to
      sleep anywhere except his crib. We had been planning on having him sleep in a sleeper next to the bed but he would not do it and once we figured out that he was wanting space of his own to sleep we moved the crib into our room.

      Also Nature is a bitch and not looking out for anyone’s good. If she really cared about humanity then my son would not have his heart defect and my niece’s esophagus would not have formed a gap in utero.

    • Poogles

      “Silly doctor, women are designed to mother.”

      What does that mean for women who choose to be childfree? Are they going against their “design”?

      “Because you stand to gain monetarily with your negative outlook on the natural way of life”

      Please explain in what possible way Dr. Amy stands to gain monetarily from any of this? She is no longer practicing, she doesn’t make money from this blog, she is not selling any services or products in connection with this blog or this topic.

      “Silly doctor, you spent too much time with your nose in a book, you’ve forgotten the natural way of life and lost touch with reality.”

      Oh yes, because too much of that book-learnin’ for women just dries up the ovaries and causes hysteria, doncha know?

      • Clarissa Darling

        With women like this trolling the net male misogynists don’t even have to go the trouble of being sexist anymore. Ladies like Nichole will keep us book learning types in our place!

  • amazonmom

    The only attachment parents I worry about are the ones that do AP so their kids will grow up to be just like them,and parrot back all of the parent’s worldview. The people I know like this plan on homeschooling all the way through college by mandating that the young adults only do online college in their home, or they can only get jobs the parents approve of. One person I know like this still doesn’t understand why her oldest packed up her things and left on her 18th birthday to join the Navy, leaving only a note saying BYE.

    The non sanctimonious AP families I know seem to figure out when to let the kids learn to be independent adults. My mom might have been considered an AP parent but that term wasn’t really around when I was young. When I entered middle school my parents said their goal was to teach me how to run a household by the time I left their home. I think they were a bit surprised when I ran with that idea and never moved back in after I left for college!

  • Thea

    I don’t think you understand AP. It’s about letting your children feel secure and have a strong foundation, it’s not some sick clingy need of the mother to have their child validate them. I love that my son is passed the attachment stage and damn right I breastfed and baby wore.

    • JC

      I don’t think you understand what she is saying. Of course there are parents who practice attachment parenting principles. But what about the mothers for whom it becomes their identities? I have a friend who practiced AP and was able to take her kids to work with her every day. But she easily lets go when she needs to and doesn’t homeschool because she wants/needs her space/independence too when the kids get older. I have another friend who quit her job, has no plans to return to work and is going to homeschool. For her, she has made her children her life’s work. She does not easily let go when she needs to and is very afraid of change. It is women like this who I fear will have trouble when their kids get older.

      • Joni Rae

        Hmmm. I’m a stay at home mom who identifies as an attachment parent. We are also a homeschooling family. My kids are all independent. My eldest is sixteen and while we have a great relationship she is also independent and does her own thing. I don’t fear the kids growing up and moving on. I am looking forward to seeing my children grow up and become amazing adults.

        • JC

          I also have another friend who homeschools and she is also not afraid of her kids becoming independent. But the other mom I know is obviously trying to keep her children right by her side and is very afraid of letting go. Afraid of everything in fact. So I certainly don’t think all moms who homeschool are trying to keep their children dependent on them. I have known very successful, well-adjusted homeschooled kids. But for someone who is already leaning toward wrapping up their identity in their kids, I think it’s a slippery slope. The mom I am concerned about had no plans to homeschool when she had kids. But now that it’s time to let them go on to school she can’t let go. She doesn’t even want to homeschool and doesn’t know how she’ll even go about it. No ideas, no plans. This is not in her children’s best interests.

          • AmyP

            That sounds bad–to be planning to homeschool with only an interest in the “home” part, and no interest in the “school” part.

        • Amy Tuteur, MD

          Here’s the problem: you don’t decide whether you were successful at parenting; your kids get to decide. The most obnoxious mothers and mothers-in-law are absolutely sure they were terrific mothers who raised their kids to be independent adults … even when it is obvious that they didn’t.

          So while you may be correct, you are a biased observer, and may be unreliable.

          • Susan

            Ok but Amy please tell me they only get to decide whether I was successful only after they have become parents themselves!

          • Certified Hamster Midwife

            That’s not fair. Not every adult grows up to become a parent.

          • Susan

            Then they don’t get a vote on how I did! (at least not till they have raised a puppy)

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      I don’t consider myself an “AP Parent.” Do you think that my children don’t feel secure or have a strong foundation?

      • Thea

        I consider myself an AP parent, does that mean that I am dependent on my children for validation? If AP wasn’t a thing, I bet these same mothers would still have the same unhealthy relationships. There’s parents like that from every belief system.

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          You didn’t answer my question. If I am not an AP parent, does that mean you think my children don’t feel secure or have a strong foundation?

          • Rea

            I considered myself an AP parent. Then I realized that the most important aspect of AP parent wasn’t the principals it espouses, but the idea that AP parenting is Better Than Every Other Parenting. So I ditched the label. The end.

    • Burgundy

      This is not about AP, this is about if the mom let AP become her identity then what is she going to do when the kids grow up?

      • Thea

        No, this is about moms who let their children become their identity and the author is blaming AP.

        • Burgundy

          the author is not blaming AP. She is question a particular segments of AP that are preach and pursued by the bloggers mentioned in the article. There are nothing wrong with practicing AP, but that should not be the only thing that define you.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      I don’t think you understand that most parents, whether they copy your parenting choices or not, want their children to feel secure and have a strong foundation. What makes you think attachment parents have a monopoly on that?

      • Thea

        Having unhealthy, dependent relationships with your children isn’t a hallmark of AP as your entire article is saying. There’s parents like that who follow every model of parenting. You are assigning an unhealthy behavior to an entire group.

        • Guest

          Her article isn’t saying that, Thea. Dr. Amy’s point, I think, is that the minute you identify yourself as part of a group or culture of parenting — like a religion — you’ve already crossed a boundary. Suddenly your parenting isn’t about doing your best for your own kids, it’s about being part of a philosophy and culture that sees itself as superior and must do whatever it has to to validate that view.

          I practice extended breastfeeding, babywearing and co-sleeping. I am home full time with my kids and we eat mostly organic foods, scratch-made. I am not an attachment parent or a naturalmama. I’m just a parent getting the job done in the way that works for our family. I think Dr. Amy’s article is spot-on.

          • Tara

            I LOVE this.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            “Parent getting the job done in the way that works for our family”

            Another label that doesn’t stick.

    • Ra

      There’s more to being a mother than feeding a child with your breast and packing him around the neighborhood strapped to you. In fact, I’d put those things fairly low on the list.
      Are the children educated and wise? Are they responsible members of society? Are they able to establish and maintain relationships? Do they have a strong work-ethic? Do they display empathy and compassion? Do they understand the difference betweeen right and wrong? These are the types of things that I worry about as a mother.

  • Rachel Mills

    Fair questions. Brings to mind issues of life balance. Always a challenge.

  • Hava NaturalMama

    One could ask the exact same question about someone who chooses to focus intensely on their career to the exclusion of all else. “What will become of someone who has made their career their whole life when they retire?” Focusing on small aspect of life to the exclusion of everything else is a problem whether the focus is on parenting, careers, community service etc.

    Just because someone chooses some aspect of attachment parenting (extended breast feeding, baby wearing, bed sharing) etc does not necessarily mean that they won’t be able to let go when their child is at the right age to end those attachments.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      I’m not talking about focusing on an aspect of life. I’m talking about attachment parenting as an identity. What’s going to happen to people like you who put “naturalmama” in their name when you’re no longer a nanturalmama?

      • naturalmamajust4u

        You act like this is a new concept. People have been using these principals for generations! I have many friends, as well as my own parents and their friends, who have done just fine once their kids are grown!

        • Zornorph

          The modern version of ‘attachment parenting’ is certainly a new concept.

        • Amy Tuteur, MD

          People identifying themselves as “naturalmama” is a new concept. It’s not about the choices; it’s about building your identity on the choices.

          • naturalmamajust4u

            Again maybe where you are from. My mother had my brother on a commune, where the women assisted in birth. she breastfed us a combined 7 years. they shared childcare duties. I WISH this was more common nowdays! The fact she couldn’t go online and use the handle naturalmama does not change what her identity was in the 1960s-1990s, a mother of minor children who dedicated her life to that and helping others raise their children naturally.

        • Guest

          This is a new concept. Born of a fantastically wealthy, privileged culture that can actually spare one whole person per family to focus obsessively on raising the kids. In prior cultures the mother may have been home with the children, but she was a day laborer, cooking, cleaning, sewing the family’s clothes, and working in the fields. The children were expected to mind themselves and each other with very little attention from their mother until they were big enough to join her at work. Nobody was spending a whole lot of time worrying about the baby’s self-esteem.

        • Are you nuts

          I think it’s generally new. I’m thinking about the “types of parents” when I was growing up. Maybe someone was a “strict parent,” meaning bedtimes were strictly enforced, no phone time after 8:00 PM or whatever. But those were just the house rules and the mom certainly didn’t proselytize her methods. Now it’s not uncommon to see women berating other women for not EBFing, co-sleeping, etc. in public (and private) forums.
          It’s the difference in a parenting philosophy and You’re Wrong If You Don’t Make The Same Decisions I Do. Everyone has a parenting philosophy. You’re Wrong If You Don’t Make The Same Decisions I Do seems to be a new thing.

      • Therese

        Why is it okay to identify with a career choice but not with a relationship choice? Look at you, still identifying as an obstetrician when you haven’t practiced medicine in 20 years. I’ve never heard anyone say, “Oh, don’t get too invested in your career because then you won’t know what to do with yourself when you retire” even though it’s true that some people do feel really lost once they retire.

        • me

          “I’ve never heard anyone say, “Oh, don’t get too invested in your
          career because then you won’t know what to do with yourself when you
          retire” even though it’s true that some people do feel really lost once
          they retire.”

          You’ve never heard the saying, “no one says on their death bed, ‘gee I wish I’d spent more time at the office'”?

          FWIW, both are dangerous – wrapping you whole identity up in any one thing is bad. Now, it’s easy to do that when your children are young – they are so demanding and need so much of you and you are the center of their universe (“mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children”). So, yea it’s easy to “lose” your identity while they are small. Regardless of what parenting ideology you identify with. I agree that anyone that takes an extreme, hardcore stance probably has a harder time “finding” themselves again when the intense early years pass.

  • Susan

    They will move on to some other way of being better than the rest of us…might have something to do with their kids might not.
    I don’t have a problem so much with the attachment parenting practices than the santimommiousness that so many of them have. The people that build their identities around an ideology will be the same annoying people in the grocery store or at back to school night or at the DMV ( one of modern life’s common denominators I think ). I have seen quite a few kids grow up with attachment parenting practices and they have turned out as fine, or not, as the others. It’s pretty much like you say, you aren’t going to be able to pick out the child who was breastfed till she was six from the formula from day one in high school. Some of the mothers though will be the ones you roll your eyes when they ask a question at back to school night just to prove how superior they are…..

  • Melissa Sue Butler

    Hmm…it sounds to me like the author doesn’t really understand attachment parenting. Many “attachment parents” also do what has come to be called “free-range parenting” as their children get older, which encourages and allows for far more independence than many “traditional” parents allow their children. My parents raised us in a way that was somewhat attachment parenting, but wasn’t labeled as such back in their day. We are all now in our late-twenties to mid-thirties, and each of us have college degrees, successful careers, and are happily married with children of our own. We are also all happy, well-adjusted people, who grew-up feeling valued, and secure. I hope to raise my children in this same way; they deserve it.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      Sure didn’t take long to get the “no true AP” response.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      The issue is attachment parenting as the identity of the parent, not the philosophy of childrearing.

      • Lost in Suburbia

        So, if I don’t identify as an AP person, although others might label me so, am I at a lesser risk of having an identity crisis as my kids grow up?

    • Thea

      I completely agree with you. I absolutely identify with being an AP mom and now we’re very much free-range. It’s not that I have some need that my child has to fill for me. I think this was only posted to be controversial.

    • Thea

      She also wrote an article about how breast feeding isn’t really that beneficial. She’s become an internet troll that makes a living being the extreme opposite of anything natural. I’m sure her next article will be just as inflammatory and misguided. People really need to stop sharing these. Anywho, I’m done commenting.

      • JC

        This is just anecdotal, but I’ll throw it out there. My daughter, breastfed 3 months, zero ear infections, crazy healthy. One friend, breastfed 18 months, multiple ear infections, tubes. Another friend, breastfed 1 year, multiple ear infections, tubes that had to be redone a year later. Another friend, breastfed 11 months, multiple ear infections, tubes. Another friend, breastfed 1 year, multiple ear infections, tubes. That is a total of 4 friends I have who all breastfed longer than I did and their children are way more unhealthy than mine. I think what Dr. Amy is saying is “If you are unable to breastfeed, if you don’t to breastfeed, don’t worry your children are not going to be unhealthy, obese idiots with lower IQs than their breastfed friends.” And out of all those kids mentioned above, guess whose child is the skinniest? Mine. One child is probably legitimately obese even those she didn’t have an ounce of formula. But her parents are obese and my husband and I are not. There are SO SO many other factors that matter way more than breastfeeding.

        • JC

          Meant to say “if you don’t want to breastfeed.”

        • Zola

          THANK. YOU.

        • Lynnie

          I “breastfed” my son expressed breast milk for a little over a month, not exclusively though. He was getting a bottle or two of formula a month. He only had one ear infection and that was after both of us being very sick for weeks. (He actually seemed to be not as sick as I was at the time.) I have a friend who breastfed her son for 3 years and he had to have tubes put in his ears and was always sick. You are right, breastfeeding doesn’t automatically make your child immune to all these diseases and conversely formula doesn’t make your child sick, stupid and fat. My son is thin (but incredibly strong), way to smart for is own good, and is rarely sick. Yeah, there are so many other factors in how a child turns out, and pure blind luck is one of them. I was just blessed with a child who is smart and strong and healthy, other parents have children who are more sickly than others and unless there is abuse or neglect, there isn’t much a person can do about that.

  • kristilee

    I attachment parented my 15 year old son. He is bright, curious, independent, and secure in himself as he explores the world. The mutual respect we have for each other allows us to discuss just about every subject and different things that are going on in his life and he listens to my opinions and thoughts and takes them into consideration. His friends often express to me and to him that they wish they had a relationship with their parent like the one we have (I know that sounds conceited, but it’s true.) I do not suffer from a lack of identity,rather I take great joy in watching him detach and become a strong, independent being able to handle life on his own. I am excited about and enjoying my own ability to be more independent than I have in the past and pursue my own interests and desires – but during the time I couldn’t do that I was perfectly okay with that because I was raising my child and I knew he wouldn’t be a child forever. There are lots of attachment parents who have teenagers now, so there is no lack of them to ask. There weren’t as many attachment parents in 1995 – 2005 as there are now but there were a significant number of us. No need to sit around and wonder how we’re doing! I for one am doing great!

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      The issue is not attachment parenting as a philosophy. I practiced attachment parenting with my own children (although no one called it that and it just happened to be the choices that I made). The issue is attachment parenting as you identity.

      If the primary way you identify your self is as an attachment parenting, what happens when the children detach.

      • kristilee

        Hmmm, well I guess I identified mostly as a mother/attachment parent when my kids were little and needed more intense attention/mothering – and as they grew older and started to detach, I too adjusted my identity from attachment parent to a mom with older kids who were more independent……some aspect of my identity will always be a “mom” because having my two boys was a big important part of my life! But I think much as I transitioned my identity from being a child, to a teen, to an adult……. or from a student, to a working woman, to a wife and mother, to now a single mom,……..I was able to transition away from having a main identity as an attachment parent. Identity isn’t necessarily a static thing, and can and should change as our life circumstances change. At least that is how it worked for me – can’t speak for others. =-)

      • Thea

        You’re relieved that’s what. That was your goal all along. It further blusters how you identify because the goals you set out for your child are being met. You think AP moms want clingy, incompetent children?

        • kumquatwriter

          I find the typo “blustered” where you ought to use “bolstered” hilarious. Because damn, do you self-important APers can bluster.

        • LynnetteHafkenIBCLC

          I agree with you Thea. I did AP for my kids because I thought it was the best thing for them, and the easiest thing for me. In hindsight, I think a lot of things I did were not conducive to them becoming more
          independent, and I regret that. My identity is fine, but I do worry that some AP parents inadvertently cause their children to be overly dependent, as I think I did. My kids are between 7 and 13, so thankfully it’s not too late to help them develop more independence, but if I had to do it all over again, I would have done a crib from earlier on, and deemphasized extended breast-feeding and baby wearing.

    • Sullivan ThePoop

      I did not AP and that sounds exactly like my relationships with my children. All of their friends say they wish that they had a relationship like they have with their parents. They tell me everything and all three say that me and their father are their best friends. See, the problem is not how you do things, but thinking that no other way could produce those same results.

  • Ennis Demeter

    Years ago whilst killing time at the library when my daughter was small I read an article in some homeschooling magazine about how college and independence isn’t necessarily the right option for 18 year olds. Of course that’s true, but the author was the father of a homeschooled child around that age and it really smelled of self-justification.

    • Jeanne’s mom

      I’m watching my own daughter struggle as a college freshman. I knew she wasn’t ready for college and tried to gently steer her into a gap program but she really really really wanted to go on to college. So she did, and things are not going well. OK, well, I don’t have a dog in this race. She’ll stumble, she’ll flail, and (eventually) she’ll grow up. She’s basically a good kid.

      Guess who did the same at her age?

      We can’t really save our children from mistakes, even if we made the same mistakes. We can only encourage them and remind them that they are not the only ones who screwed up…and thank whatever deities we believe in that screwing up is rarely fatal.

  • Amy M

    Good question, I wonder this myself. My mother worked. She was home with my sister and I before we were in school, but then she went back to work. When we left home, I do think there was a period of adjustment for her (moreso for our dad, actually), but our parents did not practice “attachment parenting” as these women do. Anyway, after we left, my parents kept working…and my mom especially took up new hobbies—she got very into dog training, dog rescue and photography. Recently, she retired and now she’s a SAHG (stay at home grandma) for my nephew. Good for her! My mom, though an introvert, has always had her own identity, which included being a mom, but is also much more.

    I try to follow her example, as well as that of many others. I work—because I have to, but even if I didn’t, I probably would because that is a huge part of my identity. I have hobbies and things I enjoy outside of my children. I believe my marriage needs nurturing as well as my children. When I had PPD, my marriage took a hit because I only had so much to give. Good thing I got help, else I’d probably be single now. I love my children, I love being a mother, being a mother of twins specifically IS a large part of my identity. But, it is not all of my identity. That would not be healthy.

    I believe that to make my entire being “MOM” would be to diminish myself—I would be miserable. I would have no self-respect and I would not garner respect from others. How could I? I would be actively proclaiming that my children, and everyone else were worth more than me, that I am nothing more than a vessel, a servant and then when they have no need of me, I am nothing.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      I do tend to think that, since I have had children, that being a father is really “who I am.” It really does define me.

      BUT

      It is the fact of “being a father” that defines who I am, not “how I father.” Being a father is not about my parenting choices that I make. It is, in part, about making choices as part of raising our children, regardless of what those choices end up being.

  • Mel

    Near as I can tell, they have two options:
    A. Never let their children grow up. Swoop in to protect them from everything. It works just fine if the goal is to have adults with the coping skills of a toddler.
    B. Reproduce yearly – the massive family solution. If you produce a baby every year or two, you can look forward to always having a helpless baby in the house to make you feel better. When you hit menopause, adopt needy children under the radar.

    • Dr Kitty

      If you do it right, by the time you hit menopause your first grandchildren will be appearing, and you’ll have to raise them because your own kids will be incapable…

      • Zornorph

        They will swoop in on the grandchildren like starving vultures. And the kids probably won’t be independent enough to hold them off. God help them if they want to FF, circumcise or violate some other rule of attachment parenting.

        • Amy Tuteur, MD

          I could easily imagine that the children will want to formula feed, put babies in playpens, etc. Part of differentiating yourself from your parents is being different from them. That is sure to enrage those who built their identity around their parenting choices and spent copious amounts of time trying to convince others that their choices made them superior.