Attachment parenting: 50 shades of black and white

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If there’s anything I’ve learned in more than 25 years of parenting, it’s that different children, even from the same family, need different things. And if there’s anything I learned from practicing medicine, it’s that there are many different ways (cultural traditions, religious traditions, family traditions) to raise children successfully.

But not for attachment parents, for whom there is only one way, their way.

I’m reminded of the famous quote from Henry Ford, describing the sale of the Model T:

Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.

In the world of attachment parenting, any mother can have any birth she wants, so long as it is vaginal, unmedicated, and “unhindered.”

Any mother can feed any baby what ever way she prefers, so long as it is breastfeeding.

Any mother can carry her child anyway she wants, so long as it is strapped to her body, not in a stroller or, heaven forfend, not carried, but placed in a playpen.

In other words, in attachment parenting, there are 50 shades, but all of them are either black of white, bad or good. Attachment parents don’t do nuance.

Hospital birth bad.

Homebirth good.

Never mind that homebirth dramatically increases the risk of perinatal death.

Cesarean bad.

Vaginal birth good.

Never mind that there are countless situations in which a C-section is the better, safer mode of birth for both baby and mother.

Bottle feeding bad.

Breastfeeding good.

Never mind that there are women who can’t make enough milk, find breastfeeding too painful, or simply prefer bottle feeding.

Epidurals bad.

Cranio-sacral therapy good.

Cribs bad.

Family bed good.

Vaccines bad.

Ground up herbs with unknown quantities of active ingredients good.

All parenting choices can be characterized as bad or good, nothing in between. There is absolutely no appreciation for the concept that what is good for one mother-child pair may need to be modified slightly or dramatically in order to be best for another mother-child pair. There is absolutely no appreciation that when it comes to parenting, there are infinite shades of all colors because there are infinite combinations of mother and child.

Why are parenting choices black or white in the world of attachment parenting? Because attachment parenting has nothing to do with parenting and nothing to do with children. It’s all about women and how they view themselves in relation to other women. There’s only black (not a good mother like me) and white (mirroring my own choices back to me).

But real parenting is about trying to meet the varied needs of many family members, within varied cultural and religious traditions, not to mention a multitude of family traditions. In the real world, there is no magic recipe for raising healthy, happy children.

In other words, in the real world, there are infinite shades of every color, not simply black and white.