In response to the growing interest in responsive parenting within the scientific and professional communities, Attachment Parenting International (API) with prominent health psychologist Kathleen Kendall-Tackett announce the advent of the Journal of Attachment Parenting. Access to the online publication is free of charge.
“Numerous recent studies have documented the importance of responsive parenting to both physical and mental health,” says Kendall-Tackett, PhD, IBCLC, FAPA, guest editor of the Journal of Attachment Parenting, an annual review of the most eye-opening research in sensitive responsiveness. “We are finally recognizing that early parenting does make a difference. In fact, it is critically important to adult health. This volume summarizes recent studies that show this connection. I hope that it will provide an evidence base to both parents and professionals. This volume represents a critical gathering of recent science around responsive parenting.”
For this debut issue, the Journal of Attachment Parenting highlights 41 studies selected through a review process that evaluated articles published in high-quality, peer-reviewed journals from around the world. An additional 324 studies have been recognized for their contributions to the Attachment Parenting community.
I’ve been helping my mom research our genealogy off and on over the last few years. Lately, she’s been hunting for tombstones. As I walk the oldest part of the cemeteries, reading the grave markers, I am continually taken aback by how many mark the burials of infants and young children.
We know on an intellectual level why it was difficult for our ancestors to make it through childhood, with disease and famine and lack of medical technology and effective medications. But can you imagine the absolute heartbreak of these early generations? A mother in 1852 can’t have felt any less emotional pain from the death of her son or daughter than I would. And then, try to imagine what emotional wounds these parents faced with this sadness, anger and possibly guilt passed down to their genetic line?
Epigenetics explains how certain genes responsible for diseases and mental illnesses can be turned off or on depending on the environment. In this documentary, “The Ghost in Your Genes,” researchers explain how looking at the genealogy of people affected with certain medical conditions often links them with certain environmental conditions. For example, people today suffering from type 2 diabetes likely had famine in the family tree and people with a tendency toward depression are linked with ancestors who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. Because of the type of research, we can’t say that PTSD causes depression susceptibility, but we can say that there seems to be a link.
There’s a lot of talk about the importance of secure attachment. We mostly hear of it in two circles: adult relationships and parenting, especially of adopted or foster children. We’re hearing more of it in parenting at large, mainly through organizations like Attachment Parenting International. But for the most part, the importance of individual attachment style continues to be downplayed. After all, we all grew up “just fine,” right?
As a breastfeeding educator, I am continually wowed by the progress made over the past several decades of not only promoting mothers to breastfeed their infants but also of encouraging the medical community to embrace the practice that was once touted by post-World War II doctors as the “poor woman’s way of feeding her children,” second to the “superiority” of “modernization,” of formula. It is now well known what nature has always known, that breast is indeed best when it comes to feeding our babies.
Breastfeeding is unique in that it not only delivers superior nutrition and health factors to our infants, as well as benefits mothers’ health in the long term, but also that it promotes a secure attachment relationship between mother and baby. We don’t hear about this much, because our medical community hasn’t yet completely acknowledged that how our brains work—the psychology of it all—is actually a biological, physical function of our body. And so, right now, the medical community is pretty much just interested in communicating the importance of the nutrition and health factors of breastmilk.
The core of healthy parenting is responding to our children with sensitivity. On this last day of World Breastfeeding Week, which runs annually from August 1-7, I wanted to spotlight this choice in infant feeding that is often taken for granted in how critical the act can be in getting motherhood–and babyhood–off to the best start. And I’m not talking about the nutritional aspects, but rather the basis of the mother-child relationship and the relationship skills that child will carry into adulthood.
Breastfeeding can be difficult in our society. It is hard to do something different than our family and friends, our social network prior to becoming parents, and to find a new support system for our choices. It is hard to navigate new motherhood relatively alone, compared to other cultures where family rallies together to give the mother a baby moon, a time when mom and baby can bond uninterrupted while housework and caring for other children are taken up by others in her life. It is hard to make the choice to return to work and then try to integrate a child care provider into our alternative way of parenting. It is hard to pump while away from baby. And it is hard to continue to push through difficulties, whether it be a poor latch or milk supply issues or teething or night-waking, when so many others in our lives are trying to convince us to just give a bottle of formula.
And I quote: “To achieve maximal security for the baby and optimal availability of breastfeeding, mothers are advised to take the baby of less than four months of age into their bed for feeding during the night, but afterwards to place the baby on its back into his own crib…”
This is the recommendation of the latest anti-bedsharing study to make headlines, by Carpenter et al. Clearly the primary investigator is a man, because as anyone who has ever breastfed a newborn in their bed knows, it is nearly impossible to get through the feeding and put the baby back to his own bed before passing out.
Balance, as in balance between family and personal time, is an elusive component in parenthood. I, as well as any mother I know, have been chasing the perfect balance since my first trimester of my first pregnancy. I have learned many lessons through the years on how to balance parenthood, career, marriage, and me time. But still, it seems that any formula for balance that I find only works for a few weeks before something – illness, car needs repair, a giant work project, and so on – forces me to throw all up in the air again and re-organize.
I was shocked to hear of actress Mayim Bialik’s divorce recently, just six months since the release of her parenting memoir, Beyond the Sling. Many people would say they weren’t. They would say that she was too invested in her children, in her style of parenting, to be able to sustain her marriage. And, of course, they would bring up the cosleeping as a major cause of unrest in the union.
How about that their divorce is occurring because marriage is just plain hard? No matter whether you parent this way or that. No matter whether your marriage has major relationship difficulties, such as mental illness, or not. It’s just hard. Two very different people living in close quarters – more if you add in kids – and a constant balancing and re-balancing of individual versus family versus couple priorities. That’s hard!
Conversely, a 2012 study at Aarhus University showed that a baby’s cry elicits a unique, lightning-fast response in his parents to soothe the baby. We want that crying to stop. We’re wired that way.
So, it’s puzzling why there seems to be a surge of entertainment centered on crying children, particularly infants. The quiver of the lip, the shaking of the chin, the miniature pout, the glistening tears. Apparently, it’s quite adorable.
And as the child grows and those crying sessions become tantrums, these big reactions can seem downright hilarious to a lot of people. “You’re having a fit about what?!”
Making sport of crying babies – from Parenting.com’s “They’re mad, they’re sad, they’re so darn cute!” crying baby pictures to YouTube’s swarms of “cute baby crying” videos to talk show host Jimmy Kimmel’s challenge to parents to feign eating all their child’s Halloween candy to Japan’s crying babies festival (what!?) – seems to be taking this fixation with baby cuteness one step too far.
Sigh. Have you seen the latest Time Magazine’s coverage of the Attachment Parenting Movement? I just about spit out my cereal when I saw the cover.
Having a background in print journalism, I understand a publication’s temptation to sensationalize a story, but even I couldn’t have fathomed such a cover. It’s not so much that she’s breastfeeding, but the way it’s portrayed — very disrespectful not only to her but all breastfeeding mothers and all mothers who now question whether they’re “enough.” And many of the articles going into the package featuring attachment parenting, as well as the parenting examples they pulled from, are just as judgmental.
This is not what parenting with attachment is about. It’s not about having petty differences over specific parenting techniques. Breastfeeding toddlers versus not. Natural birth versus not. Homeschooling versus not. Not vaccinating, not circumcising, cloth diapering. None of that matters. Really, truly. It is not a requirement of parenting with attachment.
Certainly, the point of the Time Magazine package is to provide an overview of “extreme parenting,” but attachment parenting doesn’t have to be extreme. It can be mainstream parenting. Soccer moms and working parents and women who started out motherhood with a C-section can do it.
There’s a lot of talk in the news media about Attachment Parenting lately, especially with celebrity-turned-PhD Mayim Bialik’s new book, Beyond the Sling, in which she describes her brand of parenting, which does include Attachment Parenting (AP). And there are a lot of questions being asked. I’ve been fielding both concern and applause for the various conversations swirling around Mayim and AP. I wanted to give a little clarification.
First of all, what is Attachment Parenting exactly? Technically, it’s a research-backed approach to parenting that promotes securely attached kids. What’s that mean? “Attachment” is a term to describe the emotional bond between two people. A person with a secure attachment style is able to establish and maintain a healthy emotional bond with other people. A kid who is securely attached to his parent is a kid who shares a healthy emotional bond with his parent – with all the give and take of any emotionally healthy relationship. People with secure attachment styles are less affected by stress and generally happier in relationships than those with insecure attachment styles.
Research shows that parents who raise children with secure attachment in mind do two things: They provide consistent and loving care, and they respond with sensitivity. This can look different for different people. For parents who are living the natural lifestyle, this may take the form of breastfeeding and baby-led weaning, babywearing, cosleeping, and stay-at-home parenting. Of course, there are plenty of parents who do these parenting techniques who are not necessarily living a natural lifestyle, but there are also plenty of parents who bottle-feed and crib-sleep and work outside the home who are still raising their children with attachment-promoting strategies.