Saturday, May 12, 2012

May I Weigh In?

Anyone tired of hearing opinions on the Time Magazine cover? Hope not.

You've all seen it - a sexy thin mom breastfeeding a nearly-four year old. I won't comment on the story itself, as I haven't read it. (I have a pet peeve of people commenting on written material they haven't actually read). But I would like to share my thoughts on the topic of Attachment Parenting. (No, the article apparently isn't just about how old is too old to breastfeed). Attachment Parenting is a parenting style characterized by breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and sling wearing. The idea is that during infancy, a major task of development is attachment to a caregiver. Babies whose needs are consistently met with love and comfort develop healthy attachment and learn to trust. This ability to attach is extremely important in the rest of the child's life. I see too many children with poor attachment that have behavioral and emotional issues. These last until adulthood, impacting one's marriage and their own ability to parent.

Before having Jr., I must admit I wasn't much of a fan of Attachment Parenting (AP) - at least the co-sleeping part. But, after Jr. was born, the only way the little rascal would sleep at night was on my tummy, curled up like a pillbug. I realized that this loud, bright world was shocking and confusing for my little man, and he needed the comfort and security of his parents to adjust. I developed a new view of AP. I read the heck out of Dr. Sears and found a lot of AP comes very naturally. We co-slept for several months, still breastfeed, and loved to wear the baby in a carrier when he was smaller.

I now see AP as a spectrum or continuum. On either end of the continuum for or against, there may be parenting problems. Strict AP may lead to permissive parenting, coming from a fear of damaging the attachment. Strict anti-AP parents may be too authoritarian, missing out on a loving connection with their baby. A nice balance is probably one that engages in attachment-encouraging nurturance while setting limits and structure. Some of the parents I know couldn't breastfeed, but co-sleep. Others did neither, but consistently and lovingly respond to their child's needs. Even though we began co-sleeping, we eventually realized Jr. needed us to set some limits and he learned to sleep even better than ever in his own crib.

Some of this balance depends on your child's temperament. Some babies need more comfort and others need more boundaries. And, needs change throughout infancy - just like Jr.'s need to co-sleep.

So, might a three or four year old still need the comfort of breastfeeding? Maybe, but probably not. At some point, there has to be a boundary set and the child needs to learn self-soothing strategies. Whatever the case, we know that the most important years for building attachment are before the age of five. Parents should be mindful of this while taking seriously their responsibly to set loving limits.

Feed on breastfeeders! Or don't.
My little pillbug, about a year ago.


  1. I agree they're doing it a little too long... what will they do when they go to school?? come by at lunch for a feeding?? Our job is to teach them some independence and i think cutting the breast feeding out prior to the age of three is probably a good idea.. I am all for them doing it longer but age three is a little much. Really creepy to me in fact, slightly perverted.

    1. Eschelle, I think 3 is definitely a good cut off. I'm shooting for 18 months!


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