I received an interesting question from a reader and know exactly where she’s coming from, but thought that in addition to my own answer, it’d would be interesting for her to read other opinions too. So what do you think? Do you need to be breastfeeding or nursing your baby to be a “good” attachment parent, or can you practice the basic tenets of attachment parenting regardless of if you use the breast or bottle?
Here’s her question:
“OK! Where to start… well, I just recently found out about Attachment Parenting – and was very glad to! I’ve been doing most of the things you all talk about since my son was born back in March… baby-wearing, co-sleeping – however, I was unable to breastfeed him. Trust me – it was not for lack of trying – in fact I did do it for the first 5 days of his life, but had a lot of trouble and at the time just couldn’t handle it anymore.
“Are there other AP’s who are in my same situation? I have a lot of guilt about not being able to continue… especially where it’s such a big part of this style of parenting. I guess maybe I’m just afraid that I either will never fully receive the benefits of AP without it or that I just plain won’t fit in.”
My thoughts: while it’s pretty well shown in medical research just how beneficial breastfeeding is when compared to bottle feeding, the reality is that we all have lives and there are oodles of adults who never had a single day of breastmilk and are pretty reasonably well adjusted members of society. 🙂
But the guilt, yes, it’s frustrating to see how many parenting experts become zealots about their own shtick, whether it be a particular form of discipline, approach to toilet training, or how to feed a newborn. Independent of whether there are women who just cannot breastfeed for any of a hundred reasons.
I personally believe that the key component of attachment parenting, however, is in your level of commitment to being a loving, gentle, present parent. Not handing off the baby to a nanny or day care center, not planning your quarterly two weeks with the baby at Grandma’s, not sticking them in front of the “tube” so you can pursue your own interests.
I have seen mothers — and fathers — curl up with their baby, feeding them with a bottle, but cuddling and loving them in a way quite comparable to breastfeeding (and needless to say, it’s tough for us guys to successfully breastfeed!). Are they “attachment parenting”? I certainly think so, at least in that one aspect.
So, please, continue with everything you’re doing with your baby, confident that you are offering up the best possible nurturing environment for him. No-one’s perfect, and frankly I think if you were the ideal “attachment” parent you’d probably have to completely give up your own life anyway, which isn’t a good deal for anyone in the long run.
That’s my two cents. How about you, dear reader, what’s your take on this situation?