This is part 2 of What's Wrong with Attachment Parenting! This is a two-part series where I dive into the world of Attachment Parenting that originated in the works of Dr. William and Marth Sears. In the previous episode, I talked about what are the principles of attachment parenting, also known as “The Seven Baby Bs”.
In this episode, I'm talking about what is wrong with attachment parenting. Basically speaking, I think that attachment parenting comes from a very good intention (who doesn't want to raise children in a sensitive way?), however, I do think that attachment parenting takes it to the wrong place. While it might work for some people, it won't for others. And eventually, in my opinion, this is what matters. There are better ways to create a secure attachment with your child than those taught by attachment parenting, and this is another thing I talk about in the episode.
Understanding Attachment Parenting
Attachment parenting, popularized by Dr. William Sears and his wife, Marta Sears, emphasizes practices like breastfeeding, babywearing, and co-sleeping. These practices aim to foster a close bond between parents and children. However, it's important to note that while these methods can be beneficial, they are not the only ways to establish a secure attachment.
The Problem with Attachment Parenting
One of the main issues with attachment parenting is its potential dogmatism and the pressure it places on mothers. This approach can lead to feelings of guilt and inadequacy in parents who are unable to follow its strict guidelines due to various reasons, such as physical limitations or lifestyle choices.
Attachment Focused Parenting: A Flexible Alternative
Attachment focused parenting, as proposed by psychologist Daniel Hughes, offers a more flexible approach. It emphasizes creating a safe emotional environment for children, which is key to developing secure attachment. This method focuses on being warm, responsive, and attuned to children's needs, regardless of specific parenting practices like breastfeeding or co-sleeping.
Key Principles of Attachment Focused Parenting:
- Safety: Providing both physical and emotional safety.
- Regulating Emotions: Helping children manage their emotions effectively.
- Encouraging Exploration: Supporting children's natural curiosity and independence.
PACE: A Framework for Attachment Focused Parenting
PACE stands for Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity, and Empathy. These elements are crucial in creating a nurturing and secure environment for children.
Moving Beyond Gender Roles and Rigid Practices
Attachment parenting often reinforces traditional gender roles and can be seen as patriarchal. In contrast, 21st-century parenting should transcend these roles, focusing on what works best for each family, regardless of gender or family structure.
Conclusion: Embracing a Balanced Approach
While attachment parenting has good intentions, its rigid practices are not necessary for fostering secure attachment. A balanced approach, focusing on emotional availability, responsiveness, and creating a safe environment, is key to raising resilient, happy, and confident children. By understanding and applying the principles of attachment focused parenting, parents can nurture a secure bond with their children without the pressure of adhering to strict guidelines.
Books Mentioned in The Episode
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Eran Katz: All right. My friends. Welcome to part two of the episode about attachment parenting. In this episode, we're going to talk about why attachment parenting can be wrong, where it's problematic and how you can really create an attachment focused parenting without succumbing to the seven baby bees.
So stay tuned.
All right. Welcome back to The Apparently Parent podcast. My name isEran Katz. I'm very happy that you're here with me today. If you haven't listened to the previous episode from last week, maybe you want to do that before this one, because this is part two of that. In that episode, I talked about what attachment parenting is, where it came from historically, and especially what are the main principles of the attachment parenting as it was presented by Dr.
William Sears, a pediatrician and his wife, Marta Sears, and you can read about attachment parenting in their books, such as the attachment parenting book or in many different social media groups and blogs and all of that. Now, as I've said in the last episode,
I don't want to attack anyonewho is using attachment parenting as their parenting methods. If it works for you. And you see results. Awesome. Great. I'm very happy for you because I do think attachment parenting has some good stuff. And if you use attachment parenting, if you care about that, that means that you care about your parenting and if you know what I stand for, I stand for parenting that is meaningful. I care about being a parent and I care about helping parents achieve their best selves as parents and become what I call 21st century parents, which are parents who care about the children, care about their childhood care about themselves, and care about doing what is needed to be done in order to create.
An enduring and meaningful relationship with their children so that their children can become resilient, happy, and confident adults.
So if it's working for you, great, I'm not here to tell you that attachment parenting is wrong. However, attachment parenting has some major problems that we need to discuss. This is what we going to do in this episode. So let's go into this. So far, I have described in the previous episode, what attachment parenting teachers and where it comes from, but now we want to answer the question.
What the hell is wrong with attachment parenting? And here I have a confession to make. Before I started to prepare for this episode, I didn't know a lot about attachment parenting. I knew that it existed. I knew that it promotes breastfeeding, baby wearing, and co-sleeping, and not a lot more than that. And that's what I knew from some of my clients who were into this and talked about it with me or some groups where I went into Facebook groups and learned a little bit of stuff over there when I was a young dad and wanted to know how to raise my children and better and all that.
And from my. I didn't like it. Why? Well, maybe because I didn't practice those things as well. Of course I couldn't breastfeed myself, but my wife could, but in any case, we didn't co-sleep with the children in our bed and we did wear the babies sometimes when we went out, but we didn't do it in, like, it was proposed by the Sears, like all the time.
And. I also didn't like it because when reading through many threads in social media, especially in attachment parenting Facebook groups, I felt like this is really dogmatic and demands too much from the mother. And it enraged me. If you remember, in the last episode I started with telling you about one of my first impressions of attachment parenting was when one of my clients was a young mom who fell like she was a very bad mum because she couldn't practice attachment parenting.
It was hard for her to do so because she couldn't breastfeed and she just didn't manage with co-sleeping. She felt like she was doing a very bad job as a mum. And it really enraged me to see those doctrines being distributed like that.
It enraged me, that fathers are being kind of left out and that attachment parenting demands too much from the mum. And I must say that I often felt like those Facebook threads, we're really mom shaming and guilt producing, and it really made me angry. And I was also angry for the use of the word attachment in their name.
As I've said in the first episode, the first one, I really like attachment theory in psychology. I use it in my practice as a clinical psychologist. It's part of my research as a PhD student. I think it's the best theory we have today to work with and both theoretically and practically, and the attachment parenting method
isn't really rooted in attachment research. So when I came into researching this episode and I was ready to go into a fight. Like I wanted to discredit everything about attachment parenting. And to be honest, I don't feel like that anymore. When reading more about attachment parenting and reading through the attachment parenting book published by the series kind of 10 years ago, I came to realize that things don't really look like I thought.
It has to be said that that attachment parenting book is a later publication where they might have toned some of their dogmatic vibes down. And I haven't read the earlier work and especially not the one about Christian parenting, because that really doesn't mean a lot to me. But, you know, I do believe everyone is entitled to progress.
And as I mentioned in the previous episode, the attachment theory and attachment research is changing over time. And in the way attachment theory is taught and thought of today is not the same as it was taught and thought of 20 years ago. So if the attachment researchers can update their work , maybe the Sears can as well.
Why not? All right. So I have to put that in, in that perspective. However, I still think that attachment parenting, as it is taught by the Sears and by other people online is not exactly the right way to become what I call the 21st century parent, which is a parent who acts in a sensitive, caring, and respectful way with his or her children.
And by that, helping that child grow into a confident, resilient, happy, human being. Why I think that's the right way to go in order to become a 21st century parents? Let's have a look.
So first and foremost attachment parenting is not about real attachment. Yes. The Sears latched on the name "attachment" more for its scientific positive publicity value than other things. And while it is true, the things like skin. Yeah. And while it's true that some of the things that they teach, like skin to skin contact, right after the birth or breastfeeding or close contact with the child during the day, those can help create a secure attachment between a parent in his or her child,
these are not a must. So in a way, the Sears may have the right intention in mind. creating a secure attachment, a secure bond of safety between a parent and his or her child is the right intention. But I do think they took it to the wrong place. In the previous episode, I talked about the seven baby Bs.
Those are the seven major principles of of attachment parenting. And I'm not going to go over what they mean right now, because you can listen to the previous episode. If you want to learn about them more. Let's just mention, the seven baby Bs: birth bonding, breastfeeding, babywearing, bedding close to baby AKA co-sleeping, belief in the language value of your babies cry,
aKA don't think they manipulate you be aware of baby trainers and balance. Those are the seven baby Bs. And while some of them are really on the spot and helpful trying to follow all of the baby Bs is hard. And because of that, it's not sustainable for many parents because not every parent can breastfeed for example,
think about gay parents. Think about moms with problems with breastfeeding, right? Like my client that I mentioned in the previous episode, not everybody can breastfeed, not can, not everybody can baby wear their babies all day long because of different issues. All right. So it's not sustainable to follow all the babies now, does it mean that those parents who manage to hunker down and follow all the recommendations raises secure children?
No, of course not. Because the research on attachment patterns speaks about roughly 60 to 70% of secure attachment globally. Okay. So if you go around the world and you take babies and their parents, and you do the strange situation, which is the paradigm to test if a baby has a secure or insecure attachment.
No matter in what country you are, around 60 to 70% of the babies are securely attached to their caregivers, to their parents. Now it goes to say that even when parents don't follow the Sears advice, secure attachment still arises because they don't believe that 60 to 70% of the parents practice attachment parenting.
Now we have to talk about what does it mean to have a secure attachment . Why is it so important to me, to the Sears, to other people? Why is it, why, why do you think it's so important? So I want to start with a quote from Alan Srouf, who is a prominent attachment researcher. And he says, quote, attachment is the deep abiding confidence a baby has in the availability and responsiveness of the caregiver end quote.
So what does it mean. When a baby has a secure attachment with his or her care, her now caregiver can be a mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, whoever is taking care of the baby in a consistent way
the baby has a deep confidence that his or her care caregivers will be available for him when he needs them emotionally and physically. So when a baby is hungry and he cries, he knows that mom or dad are coming with food. Does it matter if it's breastmilk or baby formula? I don't think so. The most important thing is that the baby knows the food is coming now.
Yeah. You can go into a discussion about the differences between baby formula and breast milk, which one is better for the immune system and all that. I'm not going into that because that's not the scope of what we're talking about. We talking about the, the dynamic, the emotional relationship
between the baby and his caregivers. What does it mean to provide secure attachment? It means that the caregiver is warm, responsive, emotionally available, attuned to the baby. All of that is possible to provide to your child, even if you don't follow the baby Bs to a T.
If you don't breastfeed, you can be warm, responsive, emotionally available and attune to your child. If you don't co-sleep, you can be warm, responsive, emotionally available, and attune to your child. If you don't babywear,you can be warm, responsive, emotionally available, and attuned to your child.
And if you look at it, from the other side, you can be the mom who breastfeed co-sleep and all that without being warm with your child, without being very responsive to your child, without being emotionally available. Just think about mothers who not of their own fault, but they suffer from postpartum depression and they have a hard time being very emotionally available to the children or being very warm with the children.
So they might go through the motions of breastfeeding of clothing, the baby carrying the baby around, but not really responsive to the baby's signals. Now, yeah being responsive to the baby, seems as part of the attachment parenting method. If you think about baby reading, that's, that's one of the major things that they teach, but it doesn't mean you have to be a quote unquote attachment parenting parent.
When we think about secure attachment, it has three major components that go hand-in-hand. One, the parenting is providing a sense of safety and security to the child. Two, the parent is regulating the emotions of the child. Three, the parent is encouraging the exploration needs of the child.
And eventually. What creates a secure attachment is when a caregiver provides an environment in which a child feels totally seen and supported through their emotions and experiences. And when that happens, the child feels that he or she isn't alone.
And so emotions, even high emotions can be totally. And this is what we get. When a parent provides a sense of safety and security, your parents can regulate the emotions of the child and the parent encourages the natural tendency of the child to explore. How does it relate to the seven baby Bs of attachment parenting?
Almost all of the seven, maybe be excluding, maybe the one about believing in the value of the baby's cry. Are in my opinion, not essential for creating a secure environment. Can breastfeeding help the baby or the child feels seen and held by his mom, of course. But while breastfeeding is, you know, it's, it's really a way to enhance the mother, child attachment due to the close proximity.
And they need to be sensitive to the baby's cues because the mom is holding the baby next to her skin. And, and if she wants to. To do a good job with breastfeeding. She needs to be responsive to the baby when he wants to stop feeding, et cetera. But it should be noted that research comparing children who were breastfed to those who weren't in the same family.
Did not find differences in attachment quality. And let me repeat that. If you take babies who are breastfed and babies who were not, and they grew in the same family, so the same parents, right? You don't find differences in the attachment quality of those babies as they grow up. So breastfeeding doesn't necessarily create a better attachment security bond between mum and child.
What is paramount to the feeling of attachment security is the eye contact that is created between the baby and the caregiver. It's the one feeling of close proximity between the baby and the caregiver. It's the intimate communication between them.
This is attainable by bottle feeding as well, as long as you hold the baby while you're bottle-feeding because sometimes the attachment parenting efficionados make it seem as if, you know, it's either that you breastfeed your baby or you put your baby in the crib with a bottle and that's not true, you know, that's not the only two options because you can hold your baby while you feed him through a bottle, which means that dads can use this wonderful bonding method as well.
I remember how exhausting sometimes, but also fun and meaningful it was to hold my little babies and holding a bottle in my hand and feeding them. And, you can think about many examples of mothers who breastfeed without creating that intimate communication with the child.
Sometimes, because as I've said earlier, maybe they're preoccupied with other things or maybe because they have postpartum depression, for example. So we, we can't focus on breastfeeding as the gold standard. Like there's the saying that breast is the best if we do so we are leaving out so many people who just, you can't use breastfeeding as a way to create a secure attachment.
Dads homosexual fathers or moms and, or just doesn't want to breastfeed for some reason who needs a reason. If they don't want to do it, they might as well not do it. This is not what matters most. But if we tell those parents that he hurt the secure attachment of the child, because they don't breastfeed and believe me that okay, we saw that happen.
We induce unnecessary shame, guilt, and hurt for no good reason. I mentioned in the previous episode that there, there are some red lines for me in parenting. So if you if you're going to tell me, you know, for example, in, in an online forum that you hit your children in order to discipline them, I will tell you that you're doing something wrong.
I might not attack you or shame you for that because I, I can understand that it comes from the way you were parented maybe. And you believe that you're doing a good something that's right. Sometimes. But I do believe that it's a wrong thing to do. But that's not the same thing here. And I do see sometimes threads in social media where moms
who don't breastfeed suffer the same experience. People telling them that they're doing a bad job, they're doing something wrong and they heard their children. And that really isn't necessary because that's just not true. Let's think about the notion of baby wearing. Many studies show that globally secure attachment is prevalent in approximately 70% of the population, 60 to 70%.
Let me ask you this. How many of those parents really carry the baby or the child on their back time or most of the time? I I'm sure that not a lot. Now what about parents with back issues? Are they're screwing their children up? No. Not because they have back issues in do not baby wear the baby. And by the way,
so just as an anecdote, did you know that you can buy a baby's thing that is quote developed, tested and recommended by America's pediatrician dr. William Sears?
You know, eventually attachment parenting has some really good ideas and notions about what babies and children need. Really, really good ideas. I'll give them that. however, I believe that he took things in the wrong direction. For some people attachment parenting can work perfectly fine. And if you follow attachment parenting and it works for you, no matter who you are, where you are,
by all means, continue what you're doing. It means you're mindful for yourself and your baby or your child. That's great. However, it doesn't work always and for everybody, and if we really want to nurture secure attachment for children and parents alike, we need to find some ways that are more flexible and sustainable for each in every parent, no matter their gender, no matter, or their family situation, just because they're a mom or a dad or a caregiver of a child.
And you know what, there's a way. It's called attachment focused parenting. And that's what I try to teach in my work. And that's what I try to live in my parenting life. And this is what the parenting map is all about. The parenting map in case you don't know because maybe you didn't listen to previous episodes of this podcast is my method of thinking about parenting.
The way I see parenting is that when you became a parent, you were handed a ship, a wonderful, nice ship, be it a yacht or a raft or whatever boat you like to think about. And you were instantly promoted to the role of the ship's captain. You didn't have to move to for the stages through the ranks. And there, everything during that, you were easily promoted into a role of ships captain, and you were told that there's a very special cargo in the chip that you have to provide to bring into safety.
That's your family. The problem is no one ever taught you how to be a ship's captain. You grew up on someone else's ship, you picked up some stuff, and now you have to make it on your own. And it's hard because no one really taught you. Well, How to handle storms, mutinies, and bad situations. And this is when you need a map.
This is what the parenting map is all about. The parenting map is a method comprised of three pillars, mind, attachment and purpose. And when you use the parenting map, you can become what I called 21st century parents. If you want to learn more about that and about the parenting map and the three pillars , I have a workshop that you can go through and you can find more details on www.apparentlyparent.com/workshop.
In any case, I want to introduce you to the wonderful work of a psychologist called Daniel Hughes. He's a psychologist who specializes in working with families with deep attachment issues. For example, he started his work and his research with adopting and foster families, where there were children who came from other families,
with a lot of trauma. And they have a lot of trust issues. And he developed, he's a method called attachment focused family therapy. And then he developed it into attachment focused parenting. He wrote several books for therapists, but he also has a book for parents that,
in my opinion, a must read for parents, and it's basically simply called attachment focused parenting. Now let's not confuse attachment parenting with attachment focused parenting. So
So if you want to learn more about attachment focused parenting, you can either listen to these podcasts and, you know, learn about the parenting map. Or you can read Daniel Hughes' book, attachment focused parenting. And let me just go quickly over a couple of the principles of attachment focused parenting.
so everything begins with giving attention to creating safety and to the role of safety in the development of the child. Not only physical safety. Okay. Because you know, most parents really care about the physical safety of the children. They buy clothes, they make sure the temperature is right. They feed the baby, they changed the diapers and they prevent the baby from falling over.
Right. However, what about the emotional safety? So again, most parents care about that, but we're not always aware or knowledgeable of how to do so. And also I want to move away from talking only about the babies and talking about it, children. So as language develops, we have more ways to, to think about and care about how we create safety for our children.
But in any case, safety has a major role in the development of the human brain and in creating what is known as secure attachment.
And one of the most important things to know here is that the best predictor of a child's attachment pattern to his or her parents is actually the attachment parent of his parents. There are studies that show that if you take a woman who's pregnant with her first child and you conduct an interview that is designed to, to check her attachment pattern, it's called the adult attachment interview.
So you determined that she either has a secure or insecure attachment or what type of insecure attachment. Then a year after her, baby's born, you bring her to the laboratory and conduct this strange situation, which is a test that you do with the baby and the mother in order to see what type of attachment pattern the baby has towards that mother, by the way, it also works with fathers.
The attachment pattern of the parent is predictive of the attachment pattern of the child so you can know the attachment parent of the child, or at least foresee that just by looking at the behavior and the attachment pattern of their parents before the baby was even born. Does it mean that there's nothing you can do if you have insecure attachment?
No, there it is. The thing is that the way you were brought up in the attachment pattern that you have will affect how you relate to your baby as they may be grows up into your child and you can, you can become more mindful. You can change your own attachment patterns. You can learn how to
provide more safety and security for your children. This is all I talk about in the painting map. So the attachment pillar of the parenting map, all only talks about you create emotional, safe space, and to hold your child in and to lead your child, feeling that he's always safe with you.
And you can talk about everything. When you learned that you act with your children in a verbal and nonverbal way that promotes safety and promote secure attachment, that has nothing to do with how you slept.
When your child was a baby. It doesn't matter if he slept in your bed or not in a, not even going about the dangers of sleeping with the baby in your bed. But it doesn't really matter if the baby slept in, in a different room, as long as you're warm and responsive and attentive to your baby, when he was in distress, it doesn't really matter if you breastfed your baby or not.
It doesn't really matter if you wear your baby on your hands. What does matter from attachment parenting is that a, you learn to recognize your baby's signals and cues and what they call baby reading. What does matter is that you believe in the validity of your baby's language, eh, which means his cry, that he's trying to communicate something and not just trying to manipulate you.
That's really true. You need to learn how to listen, to really listen to your children when they cry and when they whine and do everything to really understand where they are coming from and what they are trying to communicate.
And in the attachment focused parenting book by Daniel Hughes, he talks about what pace means pace Is an acronym that stands for playfulness, acceptance, curiosity, and empathy. And when you employ those things, and there's no time to go into that now in this episode, but when you learn about that and you employ those, stances as a parent, you can really create a safe environment for your child.
And that's what is most important. Not what you feed and not do you wear your baby or not those things matter if they matter to you, if they're aligned with your values as a parent in your purpose, and if they work for you, the thing about attachment parenting, as I said, they take a wonderful idea of how to create better bonding with your child,
and use the wrong methods to induce that. They put the focus on the wrong things. In my opinion, you might not agree with me. And you're more than welcome to, to share your opinion with me, go to Apparently Parent dot com and contact me, or, you know, you can find me on Instagram at Apparently Parent, or if you're on Tik TOK, you can find me there at Apparently Parent.
And and I'm open for discussion, but I believe in my opinion, that attachment parenting took a wonderful idea. They latched on the attachment name for no really good reason. And they took their advice to the wrong places. And the most problematic thing here is that especially on social media, maybe that's not the Sears' fault.
So I'm not against the Sears in any way, I'm against everyone who's promoting attachment parenting in a dogmatic way.
The problem here is that we shame and we guilt. And we do so for the wrong reasons and attachment parenting, because it focuses so much on what the mother has to do, like breastfeed and baby wear and all that. It's kind of patriarchal. It's not aligned with the 21st century.
The way I see it when 21st century parents don't really give a shit about gender roles. They do what they think I think it's true for them, what is true to their own values. So if you value promoting your career, and that stands in the way of breastfeeding and baby wearing and co-sleeping and all that, just don't do that because that is not what really matters. And that's when parenting can be very patriarchal and sexist and it's something that is not sustainable for many people, and that's not the way to create safety because when the parents, and that brings me back to the client that I had, I told her about her in the first episode last week.
When you take a really good parent, like she was, and you inject all these ideas that produce shame and guilt and hurt for no good reason. Now that mum felt less safe in her own skin. She felt bad about herself and that made her reactive and not very available to the children. Why would we want that? I guess we don't.
And I hope you agree with me that we don't, and I hope that you could take what I said today in this episode, and really listen, because if you come from a place that you really think that the attachment parenting is the thing you may, and you may feel like I'm against you or something like that, or you may see things in some kind of best way like that.
That's not my goal in my meaning here. So I, I hope you could listen to really what I want to say. And, and this is I think, a good place to close these two parter. So it was a really kind of long discussion about attachment parenting and what it means. If you took any value from this episode I would really appreciate it if you spread the word, because I waited with this episode for quite some time, which was really important for me to create that and I wanted to do so for a long time, but I wanted to take the time to, to read it again about attachment parenting in and get my head straight around that.
So by all means, please share this episode, send it over social media. Wherever you were, wherever you want and can, if you do so, and you can tag me at Apparently Parent, I would appreciate that. And you can share it with your friends in any way you want. I would appreciate your feedback as well. So feel free to go to apple podcasts or your favorite podcasting app and leave a review let me know what you think. I really want this podcast to be the best thing to make you become a 21st century parents.
Letting me know how you see things, and what is helpful for you is my way of being more attuned and responsive to you . Like attachment wants us to be. So let's finish for today. I do hope you will join me again next week on on Thursday with a new, fresh episode. And let me just give you a little spoiler.
That episode is going to be about can we parent without shouting at our kids. I wonder what you think about that. So you feel free to let me know before the episode comes out. don't forget to subscribe on your favorite podcasting app and I will see you again next week.
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The Apparently Parent Podcast
On this show, I share with you my perspectives and experience of parenting and psychology.
Enhance your understanding of the relationship with your child and yourself by learning about attachment, mindful and playful parenting mindset and techniques.
Listen to me sharing my knowledge and experience both as a parent and a therapist, as well as interviews with parenting experts from around the world.
Your Host – Eran Katz
I’m a clinical psychologist and parenting counselor specializing in attachment theory. I’m also the father of two children who are my best parenting teachers.
I believe that parenting is one of the most important jobs we ever do. This is why I created Apparently Parent and The Parenting MAP. My goal in life is to help as many parents as possible become 21st Century Parents, moving from chaos to harmony and building an enduring, meaningful relationship with their children.