Saturday, September 02, 2006

Detached from reality

I LIKE to consider myself a fairly modern and with-it mammy. I've read enough parenting books to know how to get through the next couple of years hopefully without scarring my child emotionally or physically for life.

I know about quality time and I love the hour between finishing work and packing my wee man up to bed for our sleepy-time cuddles. I love how he comes toddling into our bedroom in the middle of the night, pulls the covers off, climbs in, and asks me to "close the bed" over him.
For the most part, when I'm not trying to get 101 odd jobs done around the house, I love my days off and spending time doing all those things mammies and sons should do. (Like wandering around Tesco avoiding the toy aisle, and hurtling myself down slides at Bananas.)
I think I can say with a degree of confidence that I'm a good parent. My boy often tells me I'm the best (sometimes, he even does it unprompted) and that he loves me.
However, according to a certain parenting movement gaining increasing popularity in America and the UK, I'm a terrible, terrible mammy who does not deserve the child I love so much.
For those who didn't see the Channel 5 documentary 'Honey, I Suckle the Kids', let me explain to you about the philosophy of 'Attached Parenting'.
According to followers of this movement a child should be a parent's be all and end all from the moment of conception until adulthood. They don't hold court with any of that nasty pain relieving medication during labour malarkey, arguing that if you don't feel the pain you won't appreciate the end product as much - or some other such nonsense.
Once baby has arrived, the attached parent should spend 24 hours a day, seven days a wee devoting themselves to raising their children. This includes 'Baby-wearing', which means they shun buggies, bouncy chairs and cribs in favour of slings to carry their children (some as old as five) everywhere. This 24 hour attachment to junior extends to bed time when baby becomes the third person in the bed until they are old enough to want choose to sleep in their own bed.
Attached parents believe in extended breast-feeding, again choosing to feed their children until the age of five or beyond. To add to this they don't believe in dummies and will happily allow their children to spend as much time as possible on the breast if it keeps them calm.

Elimination communication
The most bizarre thing that attached parents practice however is 'Elimination Communication' which, in layman's terms, is allowing your baby to roam about without a nappy and teaching them to pee upon hearing a cue sound from their parents.
This starts with new-borns until the baby eventually toilet trains him or herself at around two years of age.
One mother admitted encouraging her child to go 'pee pee' or 'poo poo' up to forty times a day and she frequently whipped down his pants exposing his poor wee bum to the outside world whenever the need arose.
Now call me close minded if you will, but I could not help but feel these parents were three scoops short of a box of formula powder.
When it came to labour, I have to say effective pain relief would probably have helped me bond with my son rather than damage our relationship. As it stood when he finally arrived I was so sore and tired that I had no inclination to jump straight into the super mammy role. I wanted to sleep and not, as the Attached Parents in the programme did, invite my friends over for chips and dips to watch my perineum tearing on a home video.
As regards 'wearing your baby'- well I have to admit that I loved skin to skin contact with my son. That said, I had a life to lead, washing to be done, floors to be hoovered etc and not all of that was easy carrying a baby around strapped to my person continually. I carried him for nine months- I think I paid my dues. Carrying him about now would no doubt give me a hernia, as it would necessitate bringing Scoop, Muck and Dizzy and Rolly too along.
When it came to breast-feeding I'll maintain to this day that breast is undoubtedly best (and I say this as a bottle-feeder) there is something disturbing about a four year old whipping out her mammy's boob looking for a drink. That's why God made taps.
And so we come to the concept of 'Elimination Communication'. Personally, I see few merits in allowing your new-born to poop and pee freely in public and from what I could tell from the programme it doesn't necessarily mean your child will be independently potty trained any earlier.
As a mother who is trying (and failing) to potty train a particularly independent minded two-years-old and who has already spent several days cleaning up pee and changing Thomas the Tank Engine Pants, I can think of nothing less appealing that trying the same process on a younger child knowing that they have neither the physical or mental know how to learn from the experience.
I'm pretty sure these parents love their children, just as much as I'm pretty sure I love my son. If giving up your life to be there as a servant and general dogsbody for your children floats your boat then by all means go for it- but please don't tell the rest of us we are doing a lousy job.


Luisa said...

Hi Claire, great post. I'm one of those attachment parenting people, though, I'm afraid - I came to it through a long and miserable time of trying other methods when my son was born. And I can't recommend it highly enough, but I realise it's not for everyone.

I see it as a general philosophy (not any kind of religion by any means), and I take from it what I want. So I never tried any of that elimination communication thing. (My little girl potty-trained herself easily in a couple of weeks, but I'm not taking any credit for that and neither is any parenting theory - it was entirely down to her copying her brother and doing things when she was ready. Plus being a girl helps, I think.)

Some of the other Attachment Parenting aspects, wacko as they may sound, have been absolutely fantastic for me. And that's an understatement. It's like someone gave me a licence to be myself and parent by my instincts, instead of following The Parenting Law. So, yes, I carried and still carry my two-year-old in a sling. It's fantastic, and you don't feel the weight at all when you've got a proper sling (I promise). It's particularly brilliant when you have a baby and a toddler to look after. But I put my girl in a pushchair, too, if she or I want it.

And extended breastfeeding... And co-sleeping... Yep. That's how I haven't lost a single night's sleep since she was born. I'm aware that people find it strange, and I'm getting more embarrassed the older she gets, particularly about the breastfeeding, but it feels so natural to us. I'm going to have to tackle this issue soon. It's nice to be able to talk to my girl about why I might stop soon, though - freaky as that might sound. But I do recommend that, too. It's wonderful.

By the way, I don't think Attachment Parenting has anything to do with pain relief in childbirth. It's a parenting style, as far as I've ever read/understood. I didn't see the programme of course. I was worried that they were going to depict my beloved 'licence to parent how I want' as a crazy cult. Sigh.

I'm really sorry if that programme gave the impression that parents who practice any aspect of Attachment Parenting think other parents do a lousy job. That's really not the case in my experience - and certainly not how I think.


Keris said...

Ha! As I clicked on the comment I thought 'if this commenter's not Luisa I'll poo on the floor myself!' (Not really. Probably.)

Before I read Luisa's comment I just want to say I really don't understand the my way or the highway attitude of any group. While I wouldn't be physically capable of carrying H around (he's almost as tall as me now!), I don't think the 'other lot' are bad parents for doing it. So I'd rather they didn't tell me I am for not doing it! Which is, um, what you said, Lola. So what I mean to say is 'hear hear!' (I can see how training H to poo on cue could be handy - you know, for getting a seat on a train or something.)

I've read Luisa's comment now. And 'hear hear!' to you too - though I might have to take that back if I see any boob-action next week ;)

"That's really not the case in my experience - and certainly not how I think." - of course not, cos you're lovely.

sharon said...

I saw part of that show the other night and it was clearly edited to make the families look as weird and shocking as possible. Like your 1st commenter, I've read stuff about attachment parenting, and it's just a name given to a way of child rearing where the parents try to be considerate of their child's needs. From what I've read of your blog, you sound like you do just that. You wrote that you love it when your wee boy jumps into your bed at night for a snuggle, see, you don't shout at him or punish him for it.
The English woman, Liz, said that she hadn't even heard of the term until a few years ago, and (on a home-education list I'm on) she said that it was highly edited to make her kids look as naughty as possible, which wasn't bad at all.
Also, none of the families did everything; EC, carrying a 5 year old and extended breast feeding.
The American woman who carried her child, appeared to be far too controlling, and I wouldn't be bothered with the EC thing, but did they really make out that parent who don't do those things are bad, as you said in your post? If they did, then that's silly, no-one has the right to dictate to others about what works best for them and their family.

Anyway, I breastfed my kids (because it worked for us) and I carried my 2nd and 3rd in a sling a lot, but I did use baby seats, a cot and a buggy too. The sling was SO handy though, the best bit of baby equipment I ever used. (The front carrier things are terrible though.)

For a more reasoned overview on attachment parenting, see
I found this site when my 2nd child was a very difficult baby, and it saved my sanity, that I didn't have to make him 'cry it out' and it was OK to carry him when he wanted.

Oh, and I like your blog, and love Marian Keyes too! I even mentioned her in a book meme post I did recently!

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