Is Attachment Parenting Working For You? A Look at Dr. William Sears' "Baby Bs"

The Dr. Sears Family seem to be everywhere these days! According to every blog, article and popular baby book, if you are not following their attachment parenting style you are damaging your baby...

November 2009 Issue of Baby Talk magazine features an article by Dr. William Sears with 7 points he calls the "Baby Bs":

1) Birth Bonding - this is the perfect time for 100% attachment parenting as your new baby transitions from a cozy life in the womb to a stimulating out of her control world.

2) Breastfeed - Without coming out and saying it Dr. William Sears promotes "on-demand" style of feeding, a notably controversial topic. While it is important to feed on demand the first month to help milk let down and ensure bond and trust between mother and baby, the continuation of this practice past the first month can severely disturb the flow of a well functioning family and set unrealistic life expectations for baby. An agreeable point is that feeding time should be an intimate experience between parent and baby, whether or not mom is breastfeeding and that bottle feeding can be great way for dad to be a part of this nurturing and bonding time.

3) Baby-Wearing - This is a great way to continue into the "fourth trimester", giving you and your baby the physical closeness you both need, and you, the parent, confidence that your love is felt. I am an absolute proponent of baby wearing over car seat carrying when out and about as it is much better for baby's proper physical development. Not to mention it is great for the baby to see life from your level!

4) Bedding Close to Baby - While Dr. Sears and most of his followers may be proponents of Co-Sleeping (a practice of letting the baby sleep in the parents bed, often called the family bed), he is careful to follow AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) guidelines of recommending separate sleeping accommodations. Sleeping in the same bed is strongly discouraged by the AAP as it increases the risk of SIDS. Where too put baby to sleep is a decision every family needs to make as they go, and adjust as baby becomes more and more capable of sleeping through the night.

5) Believe in the Value of Baby's Language - I DECIDED TO REWRITE THIS after hearing some feedback from AP mommies
Dr. Sears states that "babies cry to communicate, not manipulate..." True...babies do not have it out for you and they have a very limited mode of communication, so crying litterally "says it all" those first several weeks.  But, I have spent countless hours with numerous babies and as they get older babies certainly can manipulate, and I have seen parents fall for it many times! Manipulation is a survival skill, and survival of the fittest means the more manipulative a baby can learn to be, the better his chances for survival! If you feel like your baby is manipulating you, he probably is. With that said, most communication from most babies truely is them experessing their needs, dislikes, and trying to get your attention.

6) Beware of Baby Training ????- The widespread nature of this very principle has nearly put me out of work! Parents are taught habits that keep them and their babies from sleeping through the night sometimes until a baby reaches 2 years old or older! How is this healthy?

How is this a realistic practice and life expectation for a child? Is he going to go to college and need sleep aide to get through the night, or not be able to sleep without eating every 3-4 hours??

Think about this... Is it not healthier for parents to promote sleep habits that naturally have babies sleeping 8-12 hours a night by 3 months of age? What if this would allow for better brain and physical development of the baby, emotional and mental stability for the whole family, respect for each's different needs, and appropriate societal functioning? I, like many other professionals working with families, babies, and parents will tell you that is exactly why helping "train" a baby and her parents to ditch bad sleep inturrupting habits and replace them with sleep promoting ones is vital to the health of the family. (side note, this should never be done by force or abandonment)

Lastly, 7) Balance and Boundaries - Attachment Parenting offers a lot of suggestions to promote bonding and trust between babies and their parents, but a parent could go into a depression thinking they are an utter failure for not doing them all. This is not the point. Not even Dr. Sears expects you to do all these things, but find the practices that fit your family and adjust the ones that don't. This is where I come in to help. A balanced approach to parenting with an allowable margin for human error is crutial for the mental and emotional health of parents, especially moms, when adjusting to each new baby.

Let me help you focus on the simple habits and practices that are in harmony with your parenting goals and forget about the rest! You and your baby will thrive and everyone will be asking YOU how to do it!



bronwyn said...

good heavens, you are a newborn care specialist! what qualifications do you have? bottle feeding helps daddy bond with baby? dont demand feed for the 1st month? well, that's going to get moms breastmilk drying up fast.

Fran said...

Your suggestions are totally ridiculous. How many kids do you have? Probably none. And I bet that if you do have any, they are either in a youth detention centre, or on their way to one! Shame on you for you r clear lack of empathy! How did a person (if I can call you that!) like you ever become a newborn care specialist? ffs!

Heather Rickard said...

Bronwyn, you are right I didnt feed on demand the first month and my milk was terrible until I did! I wrote this a while back and just recently imported it here from my old blog. I was taught to feed every 2-3 hours but it didnt work until my baby was 2 1/2 months old. I should change that!!!
Wow Fran, I persoanlly only know about 3 parents who can stand co sleeping. I had my baby in a bedside bassinett for 2 1/2 months and as soon as I moved her to her crib in her room she slept so much better (and I know bc I checkd on her inscsantly(sp?) ). And AP parents don't hire NCSs, baby nurses, and rarely do they employ nannies. Parents who call are ones who want their babies on a predictable routine, or who have accidentally ended up attachment parenting and are miserable with it. Really, AP is great for many but not for all. As I stated in the post, I personally agree with about 1/3 - 1/2 of it, and I really appreciate all the good it has done and continues to do to change pediatrics for the better!

Anonymous said...

We are a happy cosleeping family. Both my children, ages 2 and 3.5, are both in our family bed. They both started sleeping through the night right at age 2...when their bodies were physiologically prepared for 10-12 hours without nourishment. This has never been a burden and our kids are healthier and happier for the choices we've made. Attachment Parenting is healthy, natural, and the way babies were meant to be cared for. I am truly concerned about the parents you counsel!!! As a newborn care specialist, you are helping people at a very vulnerable time in their life. I can't imagine ever turning a parent off from a parenting style that brings them closer to their infant. By not promoting AP, you are inadvertently suggesting that parents choose other harsh and harmful methods. Do your research!

Heather Rickard said...

Dear Anon
I am not trying to attack you for co sleeping. I am very happy that your family found a way that worked for you right out of the shoot. But that doesn't make it right for every baby!

Personally, I feed my baby ANYTIME she want to eat and my clients do as well. NCSs do come in at a vulnerable time to help parents chose what works for THEM (not the NCS). I am happy to support and help AP methods in any home where the baby or parent is needing it.

Sadly and to my utter shock what I am hearing from AP parents is so blindsighted. I would ask you to do your research on methods OUTSIDE of AP to see the sense and good within the dfferent philosohies. Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child is a decent one. Im not trying to change your mind but I know it will help you see that not all babies and families thrive on AP for scientific and emotional and health reasons.

I have worked with them for years and would never suggest anything harsh or harmful. All methods put meeting babies needs FIRST and happy families come out of all of these methods. AP seems to be brainwashing ppl that any other way is severly damaging and it just isn't so. I LOVE babies and families!

Jolie Molino said...

First of all, I believe Attachment Parent is based on emotions and not scientifical facts....Some moms feel they are not good moms unless they sacrifice everything for their baby.nd thats okay! If it works for you, do it!
But for the majority of moms, it leads to a since of failure because they are miserable from a lack of sleep and feeling like that just can not keep their baby happy.

On Demand feeding- Yes, to get your milk coming it. After that, little tummies are only so big and it is only common sense that yes you can fill it up too much and too often. NOTE There are some newborn ailments that causes the child to feed way too often, so if your child is always like this, GO to your doctor. But a normal child LOVES to suck so therefore he/she will eat if you give them your breast or bottle.

Baby Wearing- I loved wearing my now 2 year old when he was baby. But I did it for fun, too have some quality time with just him and for him to see the world. I did not baby wear him because he demanded by crying. I did not wear him on me all day while I cleaned, cooked dinner(so unsafe), or went to the bathroom. The only reason to do that for the baby is if his enviroment is unsafe, if you need to get things done and can not leave him safely in his bad or with someone to watch him(that is why in most tribal villages they wear their baby). You are not. Again, if it works for you do it. But as a mom, it hurt my back to do it for too long, I was extra tired from added weight AND too top it off, all the sudden my son would not let me put him down. Its not because he needed me, that if I he did not touch me out all times he was be damaged for life. Life in a crib or on the floor with toys is not as exciting as being with me but its important to have belly play and build muscle, to learn how to fall asleep without the constant motion of me lulling him to sleep while working around the house, to learn independent play and so many other thing.

Bedding close to baby- Not in the bed and if you are a heavy sleeper its not so bad. If you a light sleeper like me, not good. I woke up at every noise and was a zombie for a month till I moved him to his own room...ahhh sleep

Value of baby language- Yep important. Does it mean baby can use it to manipulate too? Oh heck yea. My twins had colic and had this certain cry when it was bad. So when it was all finaly done. Guess what cry we started to here when we did not run in and pick them up after they started crying. Yep. That one!!! Once we figured it out and quit responding, guess what?? They stopped using that cry and starting sleeping all night...And were such happier babies the next day.

baby training- Uh yea. Who may I ask is supposed to show them how to sleep? I know people who allow their children to just fall asleep wherever. If they are tired they will sleep they say. I am talking about one year olds falling asleep while playing with toys.Wow, those poor kids are exhausted and I think its cruel to the child. Children that do not get enough sleep have totally different personalities then those that get enough.

Of course I advocate my way of raising but I do NOT attack someone for doing it another. Thats ridiculous. IF it works for you then do it. But remember that if you are depressed, tired, irratable, etc on your babies schedule imagine how your baby feels....hmmm?

Since some comments suggested the need for experience...I am a mom of twin boys age 6 and a 2 year old boy. My mother is a Neo natal nurse and it extremely helpful. My boys where sleeping all night by 3 and 4 months and take atleast one nap each day until 3.5 to 4. I am also a photographer. Oh and I believe your husband should be helping too and if he is not, do something to motivate him too... YOU can not do it all...

Anonymous said...

Attachment parenting did work perfectly for both of my children. Co-sleeping worked very easily for us. It allowed me to breastfeed while still resting. It allowed my children comfort and closeness they needed. Read "International Child Care Practices Study," Nelson, et al; because co-sleeping actually reduces the incidence of SIDS.

I chose to never force my children into my routine because as the adult I have more experience managing stress and am more adaptable. Instead I took the time to understand who my children were, to help them recognize what it was to be tired and what to do about it (just like I taught them with toilet training and eating - the other big physiological needs). 8 and 10 years later they still have the same basic make-up; one is always asleep earlier than I would want to go to bed (just like his daddy) and the other still stays up late and naturally gets up early (just like her mommy).

And no, it is not healthier for a baby to be sleeping 8-12 hours per night by three months old. Where did you get the research (scientific please not advice from a parenting book) that would lead you to believe that? Baby's have a sleep cycle that is different from an adults for their protection. As they mature their sleep cycle lengthens.

You betray your "un-biased and balanced" advice with the comment about poor sleeping habits in college stemming from a lack of baby training. I am wondering where you learned about Attachment Parenting, especially since you site an article that talks about a book about it instead of anything from Dr. Sears himself. I'm pretty sure by your comments you would be surprised by what you would learn if you really looked into it. Attachment parenting is about understanding who your child is, understanding what is age-appropriate to expect from your child, and understanding how to help your child through developmental stages physically and emotionally. Attachment parenting respects that all children are unique, as are all families, and that children deserve to be treated with the same respect we would give adults. My children have thrived under it - to the point that families around us (who tend to choose the cry-it out, parent direct the feeds and enforced schedule methods) ask what we have done to have such amazing children.

I've never heard of Newborn Care Specialist. If the certification process does not include basic facts about the physiological needs of newborns or basing recommendations on scientific evidence rather than parenting theories, I'm not inclined to recommend one.

Heather Rickard said...

Well writen point anoyn... I appreciate the care and tone with which your shared your thoughts and expereinces. Thank you for the study reference, I have not read it and it certainly sounds interesting. I am addressing the rest of your remarks in a new post.

Anonymous said...

I think some of the comments here are uncessarily harsh. I have a six month old son who wakes up 2-4 times a night and naps less than 30 min at a time. We're miserable. I have faithfully followed AP and Dr. Sears since his birth and it's not working AT ALL. It's great if your baby has the temperment for it, but my son dosen't. It's not healthy for him or us to suffer this kind of lack of sleep and I know that he dosen't sleep because he dosent' know how. Everyone and every baby is different, so don't criticize others because their style isn't AP. For some of us it causes more problems than it solves. I know parents it worked GREAT for, and that's awesome. But for me....not so much.

But it's rude to assume someone is a poor parent or caregiver because they don't agree with you.

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