Friday, May 29, 2009

My Dark Secret

OK, here it is: I have not read any Dr Sears book. Or indeed any book on attachment parenting. Yet I call myself an attachment parent. How can this be?

Well, first of all there is my aversion to "how to" books. In general I hate people telling me what to do. Since I was a child I have always preferred to figure things out myself. I have always leaned towards studying scientific subjects because I enjoy the fact that if you learn a few basic principles, you can usually work out the more complicated stuff for yourself. So I love reading anthropology, psychology and biology but I am wary of any books on parenting methodology.

Secondly, there was my fear when I was expecting Cave Baby that reading about parenting would somehow jinx the outcome of my pregnancy. The only book I brought home for us to read was the most basic, pared down guide to babies that I could find. With hindsight, I wish that I had read more, so I might have had a few more ideas of what to do when my baby would not stop crying and would not sleep. But it is questionable what can really be learned from a book. Having a first baby is a massive shock even to a well prepared family.

Thirdly, I am slightly uncomfortable about the label "attachment parent". It is a label I very rarely use. I use it on this blog because it is the quickest way of conveying to a reader what type of parent I am trying to be. In truth, I don't really know what "attachment parent" means. I know there are eight (or is it ten?) principles of attachment parenting, though I can't remember what they are. I know that lots of people who follow it also co-sleep, breastfeed and wear their babies in slings. And I know that it is based on more natural, intuitive ways of bringing up children than is the norm in our culture. I am wary of using the label "attachment parent" with people who are not familiar with what it means because I feel the word "attachment" has some negative connotations in some people's minds. "Attachment" implies clingy children wrapped around their mother's legs, whereas it really refers to a close, secure relationship between child and caregiver. I am also aware that lots of parents who have never heard of the concept are just as securely "attached" in their relationships with their children as any "attachment parent". I am wary of putting people into boxes.

Now despite not reading his books, I do have to admit that I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I discovered Dr Sears' website back in the darkest days of caring for the three month old Cave Baby. It was the first time I had read about babies who were as difficult to soothe as my baby, and the first time I had come across the label "high needs baby". With the help of the web, Dr Sears' influence extends far beyond those who have actually read the books.

So, if you are still reading, please tell me why I should go out and buy a book on attachment parenting. Seriously. I would probably enjoy reading it and my preconceptions about such books being too preachy and instructional are probably wrong. Are they interesting reads in themselves, regardless of the advice they give? All comments will be gratefully received.

Oh, and Earthenwitch seems to share some of my reservations about parenting books in this post, which you might also find interesting.

20 comments:

Mon said...

Don't bother.

lol, seriously. I have Sears' The Baby Book and I used it primarily for an idea of developmental changes, what to expect basically. The rest is what you already do as far as I can tell - love your baby, respond to your baby, carry your baby, etc.

Sears is VERY instructional, but you can dip in and out and take what you need from these sorts of books. I'm always amazed at people who follow them to the letter. Having said that, I tried the soothing-at-all-costs theory. :) It's not as preachy as you might think though. It even covers bottle-feeding with love.

I think for a parent like yourself - already parenting intuitively and 'attached', with an older baby, and having read the website - it will be superfluous.

That's my 'apenny's worth.

Jessica said...

I agree 100% with Mon. For me, I had the "What to Expect the First Year" book and I read up on it mostly to figure out what stuff was necessary to purchase prior to the baby's arrival.

As I cruised through the other chapters, I wasn't all that impressed. Coming from an anthropological and psychological background myself, I wasn't grooving with some of the approaches they supported (lots and LOTS of structure and schedules, etc.).

A week after having my son, we bought Dr. Sears' book and it was quite a relief to find a book with guidelines for what I felt was right to begin with. So, for that reason, I LOVE that book.

Plus, it has a ton of information on health issues: what to do with fevers, coughs, signs of serious illness, etc. I'd recommend it on that basis alone.

They also have a big section on nutrition (not sure just how old Cave Baby is) so when you start on solids it gives you some great ideas.

It's just a general good Go To source if you don't feel like sitting down in front of your computer. You can flip to whatever-page and see how to carry your baby in a new sling position or flip to a different page and get some good game ideas. I've spent many a night in bed just flipping through the pages and filing away information. It's a good read.

willow81 said...

I haven't read any of the Sears books but I've referred to the website a couple of times when Tilly was particularly colic-y. I actually read pretty much every book going, even (fetch the crosses and garlic) Gina Ford. I ditched her pretty rapidly, and in the end I found pretty much all of the info I needed from the net, drifting towards a more AP-way of doig things. I do feel that 'What Mothers Do...' should be required reading though.

Liz said...

I found the Sears books to be like talking to your mum - they sounded warm, comforting and backed up my instincts so I felt validated with my choices.
However, if you prefer the background to such books rather than the 'how-to' instructional style, have you read Meredith Small's Our Babies Ourselves - an interesting look at childcare from an international, anthropological point of view. Deborah Jackon's books are also interesting from that view and cover much of the same ground but in slightly less scholarly tone. Or John Bowlby's classic original work on attachment theory is always worth a look.
I know that some people respond vociferously to the label 'attachment parenting' but I've never really understood why. After all, it is all about responding to the expressed needs of your own individual child in the best way you can, while putting the mainteance of your attachment at the forefront of your approach, and I don't really see how anyone can argue with that?

docwitch said...

I haven't read Sears either. But I've hardly read any parenting books. I read a couple of natural parenting books when I was pregnant, and also Kaz Cooke's 'Up the Duff' for informative amusement, but after that I was pretty much flying solo. I dabble now and again and then feel woefully ignorant.

But I have to say, a lot of the parenting books, with their 'speak' I just find very off-putting. I'm with you on preferring to read psychology and anthropology (and for me some philosophy as well). It's less packaged and pre-digested for me, and I feel I can form my own opinions and instincts more clearly from these than from the Kid Manuals.

Cave Mother said...

I love all these comments and I am so glad that others are also averse to Kid Manuals (good phrase Docwitch). I feel better about my reading omission now.

Liz - you seem to have read everything going. I am really grateful for your recommendations. I think between this and your last comment, you have just decided my reading list for the next 6 months.

Earthenwitch said...

I've read the Sears AP book, another AP one by Katie Granju, Deborah Jackson's 'Three in a Bed', the 'No-Cry Sleep Solution' and 'So That's What They're For!'. That's my lot, so far. Oh, and 'What Mothers Do'.

Thoughts on the AP books: I found them a mixed blessing. I enjoyed reading them, and it was nice to have external validation of what we were finding was the only way to get any sleep or to get a smile from the tiny daughter. BUT, and this was a huge 'but' for me (as it were...!), I also found myself enjoying quite a bit of guilt when we didn't feel that something they espoused worked for us. So, when we stopped co-sleeping, for example, I felt really, really guilty, largely because of the stuff about it not being natural to sleep alone and so on; I couldn't argue with the evidence I was seeing (that the witchling slept more soundly, and more easily, when we let her sleep in her cot, rather than when I kept her in with us), but I still felt I was failing in some way.

Now, I think that probably says far more about the mental state I was in at the time; the Sears' books all say quite openly that you should take what of the AP tools you feel work for your family, and leave aside those which don't fit for you. I do disagree with the one-solution-fits-all attitude which the AP books generally offer; as you know, you can breastfeed, sling, co-sleep and whatnot to your heart's content, but you'll still have an unhappy baby from time to time - it's part of the parcel, as far as I can see, and not something which you can just blame on, say, not slinging.

In short, I dunno. I find books useful, but as I said in the post you linked to (thanks, by the way), they can also be a bloody good way to set yourself up for a fall...

edenwild said...

I browsed through Sears AP book, but didn't have time to finish it before I had to return it to the library. I felt that Sears approach to parenting was very loving, and enjoyed the evidence he shares that this approach is good for children. I welcomed the approach because it was in line with what I intuitively thought (for the most part) was a good way of parenting. But I don't like "how to" parenting books either. Even if a book was specially tailored to one child, it would still have to change from day to day.

I tell people that my parenting style is "similar" to attachment parenting. I don't like labels, either, but it basically tells them that I breastfeed, co-sleep, wear my baby, don't let my baby "cry-it-out", etc. I do wish people weren't so obsessed with making their babies independent, though--because that does make the word "attachment" sound like a bad thing.

Anyway, you don't need to read the book. I think it's a good starting point for parents who may be unfamiliar with a loving way of parenting or are already doing it but need some affirmation that what they are doing is good for their child. My one problem with the book (or was it a different AP book?) was that it made me feel like I needed to use my breasts like a pacifier, which I wasn't able to do and made me feel some guilt for a while (other books contributed to this notion as well).

edenwild said...

PS--Someone mentioned the "What to Expect" book. I hate those books. They are far too detailed and too impossible to put into practice. If you try to implement them, you will fail. I don't agree with them, anyway.

allgrownup said...

I read the AP Sears book (think some earlier comments refer to the Sears Baby Book), but I read it when my son was 18m old and me 24 wks pregnant. When my son was tiny, I tried to go the "mainstream" route: what my mum, MIL and midwives told me, but he was a high need baby. (He was either held, or cried, for the 1st 5+ months of life) When he was 4m, we figured it out and listened to ourselves. Later, friends told us this was AP. Reading the book was really just to see if what we planned to do with number 2 really is AP. And it reassured us that everything we did with number 1 is contributing to him growing into such a confident, contented toddler. Basically, it made me feel good :-)
It is an interesting read, especially the parent testimonies & section on high need children. You don't need to read it, neither did I, I naturally do AP, it's who I am. It isn't really instructional at all, like previously mentioned, it encourages you to take or leave whichever "tools" work best for your family. I guess the book works well as a starting point for parents who wouldn't have considered babywearing/co-sleeping etc. I guess the reason I read it was to know I'm not the only one doing this :-)

Cave said...

edenwild - I avoided the "What to Expect" books like the plague. As soon as I figured out that I wanted to give birth at home I realised they were just not for me, so I avoided all the baby ones too. Another awful book that unfortunately I did read was The Girlfriends Guide To Pregnancy. It contained such sage advice as giving up exercise for pregnancy (it's too much effort and you will get fat anyway) and not even trying to give birth without an epidural (its far too painful for us girlies).

allgrownup - your story with your first born sounds a lot like mine. We have come to AP simply as a way of managing her. If we had discovered it a bit earlier then we wouldn't have spent every evening for four months walking a crying baby up and down the hall :) Some people say AP is harder than 'normal' parenting, but I know in our case that it is certainly the easier way of doing things. And I know the feeling of relief when you realise you're not the only one doing AP.

Cave Mother said...

PS Not sure why I am called "Cave" in the above comment. Something seems to have gone awry. Hope it's back to normal now.

Loukia said...

I don't think you have to go out and buy any books at all! I didn't have any books to use as reference when I had my first son. Oh, wait - I did buy Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care - and I would use that if I had a question about something (like once my first born had blood in his diaper and that scared the crap out of us and after reading Dr. Spock I calmed down because it was most likey a fissure, which it was, I found out, after taking baby to the Dr. the next day) Otherwise, I naturally was doing attachment parenting - I slept with my first son basically until my second baby was born and now we sleep together most of the night and hubby sleeps with our oldest son. It just works for us, and right now, I love it. Nothing more amazing than sleeping your babies, you know? I think we do what is best for us, and what is natural to us.

A Modern Mother said...

I guess I am totally out of it, this is the first time I have heard of the term! Forthe record, I hate people telling me what to do too.

Highlighting your blog on BMB this week.

Cave Mother said...

AMM - thanks for your comment, and thanks for highlighting my blog on BMB. I am really excited (and flattered).

Stacy (mama-om) said...

hi,
I just found you via Mon at Holistic Mama...

When I was pregnant with my first (six years ago -- yikes!), I avoided all the books, too. I even remember thinking, "No, no way, I'm not going to be an attachment parent, whatever." I didn't even know what it entailed. I think I was just that intuitively averse to labels.

I had one pregnancy book, and that was Sheila Kitzinger's comprehensive pregnancy and childbirth book.

We did later get The Baby Book after our baby was born -- I picked it out because I wanted a book on developmental stages. I had no idea that it was an "AP" book. I laughed pretty hard about my previous aversion to AP when I found that I was parenting very similarly. That said, I was never one to call myself an AP parent much.

The book diet ended when my baby was older (approaching one year old). I started reading books like mad. I felt a lot of pain from being so different from the other moms I knew. I knew I didn't want to parent like them (controlling, crying-it-out with their babies, etc.), but just as babies might expect a cave mother, I, as a cave mother, had the expectation to share parenting with others.

I did find "like-mindedness" in books, and later, in real life. The books I read were mainly about maintaining a connection to your children as they grew. I discovered "positive discipline" (How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk, Kids Are Worth It, etc.), The Continuum Concept, Your Competent Child... etc. (I have a list on my blog).

I also read a ton of books when my son was 18 months or so -- in preparation for my post-partum doula and breastfeeding support training course.

Monica had a post a while back (about the aware baby)... and there were lots of comments from folks. I (like many others) found that my intuition was usually right-on, and led me to read books or avoid them as necessary. I also read the books from my own perspective and not as instructional guides, per se. I went into them with my radar on high: "Does that feel right to me?"

Maureen said...

Well, I attachment parented before Sears even wrote the book, I just didn't have a name for it back then. Now that we have another baby, I thought I'd read the book. I've checked it out from the library twice, but never gotten through it yet.

Cave Mother said...

Mama-om: I have had a look at your list. It looks great - I'll bookmark it for future reference. And yes, it's amazing how radically our ideas about parenting change when we actually have children. On finding like-mindedness in books: I get all excited about something I read, and talk about it with my partner, but it can be strange going out into the 'real' world and finding nobody is really interested. Then you have to dive back into the book to remind yourself that someone out there thinks the same way as you.

Maureen: good on you. The more I learn about my mum, the more I think she 'attachment parented' me too. But you must have been quite self confident to do things differently to others - that is where I struggle.

SarahV said...

Weighing in on the anti side - Personally, I really don't like any books that have what I call a OneTrueWay attitude, and Sears definitely falls into that camp, from what I've read of him. (By the way, if you google on 'Why I Hate Dr Sears', you can find a great essay of that title.)

My personal top recommendations for parenting books are 'Your Baby and You' by Penelope Leach for the 0 - 5 age groups, and everything by Elaine Mazlish and Adele Faber for kids old enough to have a conversation with (they're the ones who wrote 'How To Talk So Kids Will Listen And Listen So Kids Will Talk', which I think is the best one to start with, but *all* their stuff is worth reading).

Cave Mother said...

SarahV - I like the OneTrueWay term. A good way of encapsulating what I don't like too.