January 6th, 2008

Interesting

A reader has taken exception to Pam Pilch’s review of Mom to Mom, Day to Day.

Like I said, interesting. When I originally read Pam’s review, I was not at all surprised to see that she had a problem with my critique of Attachment Parenting. Anyone who reads the Heart Mind & Strength blog knows that the writers there are big-time proponents of AP. They promote it strongly and with the best of intentions because they really do believe in its benefits for families.

But my critique of AP philosophy has nothing to do with the benefits of co-sleeping or exclusive breastfeeding. My problem has always been with the way proponents of any parenting philosophy sometimes present their personal preferences as the “only way” or the “Catholic way” or the “best way” for everyone to parent. The only parenting philosophy I would dare say that about is the one I wrote about in Mom to Mom:

“I’ve been employing the Do What Works Best for Your Family philosophy for many happy guilt-free years now. In fact, as I have watched my babies throughout the years, this much is apparent: Babies don’t care what we call it. They know when they are loved are cared for. They know when their mothers are relaxed and happy. So when presented with a parental challenge, go ahead and read the books, talk to the experts, and survey your playgroup. In the end, however, take and use only what works best for you and your family. Toss the rest … and the guilt along with it.”

It is with fear and trepidation that I step into the waters of parenting philosophy discussion, but I am interested in what readers have to say here.

UPDATE: Dr. Gregory Popcak has weighed in with his own thoughts over at the HMS blog here and here.

UPDATE again: Comments closed.

137 comments to Interesting

  • AP mom

    okay… I haven’t read all the comments, but I’m getting the impression that many people confuse ecological breastfeeding with exclusive breastfeeding.

    Ecological breastfeeding means no pacifiers, no "sleep-training," no bottles, no scheduled feedings and usually delayed solids.

    Exclusive breastfeeding can include the following (but not necessarily all) bottles and pacifers and "sleep training" and solids at six months – anything but formula.

    I have a cousin who claims to have practiced eco-breastfeeding, but said her cycles returned early at 4mo post-partum… then she disclosed that at 8wks of age she decided it was time to end the nighttime nursings. That’s not eco-breastfeeding, but it is exclusive breastfeeding.

    Further, there are so many factors to consider as to when fertility may return: are all nursings lasting longer than 65min a day? Is nursing occuring b/t the hours of 1am and 6am? How far apart are the nursing "sessions" during the day and at night? Have solids been introduced? All of these questions factor into the return of fertility.

    I know only 2 people other than myself who eco-breastfeed. Of the three of us, the earliest return of fertility was at 15mo.

    Something is happening for fertility to return earlier than six months. For eco-breastfeeders, itcould be a baby who sleeps extremely well.

    Of course, all the "rules" for eco-breastfeeding can be followed and an early return of fertility experienced because God willed it.

    Since He wills all babies, does it really matter if we’re splitting eco-breastfeeders or not? God gives us what we can handle, whether it’s a baby every year or a baby every three years. Or none at all. As long as we’re doing His will and neither contracepting nor using NFP to avoid pregnancy w/o grave reasons, then what’s the problem with *how* a mom breastfeeds?

    Take Danielle’s advice: use what works for your family.

  • Amy

    I will just chime in here and say that if everyone here is this caught up in the way that they parent their children (which ever side you may take)– then what a truly blessed bunch of kids there are out there. I hope that you can all agree that whether you do AP or not that all of you seem to care an incredible amount about the well being of your children. That in itself is an outstanding parenting "philosophy". There are so many kids in our world who are neglected and abused and all of you seem like great parents who care a great deal about your kids. So, stop "arguing" or "disagreeing" or whatever, and take comfort in fact that all of your kids seem to have parents who really care about them. God bless all of you!!!

  • Shivaun B

    Oh, Danielle. Bless you, dear friend of mothers! I read Dr. P’s arguments and they saddened me. I do use AP, where it works for my family. But, if I had to join someone’s camp, it would be yours. I am disheartened by his replies. Mothers (and sisters in Christ), pray, love your family, and God will bless your faithfulness and your domestic church. Peace.

  • My husband and I decided to follow an AP lifestyle after learning about ecological breastfeeding during our NFP classes. AP has been such a blessing to us all. I am incredibly offended by those who would call our parenting practices, specifically extended breastfeeding, child abuse. My son breastfed until he was 3 months shy of his 6th birthday. We wanted to meet his needs (both physical and emotional), and when they were met, he simply stopped. He is very well-adjusted, happy, and well-behaved, and I am grateful that the education that we received enabled us to make the choice to meet his very real needs so that he could reap the benefits.

  • Just one point. One commentor mentioned that in early generations mothers HAD to do AP-style parenting techniques to space children since other forms of contraception were unavailable. I find this pretty inaccurate historically. In some cultures, yes. Others, no. Clearly, historically breastfeeding has been the most reliably used from of family planning, but forms of contraception and abortion have been around for many, many centuries.

    Very sadly, the way family size was most often determined until the last century was by an incredibly high infant mortality rate. In fact, just in the last 100 years here in America, the infact mortality rate has dropped 90 percent! For the majority of mankind until the last century, 50 percent infant mortality rates were the norm. Families didn’t need to use AP-parenting to space children – they were just happy when half of their children made it out of infancy!

    I find arguments for AP parenting based on this type of historical and cultural anthropology often skewed or unhelpful.

  • Tina

    I am with Renee…I just read Dr. Popcak’s “rhetoric” reponses to your email.
    I was a young “worry-wart” mother once. Now I feeling like I a more ‘mature’…still a worrier…but prayerful mother. What I did with one child, certainly has not worked with the others. I have had to kneel in prayer and adjust MYSELF to what God wants me to do with these little gifts.
    I am the family with children 13-16 months apart. I am the mother that feels mentally drained at the end of a day…or even by the morning. I learn and re-learn everyday what is truly important in my life. Some days it is different than others. Again, I do this in prayer to…’do what works best for my family’.

  • Shivaun B

    p.s. Dr. P.’s comment that it is imperative to space children 2.5 to 3 years apart is NOT Catholic. If it is, then he should have a talk with God as to why He has blessed me with 5 in 7 years. I do the whole eco-breastfeeding! He would argue that I don’t know what I’m doing. I would argue that he does not know what he is talking about.

  • JR

    Marie M., you wrote:

    “Why? Why do we have a responsibility to check out AP over any other parenting philosophy? I happen to like the suggestion just made by Mike Dad of 5 to look at the book by Dr. Weisbluth. Do I have the responsibility to look at every parenting manual? Or do I have the OPTION to use my God-given reason and find out what works for my family?”

    Attachment parenting offers the most dignity to a child as a human person. Yes, we do indeed need our God-given reason to discern how to show our children dignity while parenting them. Leaving a baby to cry for a bit in order to fall asleep isn’t as dignifying as lying with him, and nursing him while he falls asleep with the comfort of his mom next to him. We are the first reflection of God’s love for our children. The way they relate to their parents will be a starting point for how they relate to God later in life. He is love, so our parenting must reflect that love. If a child feels abandoned by his parents in an effort to get him to sleep on his own, is this the best reflection of God’s love for him?

    In contrast, if a child throws a fit over not getting his way at the store and we ignore his cries here, is this the best way to show him dignity? Yes. These points both entail a child crying, however, the circumstances are different and we are showing our children God’s love in both instances.

    Yes, please, read other books. But at the end of the day, no other parenting philosophy offers so much dignity to the little soul that is your baby as attachment parenting does.

    Also you mentioned, “I think this is precisely where Dr. Popcak errs. He puts Attachment Parenting in the same category as NFP, or adherence to the Church’s teaching on marital fidelity and openness to life. THEY ARE NOT IN THE SAME CATEGORY!! AP is a philosophy, NFP (or not practicing contraception may be more accurate) is Church teaching.”

    Attachment parenting is a natural compliment to NFP. If one practices NFP, one would benefit from the delayed menstrual periods that come with ecological breastfeeding. In addition, sleeping with the baby helps to delay periods even further (a major component of AP). And, mom should be with baby as often as possible (another component of AP), etc.

    All of the church’s teachings are important. Attachment parenting may not fall in the “marital fidelity and openness to life” area, however it does apply to educating our children, teaching our children about God, and treating them with respect from the day they’re conceived—these are important, too.

    Finally, a number of commenters reflected on the guilt they feel as a mom regarding attachment parenting (or parenting in general). The Ten Commands make me feel guilty, but I’m not about to throw them out. ;-) I agree with Greg here when he says that guilt should motivate us. When we eat way too many Christmas cookies and feel guilty, what is the result? Hopefully, we don’t act similarly the next day. Internally, we realize that we didn’t measure up to some standard (in this case it may be a standard we’ve set for ourselves). This guilt should propel us to act differently in the future. The same parallel applies to parenting. If we have an ideal in mind (say responding sooner to baby’s cries) and we have a day where we don’t measure up, that “guilt” should help us to double our efforts and try again. Guilt in and of itself should help us get to heaven!

    If there’s a method of parenting that is difficult but gives our children the most dignity, how can we disregard it if it’s inconvenient, difficult, or feels too-lofty?

  • Wow, I never knew that this was such a hot topic for debate! I followed the links and read Dr. Popcak’s comments and I was truly bothered by one thing. That was his comments that children should be spaced at least 2-3 years apart so that you can be responsible in providing for the emotional needs of the children you already have. Does that imply that if your children are closer together you are somehow not doing as well as you could?

    I was 30 when we got married and both of us wanted a larger size family, so we felt that we could not afford to wait so long in between. I knew about ecological breastfeeding but did not want to delay my fertility that long. So, we have a 4 year old daughter conceived on our honeymoon, 2 year old twins born 20 months later, and a 7 month old baby born 21 months after that. Each time we were hoping to achieve a pregnancy. Now at 35, I hope we can still get in a few more.

    Does that make me less of a parent for having children so close together? (And to me, that doesn’t seem like that close together!) I don’t think so! I look around and I see my children playing together. They all love the baby and "help" take care of him. Sure the house may not be as clean as it could, but we have much joy and love in this place (and chaos, too, I might add!), and boy do the kids make us laugh!

    (I do have to say that I believe very much in breastfeeding, and ours were all breastfed for about a year, and exclusively for the first 6 months, even the twins.)

    Thanks, Danielle, for all of your comments on this topic. I enjoyed reading all of them.

  • I think one of the "disconnects" I have with this AP philosophy is the idea of NFP being a lifestyle rather than a means of child spacing when letting nature run it’s course would cause a hardship. I personally don’t have a problem with people who use NFP their entire marriage, but I don’t think it is REQUIRED to do so. As a matter of fact, one could have a perfectly wonderful life never once using NFP. If not, then the Church would have insisted upon it, rather than allowing it in certain situations. If AP is a natural outgrowth of NFP, that may be why the couples that have more closely spaces children due to not using NFP or using it infrequently can not treat all their children with the time and attention and dignity they require if they use AP techniques religiously. I for one didn’t use NFP until after our 5th child. Until then I relied on breastfeeding to space my children, and I had 5 children in 7 years. At that point my husband and I felt more conscious spacing would be prudent, and then we had two more children two years apart.

    It baffles me that now, being open to life, breastfeeding, homeschooling and making your children and family your life’s work isn’t enough. Now you have to follow more rules on child spacing, baby wearing, sleep sharing and who know what else, in order to "classify" as a truly Catholic mother.

    BTW, again, I have no problem with people baby wearing and sleep sharing, etc. More power to you. I know many people who do this and they have delightful families. I know others who tried and had to modify, after wrestling with unnecessary guilt (myself included). I have used many of the principles of AP through the years and with various children with terrific enjoyment and success. But reality dictated to me that modifications had to be made for our family to thrive.

    It shocks me that anyone would suggest that if your children are closer together than 2.5 – 3 years, you are breaking some rule, and are to blame for any difficulties you might be having. Shocks me.

  • Dad of 4 under 5

    AP, EBF, What is all this???? My wife tried to BF all four of our kids. Only 2 took. The other two got the bottle! If the kids get scared them come in our room, or if they want to hang out in the morning they do so as well but no child will sleep on a daily basis with my wife and I, we need time to talk, be alone and ……. We love our kids sooooooo much and they are awesome. They are wild yet loving, prayful yet distracted, simply kids!! We go with the flow, discipline hard, and pray. That is how my other 3 siblings were all raised and we are all successful, married and raising kids. I don’t what my kids to be Nerds by having them latch on to me or my wife at all times. I have seen kids like this at church all stand inches away from their mom at all times and walk in unison. Once we get out of church my kids are on the go talking with everyone (outside of course) looking for friends and cousins and trying to convince us to let them go somehwere. If they don’t listen to me when it’s time to go we talk and if need be they ride on the roof of the car on the way home!

  • Missy

    To Dad of 4 under 5…I’m a mother to 4 children…and our family pretty much us AP as our choice of parenting…but our girls are not nerdy and don’t "stand inches away" from my husband or me..and after church every Sunday…my children enjoy talking to their friends and trying to convince us to let them go somewhere…but even if they didn’t do all the things your kids do…it wouldn’t make them nerds!! What is wrong with children who enjoy family closeness….

  • Close kids

    I have 6 kids 7 and under. I read the comments of Dr. Popcak to Daniel’s email and I am so saddened by what I read. I do not believe that my husband or I have been "irresponsible parents." Yes, we have had several children close together. One came while breastfeedig was taking place, others came at a time in the NFP cycle when it would have seemed impossible! And yes, some came when I was no longer nursing and we knew it was a possibility. We have accepted all of these blessings, as just that…blessings! I never thought of that as being irresponsible and I don’t think these children were given to me by mistake! I have always done what works best for us. And I think my children have been shown plenty of love along the way. NOw they are all best friends and it shows! I couldn’t imagine having done it any other way!

  • Dad of 4 under 5

    Missy,

    Don’t get offended, I don’t even know much about AP? And I am happy your kids aren’t nerds. My comment regarding the nerdy kids was when i heard the story of the mom BFeeding the 6 year old and i felt bad for the child and thought cames to mind.

  • JR, I know SO MANY people who followed ecological breastfeeding BY THE BOOK and still got their cycles back within 3 months of giving birth.

    So, there goes the 2-3 year spacing ideal…

    You say that AP "Gives a child more dignity" Really?!? Can you explain that a bit more? And putting AP on the same plane as the 10 commandments is a little much.

    And just so you know… I tried and tried to BF my first two and absolutely couldn’t. (Yes, I tried EVERYTHING… might be considered TMI if I post it all here) With the last 3, I was "successful" for the first 7-8 months.

    Yes, I considered that VERY successful.

  • JR

    I can understand that some women have their cycles return early even if they ecologically breastfeed (my mother-in-law was one such women). I simply stated that AP is an nice complement to NFP. Nothing more.

    Attachment parenting helps a parent realize the dignity of their child in a number of ways. Some of which are:

    - A child’s cries are a cue to be responded to (as opposed to the cry-it-out method).

    - A baby would prefer to be with mother (as he has been for the previous 9 months) during the day and at night.

    Responding to a baby as we would an adult (in some cases) rather than ignoring their needs out of convenience to us as parents – is how attachment parenting recognizes a baby’s dignity.

    I agree that AP is not like the 10 commandments (I was attempting a bit of humor there). How about putting AP on the same plain as homeschooling? Again, I might feel guilty for neglecting to spend time with my toddler while I’m too busy working with my older children. That guilt should alert me that I need to change what I’m doing to include some more time for playing with/learning with my toddler. I wouldn’t necessarily renounce homeschooling as "not working for my family" simply because I feel "guilty" while engaging in homeschooling. Rather, I need to seek out exactly WHY I feel guilty (i.e. less time with toddler) and HOW I can remedy that (i.e. alter class schedule, etc).

    Finally, it’s important to note that breastfeeding is only a part of attachment parenting. There are so many other areas of attachment parenting that a family could explore given the very real issue of not being able to breast feed. They are: cosleeping, responging to baby’s cries promptly, baby wearing (sling, backpack,etc), mother exclusively feeding baby, lots of mom-baby time, etc.

  • Joan

    I’m reading over some of these comments and am flabbergasted at some,and angry that some commenters feel the need to judge others. I have 5 children. I nursed my second throughout my pregnancy with the third. She was constantly nursing it seemed, yet my period returned when she was 5 months old. She never had a pacifier, and never touched solids till she was a year old. I guess my body is "different" than most ecological breastfeeding mother’s. My third child was born when she was 17 months, and my period did not return for 12 months. The difference this time, was that I was nursing 2 babies.
    I am shocked and dismayed at Dr. Popcak’s reply to Danielle. I really liked him and had a great deal of repect for him at one time. He has some great ideas for keeping marriages healthy, yet he seems to fail to realize that sometimes God has a plan for us, that is out of our control. I started having second thoughts about Dr. Popcak a couple of years ago when I heard him speak at a conference. During his speech he had what it seemed like at the time "a slip of the tongue." I pray that he begins to be more open to other’s ideas of parenting and becomes less close minded about AP.

  • Susan

    I think what bothers me most with the AP crowd are the ideologues. AP is an ideology, it is not a tenent of the Roman Catholic Church. In fact, it sounds way more Protestant than Catholic. Protestant in the sense that it relies completely on the effort of the parents, and not enough on the grace of God. Are we saved by grace alone or through good works? And are mothers who do not breastfeed not good mothers because of that choice? Are they "producing" less healthy children, less smart and clingy because of no breastmilk? Are the children doomed to sin and failure because they slept in their own cribs? It sounds so utilitarian. I like the Catholic way myself. Have a glass of wine, go out with your spouse and friends. Enjoy your life and your family.

  • Kerry

    My first comment will come from a soon to be mom perspective. I am currently pregnant with twins and as far as a parenting style goes.. I am going to try and do what works best for my babies but also what works to get us on a schedule. I am open minded and pray that God will guide me in the best way to meet my girls’ needs.

    From a pediatric RN perspective as well as a BS degree in child development, I find some of Dr. Popcak’s comments to be out of line. To imply that not using AP could lead to increased cortisol levels which affects brain development and cause potential brain damage is extreme and in my opinion wrong. A baby has to experience true neglect, going hours without being fed,not being held, nurtured, or needs met when crying to have the increased level of cortisol to affect brain development in a negative way. Babies who also witness abuse, whether inflicted upon them or upon their mother will have increased cortisol levels that can affect brain development that could lead to damage, but that makes sense. But to imply that not using AP could lead to this is not justified. AP is not the only way to parent your child to lead to optimal brain development. I find his comments as a new mom to be scary. I am thankful that my educational background has allowed me to work with and take care of many children who have been parented in many different styles to see that they are developing beautifully, feel safe, are happy and growing. On the other hand, I have seen the other end of the spectrum and it is very sad and heartbreaking. I have no issues against AP and if it works for you than great! But by no means do I think it is the only way to parent to lead to well balanced children. Parenting is hard and we should be encouraging each other to do what works best for each individual child.

  • Kerry, I’m really interested in what you wrote, especially re: the science of this. I was wondering whether the consequences of not using AP were as dire as some were making them out to be; thanks for clearing it up!

  • I have a rule: In a disagreement between Danielle Bean and X, where X is another person, Danielle Bean is right. :)

  • Rebecca Hirsch

    Dr. Popcak says, "…recent advances in brain science have moved the discussion about parenting methodologies out of philosophy and squarely into the area of science. It is now possible to prove…that attachment parenting strategies are hands-down better for the developing brain and nervous system (and by extension, the biological seat of morality and virtue) than other parenting strategies."

    Don’t be mislead by these statements, which are complete hogwash. Dr. Popcak’s statements about science would never stand up to the actual evidence. That is because it is nearly impossible to PROVE anything in science, and that burden of proof certainly applies to something extremely intricate like brain development, which scientists have only taken baby steps toward understanding. Dr. Popcak’s idea that scientists have "proven" much of anything about how parenting style impacts brain development, or how brain development impacts morality and virtue, is ludicrous. All that scientists have solved are a couple of small pieces to a puzzle that may turn out to have 1000 or 2000 pieces in all. In the spirit of charity, I would say that Dr. Popcak’s statement about proof shows that he is either careless with words or lacks a basic understanding about the nature of science.

    And, by the way, I agree with Danielle. Attachment parenting is not the only way.

    –former molecular biologist, current science writer, and current homeschooling mother of 3 (not to mention former breastfeeder, cosleeper and sling-wearer)

  • Question: If your parents co-sleep with you, are you still a "cradle Catholic"?
    :)

  • JR,

    Your response doesn’t seem to be exclusive to AP practice alone. In fact, I guess I would have to say (given your take) that we too, practice AP. Even when I couldn’t breastfeed, I was the one to feed our babies their bottle… rarely did my husband do it. Our children have always slept in our room for the first year, and sometimes in our bed for the first few months or so, depending on the child. (Believe it or not, some children sleep better i.e prefer to sleep -without crying it out- in their own bed)

    And so, my question to you is, how deep into AP do you have to be, to be authentic? I mean, can I pick and choose what *gasp* works for my children? Isn’t that exactly what Danielle is talking about?

    Further, your reference to homeschooling is a bit zealous and opens up a whole new can of worms for me. (btw… I homeschool) For me, this is a yearly choice. I would never say that were an insurmountable obstacle be put in our family’s way, we would continue homeschooling, no matter what. No way. Life is too unpredictable. I have trust and hope, but I also have my eyes open to the needs of each individual child.

    I’d also love to hear your take on Original Sin and the role it might possibly play in considering how we raise and mold our children. i.e… Do you agree that children are fallen creatures and may not always know what is best for themselves? Do you think that maybe, as adults, we need to be making some decisions as to their upbringing? For example, when trying to nurse my last 3 children "on demand" they would be in constant pain, spitting up, and screaming…. each time, I put them on a loose schedule, and they were much happier. BUT! that meant the use of a pacifier. Horrors, and yet, I had a happy baby.

    My point? Experience has shown me that not one person can tell me the exact way to parent my kiddos. Only God can show me, and if I am praying and sincerely trying to do what is best for my children and my family, He will give me the grace to show me.

    I’m done, promise.
    :)

  • Teresa G

    Hey, June-Cleaver-before-a-six-pack (aka Cris)…..are you out there? I could sure use one of your awesome one-liners right about now! Come on, weigh in and give us a laugh! From one of your fans…….

  • Teresa G

    ooops – I meant "June-Cleaver-AFTER-a-six-pack…..it’s gotta be AFTER!!!

  • Pam

    For those who are questioning the basis for Greg Popcak’s assertions about the "science" of attachment parenting, much of it is explained in this book, The Science of Parenting -

    http://www.dorlingkindersley-uk.co.uk/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9781405314862,00.html

    I’m just passing this along because of questions about the whole issue of cortisol, etc.

  • Pam

    http://www.dorlingkindersley-uk.co.uk/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9781405314862,00.html

    Trying again on this link – if it doesn’t work, the book is The Science of Parenting and the author is Margot Sunderland.

    http://tinyurl.com/327ttt

  • late to this party

    I may not be Cris, but I am hilarious.

  • Pam

    The best weaning ever – okay, okay, that WAS funny. Scary…but funny!

  • Teresa G

    Late to the party……Yes you certainly are hilarious! Thanks for the link and the laugh!

  • I’ve been reading all the comments here and they’ve stirred up myriad emotions. I have to say I stand by everything Danielle has said, even though I am a strong supporter of the 8 principles of AP (as dictated by Attachment Parenting International). Here are some of the reasons I agree with Danielle: Before I became a mom, I scoured every book on AP for its pearls of wisdom. I was determined to be a model mom and to solidify a loving bond between my baby and me. However, in the trenches of motherhood, I’ve learned that there’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all when it comes to parenting. Before I gave birth to my first child, I had these envisions of carrying her in a sling all daylong and sleeping peacefully with her nestled by my side. But Madeline arrived into the world as a highly inquisitive, alert child who couldn’t stand being snuggled close to my chest. She was normally a happy, content baby, but the moment I attempted to put her into a sling, she’d start squirming and fussing. I tried several different models from a traditional sling to a front carrier. She wanted nothing to do with any of them until she was old enough to face the world outward or to be hitched on my hip (around 6 months or so). Even then, she grew tired of being too close to me for too long. She craved her own space and the freedom to explore her world.

    As for sleeping, sharing a bed proved to be a nightmare. I was desperate to do this because Madeline wanted to nurse all night long and never napped well. (To this day, she doesn’t need much sleep.) But when I tried keeping her in bed with me, neither one of us got much shut-eye. She was born a wiggle worm and she slept much better away from Mommy. I did, however, nurse her on demand until she was almost 2 years old and would have continued nursing except I could not get pregnant (luteal phase was too short) while nursing. The month I weaned (gently, I might add) I conceived.

    Rachel Marie, our second child, absolutely loves to snuggle close to me and to be carried chest to chest. She also sleeps peacefully still. However, she doesn’t use me as a human pacifier like Madeline did, so ecological breastfeeding isn’t really working. She has reflux and starts to cry if I try to offer her the breast for comfort when she’s not hungry. My girls are very different, but I’ve learned to do what works for them as well as what works for me, not some other mom’s baby or what some book or expert says I ought to do. Admittedly, I remember initially feeling somewhat like a failure when I was trying to figure out sleep issues with Madeline and when I’d try to carry her close to me as a newborn. I remember thinking, "Why doesn’t my baby WANT to be close to her mom?" Then, I had a wise, wise veteran mom tell me that attachment parenting isn’t so much about following a set of rules, but it’s about being so in tune to your child that you anticipate their needs and meet them accordingly. After all, was I really encouraging a strong bond if I stuffed my infant into a sling and kept her there even as she wailed just because that’s what I was supposed to do if I wanted to be an "attached", loving parent?

    Knowing our children and what they need – from the time they’re infants to the time they’re young adults – is a hallmark of good parenting. (And nurturing souls for heaven is the hallmark of good Catholic parenting and I was saddened by Dr. Popcak’s comments that if parents don’t practice AP, they may still hit the target [of sainthood], but they’re not shooting straight!)

    Ultimately, how we go about discovering their inner workings and needs isn’t nearly as important. Case in point: Despite not co-sleeping or babywearing my oldest, Madeline is a happy, well-adjusted preschooler and we have a wonderful bond, and I’m happy to report that she loves snuggling these days and often ends up wedged between my husband and me in our bed. Like I just said in so many words, having a strong child-mother bond was my ultimate goal and I’ve realized how I arrived there isn’t what’s really important.

    I also have to say one reason I am bothered by some AP zealots is the guilt it can trigger. Rachel Marie would probably be a great co-sleeper since she loves to snuggle, but we don’t have enough room in our bed for all of us to safely slumber and I don’t want to sleep away from my husband (putting our marriage first is best for our kids), so she sleeps alone in a crib now that she’s 7 months. I also occasionally let her cry (for no more than a few minutes), something I never did with Madeline. Yet, when I read things like Dr. Popcak wrote, I start to second-guess my parenting and worry that if I let her cry at all at night, I’m forsaking her and she may turn to drugs, promiscuity, etc. later on because I didn’t (and couldn’t) meet all of her needs. I want to be open to life, but I am only human. I’ve found that Rachel Marie is a good self-soother and doesn’t get up at night as much since I’ve let her cry occasionally (please note: I am in no way "Ferberizing" her, and I am a huge supporter of Elizabeth Pantley’s book The No Cry Solution, but there are some noises our babies make that do not require our mothering or even our breasts). I am therefore getting a little more sleep (I still wake up a few times to nurse and often still wake up with my older child), which means I can be a more loving and patient mom to both girls. (When I was trying to be everything to everyone, I was often grumpy and short-fused yelling and crying more than I was laughing and gently disciplining.) Furthermore, like Danielle mentioned in her response, it’s not in our natures, as loving Catholic moms, to ignore our children or to not be attuned to them. We desperately want to love them as completely as we can. We want to be there at every waking hour – if only we didn’t need any sleep ourselves. But sometimes what we want to do isn’t humanly possible. AP styles often don’t take into account the big picture. If our only task was to care for our kids – not to work on freelance deadlines, volunteer, prepare homeschool materials, to love and care for our husbands, or to keep ourselves healthy with nutritious meals and at least a little sleep, then it would be a lot easier. I’ve also found my good friends who are great at practicing AP are also much more laid-back than me. I am working on being less Type A (as in anal, anxious and antsy) and letting go of of my intrinsic perfectionism. But I’ll never be someone who can take naps when my kids nap every day or drift back to sleep easily between nursing sessions. I wish I was like that, but I can’t change who I am. I am what I am and there’s a reason God created me this way. Finally, one of the strategies AP experts cite for giving mom a break is to have Dad occasionally help with nighttime parenting. Again, in theory, this is a great idea, but what if you have a husband, who despite being an amazing, hands-on dad, is a radiology resident who has people’s lives in hands every day? He needs his sleep and mental acuity in order to read CT scans or MRIs. While he can occasionally help out at night, he often has to work even on weekends or is on call working all night himself, and I admit I can’t answer my baby (and 3-year-old’s) every plaintive cry unless I want to function like a "mombie." I don’t get a post-call day to catch up on sleep, after all.

    At any rate, I’m sorry for the tome, but recently, I’ve been feeling really guilty that I’m letting our 7-month-old occasionally cry and not being the AP I’d planned to be. I’ve been also worrying that I can’t possibly have a big brood if I don’t get more sleep (Madeline still wakes up frequently); yet, many of you moms out there and Danielle have encouraged me. In the end, most of us moms love our kids with everything we’ve got – the last thing we need is a heap of guilt to burden us in our vocation.

    I plan on addressing this topic on my own blog shortly. I’m also planning on doing a review of baby slings since I happen to have about five of them (some have been hand-me-downs).

    Happy mothering to you all. Let’s try not to judge one another. God bless!

  • Elizabeth

    I have a book by Gregory Popcak sitting on my shelf waiting to be read, but I think that I will give it back to the friend that lent it to me without reading it. Though I feel that Dr. Popcak’s response to Danielle was polite and not rude in the least, I also see that his views and "rules" for AP are non-bending in the least and he feels that AP is the one and only way to parent and that in order to be a good parent using another parent you must admit that you
    1. at least tried AP
    2. Admit that while you are not practicing AP you know that it is the best choice and that you still aren’t doing things correctly since you aren’t practicing that
    PLEASE!! It is insane to say that there is only one right method of parenting. And guess what, I am totally for AP and have practiced it myself with two children and plan to once this new one is born.
    By him stating that ideally children should be at least 2-3 years apart also gets my goat. He is saying that a good parent (one using AP, of course) should actually postpone pregnancy if it would interfere with AP. So being able to practice AP, in his opinion, is a valid reason for delaying a pregnancy.
    I’m all for AP if it works for your family. Just like I am all for natural birth and breastfeeding. But I am also not so narrow minded that I don’t realize that sometimes breastfeeding just doesn’t work and that there are cases where a c-section is a complete must. And sometimes AP just does not work for a family, or certain aspects of AP (maybe breastfeeding and baby wearing) work whereas other areas don’t work. To insist that there is only one way to parent is absurd.
    But, I do agree with Dr. Popcak on some forms of parenting being harmful, such as the Ezzo method, or letting a child cry it out in a crib to "teach" him how to sleep through the night.

  • Sally

    +JMJ+
    Our parish priest gave a Sunday sermon once on an article by Dr. Popcak. He quoted much of the article and then refuted the many errors in it. BTW he(our priest)is also a biochemist. Dr. Popcak has a way of sounding very Catholic, however, what he says is not always in line with Church teaching. He uses Catholic wording and refers to Catholic teachings, but, incorrectly.
    Personally, I think science is great. I am so grateful for the advances in health care, mental health issues, etc… However, science and scientists are not perfect. To say that science proves that AP is the best method for raising children is outlandish. I am in the medical profession and there were many things we did 10 years ago that was backed by scientific research, which we have since found to be erroneous or not as therepeutic as once believed.
    Honestly, I take research on cortisol levels with a grain of salt and will rely on the Lord wholeheartedly. Aside from prayer, I seek guidance from the holy saints, church doctrines and teachings, holy priests, papal encyclicals. I also seek advice from all sorts of mother’s- old, new, big families, small families, protestant. As long as it does not contradict authentic Catholic teaching.
    Yes, thanks to Adam and Eve we are all fallen creatures, however, we do have the True Church to properly form our conciences. We are blessed to have the sacrements. We have the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Alter, the Most Holy Eucharist. For Dr. P. to imply that if we don’t agree that AP is THE way then we have improperly formed conciences is ludacris.
    BTW, I do ecological bf, co-sleep, and wear my baby. I also spank the older ones before they reach the age of reason. I know that I will be held accountable for every idle word, for every impatient moment, for every "not right now, honey" when I really could have, for every injust reprimand and every lack of just correction before God Almighty and it brings me to my knees. No one is more concerned for the salvation of the souls of my children, my husband and myself than me. God entrusted my husband and myself with these precious immortal souls, not Dr. P, not Dr. Sears, not Dr. X Who Was On Oprah Today. We can read all the books (and trust me I have-you should see my bookcase) but, ultamitely, we must seek our Father’s will in our parenting. Thankfully, we have the Holy Mother Catholic Church to guide us.
    Blessed Mother Mary, pray for us mothers to become more like you.

  • cyd

    Danielle,

    Thank God for people like you who are rational, caring and compassionate. You are a wonderful mother who gives me hope that I can be too. I am not perfect. I am doing the best I can and what works for my family. I pray for God’s guidance every day. Thank you for sharing your life so that others may benefit from it.
    God Bless You,
    Cyd

  • Okay. I have removed the link to the "late weaning" video because of complaints from a few different late-weaners that it was unfair and unkind. I have also removed a couple of different comments that I thought could be considered inflammatory and I am sure would have led this discussion down a path I don’t want it to go. I am keeping comments closed now because I think enough has been said for now. Thanks to all for your input and to many for your support.