My Life as a Mom

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With 6 happy kids, life can be really fun around here! This blog is dedicated to the joys and sometimes chaos of having a large family. Okay, so it's always chaos around here, but fortunately, it's almost always fun, too!

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

The Difference Between "Attachment Therapy" and "Attachment Parenting."

An article in a recent paper mentioned something called "Attachment Therapy". Which is not to be confused with Attachment Parenting.

"Attachment Therapy" is used by psychologists to treat what they call "attachment disorder". It's not based on any studies, and to anyone witnessing the "therapy" it actually looks extremely abusive.

It is a new practice, and something that goes against the grain of natural parenting.

Attachment Parenting, on the other hand, is the practice of giving your babies and children as much love and attention as they need. When the baby cries, you address and handle whatever is causing discomfort or unhappiness - whether it's a hungry tummy, a diaper pin sticking in the baby's skin, a wet diaper, a gas bubble, or simply the need to feel loved and sheltered.

It can also include practicing the "family bed" which is just an American name for what most families do in most of the world - letting the babies sleep with Mommy. This makes breastfeeding very much easier, and also greatly reduces the risk of SIDS. (Partly, because when the baby stops breathing, the Mother instinctively knows it, asleep or not, and moves in her sleep, thus jiggling the baby enough that he or she remembers to breathe again!)

It can include extended breastfeeding, and self-led weaning. Which means that the baby nurses into toddlerhood, and until she just stops on her own. (While I did practice extended breastfeeding, I never managed to nurse so long that the child could self-wean. But weaning was always easy when my babies had something better than packaged reconstituted pharmacy-company baby formula offered to them.)

It can also include carrying the infant around in a sling, up against mother, most of the day. While this is the way that most hunter/gatherer and unindustrialized communities care for their infants while Mother is working in the fields, I had back problems and couldn't even begin to do this. But we did have a baby carrier that Daddy would wear when we went out - seeing the baby up against his chest was really very sweet and wonderful!

Some call Attachment Parenting "Instinctive Parenting" - because, as any mother knows, comforting your crying child is instinctive. Putting the baby to bed in his own crib, in his own room, and ignoring his cries for half an hour is NOT instinctive!

We have a friend who practices this with her baby, and during one visit, the child was laid down for nap and immediately began this heart-wrenching cry, which was ignored by the parents. My 11-year-old daughter looked at me and said, "Mom, did you let us cry like that when we were babies?" She had tears in her eyes and a look of shock on her face. Since she is the oldest girl with 4 younger siblings, she knows we didn't, but thought perhaps she'd forgotten. I assured her that we didn't, and she said, "I'm never going to do that to my baby."

And children raised this way are not overly needy. On the contrary, they are generally very independent. My kids have never - not once - suffered from separation anxiety during a sleep-over. Their grandparents, who only see them once every few years, always remark that the kids come to them happily, immediately, with no shyness. The kids are actually remarkably NOT shy. They are all comfortable in their own skins and very self-assured. And 5 of the children have had small acting jobs and been very easy to work with - they are very, very confident and expressive children.

So, while Attachment Parenting is based on instinctively parenting our children, and is kind, and cares for the infant's needs, and creates independent, secure children, "Attachment Therapy" is completely different. Its effects are almost wholly opposite, creating needy, unhappy children, as the result of definitely unkind, non-instinctive handlings by the parents.

Attachment Therapy was created by psychologists, with the intent to create a bond with an older child that is missing with the parent.

To do this, the idea is to completely destroy the child's sense of independence, ability, and self worth, and once the child is completely vanquished - no longer willing to fight for her own right to exist and be an independent human being - then the parent cuddles and comforts the child.

It has resulted in death, and is considered criminal activity in some areas, as it is surely abusive to the child.

To read more on "Attachment Therapy":
Candace Newmaker and other tragedies.

To read more on the positive "Attachment Parenting":
Attachment Parenting.

Google Attachment Parenting Pages.

How the birth process may affect child's behavior.