The cover story in last week’s (May 21, 2012) Time Magazine is all about “why attachment parenting drives some mothers to extremes — and how Dr. Bill Sears became their guru.” That is the article’s subtitle. All I can say, somewhat hopefully, is “at last.”
Because my next book, due out in the fall, contains a chapter on attachment parenting’s destructive propaganda, I have done considerable research of late on the subject. For those of you who are not familiar with this latest parenting trend, attachment parenting is all about parents and children sleeping together, mothers “wearing” their infants (constantly carrying them around in slings), breastfeeding these same children until they are two or three, and generally centering their lives on their kids in perpetuity.
Supposedly, all this fuss over children is essential to making sure mother and child properly “bond.” According to the movement’s high priest, California pediatrician Bill Sears, proper bonding is supposed to enhance the mother-child relationship, nurture better emotional health, and even make the child smarter and less likely to lie.
That’s right! On his website, in an essay titled “11 Ways to Raise a Truthful Child,” Sears writes “Connected children do not become habitual liars. They trust their caregivers and have such a good self-image they don’t need to lie.” In the same article, he promises parents who choose to adopt his method that they will develop the wisdom they need to make proper decisions for their children, and that their children will “turn out better” than children raised otherwise.
By “turn out better,” Sears means a child who is more intelligent, calm, secure, socially confident, empathic, and independent than a child raised according to prevailing Western norms. Mind you, he doesn’t support this with any evidence obtained via the scientific method (an experiment involving both a control group and an experimental group) because he can’t. There is no such evidence. To be blunt, Sears is making all this up. He’s, well, let’s just say he and his mother must not have properly bonded.
In fact, no unbiased research has ever affirmed any emotional or behavioral advantage to parent-child co-sleeping, extended breastfeeding, or “baby wearing.” To cite but one example, James J. McKenna, director of the Mother-Baby Sleep Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame, says that he has yet to find any benefit to parents and children sleeping together. McKenna is widely regarded as the world’s foremost authority on infant sleep issues.
The harm of attachment parenting is testified to by numerous ex-AP parents who have shared with me horror stories about the damage done to their marriages by co-sleeping and the problems they’ve had trying to get over-dependent children as old as eight out of their beds. In an Amazon consumer review of Sears’ “The Attachment Parenting Book,” a mother who is trying to recover from his advice with two small children says, “This book ought to come with a warning!”
When all is said and done, the only person who seems to have benefitted from attachment parenting is Dr. Bill Sears.