Do Dr. Sears and Attachment Parenting Make You Feel Guilty?

by Susan

Dr Sears On The ViewDoes Dr. Sears with his attachment parenting suggestions make you feel extra guilt?

The ladies on The View are worried that Dr. Sears is making moms feel unnecessary guilt. They all say he’s making them feel guilty about choices they made as mothers.

But I tend to disagree.

I don’t think most moms feel extra guilt when they read about attachment parenting from Dr. Sears. My guess is that moms respond in one of the following ways…

  1. Some ideas resonate and they follow some of the suggestions or they feel support for parenting techniques they’re already using despite not having labeled them as “attachment parenting”.
  2. They disagree with the majority of the ideas and leave it at that.
  3. They jump right in and find support for parenting in a way that feels natural to them.

But Barbara, Joy, Sherri, Whoopi and Elisabeth all responded differently and I’m wondering if you agree with them.

They feel that Dr. Sears and the suggestions in attachment parenting make most moms feel extra guilt because the techniques such as co-sleeping, extended breastfeeding and baby wearing are not workable options for many families.

What do YOU say?

Do you think the existence of those parenting techniques make moms feel guilty if they aren’t able to follow them?

  • Did you follow any of the ideas of attachment parenting?
  • Would you label yourself an attachment parenting mom?
  • Do you feel guilt for any of your parenting decisions?

As I wrote in my response to the infamous Time article about Attachment Parenting, some of the AP ideas resonated with me once I had my first baby and I chose to use some of the tools/techniques in parenting my two girls.

I often joke around about mom-guilt and how I feel guilty for traveling or having childcare, but when I really analyze it, I don’t think I actually feel guilty for my decisions as I know I’m doing what’s best for my family.

As women, once a baby is growing inside us, we will forever be forced to make sacrifices as we try to impossibly balance the needs of ourselves, our children, our relationships and our work. We will naturally struggle with guilt as it is impossible to give completely to each.

The question becomes how much guilt do we allow ourselves to feel. I think we all feel a certain amount of internal struggle and “guilt”, and that we should strive to recognize that the balance we find is dynamic and changes continually as our families go through stages and that every woman’s formula is different.

My philosophy is try not to compare myself, do the best I can today and let go of the guilt.

Mothering Motto

What about you? Leave a comment and tell us whether Dr. Sears and attachment parenting ideas make you feel guilty.

 

Written by Susan Carraretto, co-founder of
this Mom Blog, 5 Minutes for Mom.
Talk with me: @5minutesformom and Facebook.com/5minutesformom
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Email Author    |    Website About Susan

Susan Carraretto and her identical twin, Janice Croze, created 5 Minutes for Mom in 2006. Susan loves all social media, but her top addiction these days is Pinterest. She recently published a children's book titled "The Pest Detectives" which you can download now in digital format for free.

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jo-Lynne {Musings of a Housewife} May 15, 2012 at 3:40 pm

Nah. I think people either reject the whole attachment parenting philosophy and rebel against it, or they buy into it and love it. I don’t see a lot of middle ground and guilt over it tho. Interesting discussion, wish I’d seen The View.

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2 Lori May 15, 2012 at 3:49 pm

I raised 4 well-adjusted children without implementing anyof Dr. Sears methods. I don’t feel guilty at all because all my children are happy, productive adults. I think parents need to raise their children the way they think is best as long as there is a lot of love, laughter, and discipline.

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3 Rachel May 15, 2012 at 3:50 pm

I do believe that the way in which Dr Sears writes his opinions can sometimes come across as heavy handed and burdened with guilt. For instance, he refers to cribs in his book as little jails and putting your baby behind bars, and asks why you would want to do that. When in reality, babies have absolutely no concept of jail or bars or any such thing, and it doesn’t hurt them at all.

He doesn’t make ME feel guilty because I am very convinced in what I choose to do and how, and I recognize that everyone’s parenting decisions are their own.

I wrote my own response to the Time Magazine cover and article here: http://www.graspingforobjectivity.com/2012/05/time-magazine.html

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4 Barb May 15, 2012 at 3:54 pm

I raised my oldest son without any knowledge of attachment parenting, and my other 4 after reading Dr. Sears and other books. I made lots of mistakes, and I learned as I made the mistakes. I don’t feel guilty about how I raised my babies. I do feel overwhelmed with keeping track of 5 kids, but that’s not guilt. I almost feel like the opinions of The View ladies might be leading us back into another episode of the Mommy Wars. There’s bigger issues to talk about than whether Dr. Sears makes moms feel guilty.

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5 Jaime May 15, 2012 at 3:57 pm

I do feel that many people these days are just coming up with too many alterntive raising methods, and when a article like this one comes out…Yes! Guilt should be the primary feeling if your not giving your child the right kind of upbringing..

On the other hand, I have 2 step-children- they both were not bonded by their mother when they were babies and it shows in a lot of instances of their lives! I also have 2 of my own and did NOT breast feed, but pretty much did everything else on the B list, and I do see a character difference between the 2 sets. Compassion and outgoing-ness are the biggest differences but I am starting to notice some intellectual markers now, that I did not see when the older were young.

I don’t think the actual ‘attachment’ is as important as the emotional one!

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6 Donna O'Neil May 15, 2012 at 4:08 pm

I had the Dr. Sears baby book and it was extremely helpful with certain issues. I just chose not to follow all aspects of attachment parenting. I picked what worked for my family. I also promptly went to work at the end of my maternity leave. Yes, there is always some kind of guilt that comes with being a mom. I remember feeling guilty when I started supplementing with formula when my daughter was 8 months old. I just couldn’t continue to wake up at 2 am to pump so she could have milk at daycare. Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. I actually would give myself a break and start it a few months earlier. I ended up nursing her until she was almost 2 and she turned out just fine.

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7 LaVonne May 15, 2012 at 4:19 pm

We went with attachment parenting with our first child. And we are glad we did. Many of friends don’t follow this method though, and I have never thought less of them. It works for us and our girl is so happy and well adjusted. We will continue with our second one too. I did write a post once about my annoyance with AP though (LOL):

http://www.longwaitforisabella.com/2009/05/dr-sears-attachment-parenting-can-i-get-a-refund.html

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8 Audrey May 15, 2012 at 5:51 pm

I’m a middle-grounder. I’ve never identified as attachment parenting, and have never even laid hands on a Sears book, but it seems I’ve just sort of stumbled into those techniques on my own. We use a sling. Do I carry my baby in a sling 24/7? Nope. Not even most days. But when we need it we have our sling on hand. We still push our child away from us in the stroller, on occasion, too. We co-sleep but that evolved on it’s own with the realization that my NICU baby was used to warmer temps than my frigid Cleveland house was providing in winter. She needed our body heat and adores our closeness. So while we are still trying to encourage her to sleep in her own dang bed, she often ends up in ours anyway. And we don’t turn her away. And apparently I’m one of those wicked extended nursers. My kid’s only a year and a half, but I think people fail to realize that anything over a year is extended. But I haven’t read Sears. Many women use these things because it’s what works for their families, not because they are a card carrying member of any particular ideology.

Basically I think that the ignorant world at large can’t distinguish between a helicopter parent and attachement parenting. That’s why we see a ton of those stupid “mother’s going to job interviews” “breastfeeding your child before he leaves for college” comments.

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9 Tammy May 15, 2012 at 6:58 pm

While Dr. Sears AP theories do not make me personally feel guilty, I do think the way he presents them ring an old bell that bothers me at my core: that women should give themselves up entirely in order to be good mothers. Yes, he can say that Dad’s have a role, too, but let’s face it, most of the AP activities will be completed by Moms whether they work outside the home or not. He also said/implied that mother’s working outside the home is a less than desirable circumstance and I cannot disagree more heartily.

To each her own, but my mother suffered terribly by not having more to do with her life than mothering. Her children suffered, too, because the resentment was palpable. I myself am a work-outside-the-home mother of 3 very well adjusted young people who earn good grades, behave well, and generally seem pretty happy about life. I breastfed for about 9 months for all of them. I did keep them close in carriers when they were infants, I mean… I did a lot of AP things, but don’t agree with him that this is right for every situation. Do what’s right for the child not the parent? Hey. If you’re not doing right by yourself, it will… eventually… become a problem for the child.

In the event that the oxygen masks drop from the ceiling of the aircraft, put the mask on yourself first even if you feel a strong urge to put the mask on the child first. Resist that urge because if you don’t care for yourself, there may not be anyone left to care for the child.

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10 Jennifer, Snapshot May 15, 2012 at 7:03 pm

I think that maybe those who DO subscribe to attachment parenting might feel guilty that they aren’t doing enough, but as you said, those of us (like me) who reject the ideas completely, don’t feel guilt.

I do agree that we don’t need to go to war amongst ourselves over it, but I think that like Jo-Lynne said, you either agree with it and do it or disagree and leave it at that.

But yes, I DO have guilt over some of parenting — not really decisions, but bad habits I fall into like letting the kids self-entertain with TV and computers too much, and losing my temper too often.

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11 Severinus May 15, 2012 at 10:15 pm

Dr. Sears mentioned that there are lots of research evidence showing attachment parenting make kids grow happy and confident. I would love to see that research data. If you could point me to such research, I would really appreciate it. However I suspect that there no such research evidence.
In my opinion, newborn babies are not tabula rasa. We all come to this world with certain baggage, you can call it carmic or genetic. For some kids AP will turn them into confident and happy persons, while others into spoiled brats. So there is nothing to feel guilt about.

On the other hand, no matter what we do we will hurt our kids. It’s just nature of physical world – our life is a stream between pain an pleasure. Therefore to feel guilty, when we hurt someone, especially our child (e.g. by not using AP ) is very natural thing. And I believe, there is nothing to be ashamed of.

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12 Hansel May 16, 2012 at 12:43 am

I think we all moms live with a certain amount of guilt, but the best we can do is follow whatever we feel is best for our children, and the parenting method you choose for your family is the best for them, thanks for the mothering motto.

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13 The Gang's Momma May 16, 2012 at 11:11 am

Having raised my first four with some aspects of attachment parenting tips and techniques and having followed Dr. Sears’ writings for all of those 17+ years, I have to say that most of us miss the point when reading about his principles. At the core, attachment parenting is NOT about the “techniques” or methods or rules. It’s about connecting and forming emotional trust and attachment with your child. HOW you choose to do that is a process of trial and error, what works for you and your family. Having your spouse’s buy-in on ANY parenting philosophy is key. CO-PARENTING according to what feels right for your family and its rhythms and routines no matter what “philosophy” you subscribe to is so important.

Now, having adopted a child who came from a rough start in life (Chinese orphanage, 5 different care-givers in 14 mos.), I am EVERLASTINGLY grateful to the attachment parenting foundation that we laid in the early years. I have tools to re-wire her for confident, secure attachment that re-communicates to her that she is loved, we are permanent, and she is home. Did I breastfeed her? No. Did I co-sleep with her? Only for spurts and seasons. But what I DID glean from the principles is that BUILDING TRUST AND EMPATHIC reciprocal relationship between us (me and her, her and daddy, the whole family, etc.) was PRIORITY for her first year and YES, that meant “having no other life” for a while. But at that time, my “life” was far less important than her need for a new message about family.

There should not be guilt over the TECHNIQUES. They are, as he said, TOOLS. And in this busy world with so much bombarding our families to pull us apart, I for one, want all the tools I can get. I feel that these conversations (and in particular the Time magazine cover!) only serve to inflame the conversation of the “mommy wars” and turn people off from reading about what could be a GREAT tool or resource for struggling families. Or at least reading about it with an open mind.

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14 Amy L May 16, 2012 at 12:45 pm

I think your 3 tips are perfect: Don’t Compare, Do the best you can, Let go of guilt. Everyone has different parenting techniques and I think it is great to discuss those with other parents. We are sometimes all in need of a different solution or technique than what we have, and it’s fine to see what others do. But it doesn’t mean we all have to parent the same. Do the best you can and what is best for you and your family. That’s what matters.

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15 LoudOnion May 17, 2012 at 11:56 am

Let’s not forget that no one else can make us feel guilt. We do that all on our own. How I respond to some one else’s ideas is completely on me. If we could take in information, analyze how we feel about it and then say “I guess that doesn’t work for me, but it might work for someone else” we would save ourselves a lot of wasted energy. If we could all go through life assuming that people are not judging us and therefore we don’t need to take a defensive stance maybe there wouldn’t be any need for such hoopla.

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16 Joana May 18, 2012 at 11:21 am

Too bad ignorance on those women parts dont kill….. I feel sorry for their kids for having such cold mothers.

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17 The Mommy Psychologist May 25, 2012 at 12:50 am

As a child psychologist and a mom, one of the things that is so misleading about attachment parenting is the name. It is only called attachment parenting because of the theory it was based upon. It is not called this because it is the only form of parenting which allows parents to develop a secure attachment relationship with their children. There are numerous ways to develop a secure attachment relationship with our kids. I explore more of this myth here for anyone who is interested:
http://www.themommypsychologist.com/2012/04/15/what-does-the-mommy-psychologist-have-to-say-about-attachment-parenting/

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18 Ronny G. November 23, 2012 at 3:24 pm

I feel our household has come apart because of Attachment parenting. We have roots in europe, and since moms there have 1.5 years of maternity leave and dads get a month off to be with their kids, attachment parenting becomes the flag to fly if you decide to stay home with your kids. I was a stay at home dad for a while too.

I understanding that AP is a pretty much a response to people who have their children in daycare when they’re still infants, basically, and have nannies and such to support two working parents. As much as I’ve grown to despise AP, I couldn’t have handed over a child at 6 weeks. But guess what: at a year, definitely.

My primary concern is that our kids are so dependent on us. My daughter howls bloody murder when my wife moves 5+ feet away from her. My son breastfed until he was 2, and he can’t eat by himself. He’s 3.5+ and resists potty training. Can’t follow directions and was very slow to socialize. Now he’s learning the hard way, soiling himself every day at pre-K. And with both kids, they were on a very natural progression towards independence – meaning, diversity of food choices, wanting to eat real food, a wholesome attitude to being (or not being) alone. Then it all fell apart the longer they were home. Neither of the kids can go to sleep alone. And it went downhill for both kids at the age of 1. I think the kids’ behavior is no longer explainable with “it’s a phase”: they won’t become independent because there’s no need to.

I meet the kids in my wife’s AP group: they’re all a bunch of weird little freaks. These are the kids who don’t do group activities; they either don’t share at all, or rove around constantly seeking approval. One 3yr old kid in the group fought to timeshare on their mother’s breast even after the arrival of an infant sibling. I’m sorry, but AP scares me. Worse than the hippie earth-mother lactivists.

I see kids who go to daycare AND THEY’RE NOT THE WORLD’S FUTURE FELONS. They’re normal, crazy, chaotic, needy kids but stress on the word ‘Normal.” They can function, more or less, in social environments. The whole “healthy bond with your child will make them more self-assured in life” is bunk when taken to this extreme.

My attachment kids sleep in the bed with mom. I haven’t slept there in years. And don’t cast me as the selfish guy who needs his wife’s affections and is jealous of the kids. I need a place to sleep where I don’t get back pain and can be at my work pain-free and (relatively) rested to make money for my family. We’re approaching financial ruin.

Folks, a healthy bond with your children is wonderful. As a dad, I’m pro-breastfeeding on all counts, and I hug like a mf. I dont spank or scream. But I’ve had it. AP, as a concept, is marketing and it sells books, not salvation. I wish we had known earlier to downshift away from it.

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