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Breastfeeding and attachment parenting - your thoughts

(405 Posts)
awfulpersonme Sat 20-Aug-16 11:42:18

I've not posted on this board before but have lurked a lot.

I'm interested to see what you think about two things I have thought about a lot in recent weeks - breastfeeding and attachment parenting.

I breastfeed my 5 month old and as such was on a few Facebook groups for support. On these groups I have seen comments stating that women who ff should not have children, that formula should only be available on prescription for babies who need it medically, and asking for tips on how to persuade their female friends and relatives to breastfeed their babies. These groups are largely AP based.


1) Is pressurising women to breastfeed essentially anti feminist? Isn't it just another way of telling us what we should and shouldn't do with our bodies, another way of making female bodies public property?

2) aren't a lot of the attachment parenting principles essentially quite anti-woman? Every AP group I've seen seems to place a mother's need for outside stimulation, sleep, and good mental health as far, far below the needs of her children (at all ages, not just newborns and young babies). The idea that you must be around your baby 24/7 just seems to me to be another way of keeping women firmly "in their place".

What do you all think??

wenchystrumpet Sat 20-Aug-16 11:56:14

Yes! It's no coincidence that many of the AP authors like Sears are ultraconservative Christians. And male.

nousernames Sat 20-Aug-16 11:58:07

Yes and yes! Having successfully got my kids to the age of 5 without any major mishaps but shitload of minor ones, I totally feel qualified to comment wink.

A Breastfeeding AP set up is totally the right set up for some women. It wasn't for me thought (an unattached formula feeder?). What irritates me is the complete failure of many people, and sadly a lot of women do this, to recognise that there's a million different ways to raise a kid & each woman will find the way that best suits them.

We don't become the fucking borg collective once we have a child with one unanimous way of thinking amongst us all. My life leading up to having a child, my hopes for motherhood, my relationship with dh, my own view of myself outside of being a mum & many other things inform the decisions I make so it stands to reason that my choices will be different to my neighbour's/my friend's etc. I think you've hit the nail on the head op.

Also as an aside, I hate all the shitty labels that we get these days - AP, CIO, baby led weaning blah blah blah. Surely I can't be the only one just muddling along trying not to fuck them up too badly.

VestalVirgin Sat 20-Aug-16 11:59:53

1) Totally true. I mean, breastfeeding is probably best for children, but why should children be more important than women? Besides, no one asks fathers to stay home from their jobs to do childcare, even though this would probably be best for children. Good male role model and all that!

2) Not necessarily. I mean, the rule that you can't bring your baby to the workplace is, like, somewhat artificial. Saying that a baby is happiest if carried around by an adult doesn't have to be antifeminist. (Though in today's society, and with the expectation that the person who is around the baby is a woman, it totally is.)

I didn't read much about attachment parenting, but if you think that some of the principles are misogynist, then you are quite probably right.

Just, outsourcing childcare to people who aren't actually related to the child and do this as a job doesn't have to be the only alternative to women caring for children. It is, because we live in patriarchy. But it doesn't have to be.

awfulpersonme Sat 20-Aug-16 12:02:49

Yy to fecking labels like baby wearing, totally agree.

I have PND and wanted to go for an evening out. I hadn't managed to express so I left my other half with a bit of formula. I mentioned this off hand on a BF support group which is also AP based and was asked why I had bothered to have a baby if I wanted time away from him.

awfulpersonme Sat 20-Aug-16 12:03:26

I agree with that too vestal.

TheEagle Sat 20-Aug-16 12:04:56

This is interesting and something I've just started thinking a lot about.

I've breastfed 3 children, DS1 and DTs, all to 13 months. No-one ever pressured me to breastfeed.

I do think that some women subordinate their selves and their needs for their young (and not so young) children for very many reasons.

I certainly felt that I put my life, my needs aside for the first 10/12 months of my children's lives but I did this because I wanted to do it. Could I have continued? I don't know.

Not with the twins I don't think, it was overwhelmingly intense having 2 babies attached to my body for a large part of each day.

A lot of the BFing/attachment parenting sites like to claim that it's harder to parent a toddler without breastfeeding but I don't subscribe to that POV.

Isn't feminism about choice? I chose to use my body to feed my children (and was lucky to be able to) and I am glad to have had that choice.

juneau Sat 20-Aug-16 12:06:57

I had the Sears parenting books when I had DS1 and at that time, because I wanted to breastfeed, I found them helpful. Looking back though I can see that the Sears' method is extremely constraining to women. I bf on demand and boy, was a slave to it! My DH went off to work every day and I was just stuck on the sofa for months feeding. I don't regret EBFing and baby-wearing, but I do think it can be damaging to the relationship between baby and DF, DM and older siblings, etc, because the baby is just stuck to the DM all the time.

In answer to your questions:
1) Anything that tells women what they SHOULD be doing with their bodies is anti-feminist.

2) AP enslaves women. They have to respond to their DC above and beyond all else. Self and DP come below DC - and that is wrong, wrong, wrong.

awfulpersonme Sat 20-Aug-16 12:07:04

Yes, feminism is (or should be) about choice. And I too have chosen to use my body to feed my child.

But the idea that it's acceptable to tell someone she must breastfeed, or the idea that simply not wanting to isn't an acceptable reason not to breastfeed - I find that very uncomfortable.

awfulpersonme Sat 20-Aug-16 12:07:59

I'm so glad I'm not the only one who thinks this. It has been bothering me for ages.

TheEagle Sat 20-Aug-16 12:08:51

awful, agreed.

I think that a lot of those FB groups are set up as spaces where people can say things they'd never dream of saying IRL because they know they're among like-minded individuals.

53rdAndBird Sat 20-Aug-16 12:09:17

I'm an attachment parent. I'm not around my baby 24/7, not are any of the other AP types I know.

I don't disagree that there are lunatics out there who think women's own needs don't count, and present that as an AP thing. But I have also had very good discussions in AP groups about the importance of balancing everyone's needs within a family. (Likewise, I have had some very non-AP people tell me that co-sleeping was an awful idea, even though it was saving my sanity sleep-wise: "what about your husband? Doesn't he want his wife back?" hmm )

TheEagle Sat 20-Aug-16 12:09:41

I also loathe parenting labels.

confusedandemployed Sat 20-Aug-16 12:09:57

I find the moralising around bf, sleep training (or rather not sleep training) etc incredibly offensive. I would not presume to tell people how to raise their kids, I will not tolerate other people telling me what to do.

I dislike the labels. I am not an AP, I FF for reasons of my own which were valid. I also stuck DD in a sling for most of her first year but imposed a strict bedtime routine. I couldn't give a tuppenny fuck if people disapprove. I disapprove wholeheartedly of the pressure that is put on parents to parent in a certain way.

Crasterwaves Sat 20-Aug-16 12:10:55

Any form of pressure put on women to do things is clearly wrong. Eg my mother was pressured to ff her babies in the 70s by medical staff when she told them she would like to bf. There was historically often an emphasis on the inadequacy of women's own milk.

Lots of mothers (me included) find bf easier than ff. It is certainly less expensive and very portable, so I honestly don't find it at all constraining.

Different strokes for different folks and all that.

TheEagle Sat 20-Aug-16 12:11:12

I disapprove wholeheartedly of the pressure that is put on parents to parent in a certain way


awfulpersonme Sat 20-Aug-16 12:13:10


Yes I've heard that wrt to co sleeping too - "what about your poor husband?"

And on the opposite camp "what about your poor children?"

Never "what about you? What do you want?"

awfulpersonme Sat 20-Aug-16 12:16:18

My argument wasn't at all that bfeeding is constraining btw, it was more about finding it very troubling that it only seems acceptable to not do it if you are unable to, not if you don't want to.

My friend for instance recently sleep trained her one year old. She felt so guilty about it but she said to me "I had to as I felt nearly suicidal with exhaustion".

I thought tbh that it was so awful she had to get to that point before she felt it was acceptable to put herself first.

confusedandemployed Sat 20-Aug-16 12:33:46

I agree with you. In fact I feel especially strongly about sleep training. I fail to see how teaching someone to sleep as well as they can is anything but good.

As an older parent I think it was easier for me to say "Fuck you" to those who wanted me to do it their way. It is much, much harder for younger mothers who perhaps have less life experience and faith in their own judgement.

awfulpersonme Sat 20-Aug-16 12:37:34

I'm 27 and I do second guess myself a lot.

FreshwaterSelkie Sat 20-Aug-16 12:38:50

I'm not a parent, so I don't have a dog in this fight on either side. But from the outside watching other people parent, AP can very much be used as a stick to beat women with. That said, my overwhelming impression is that no matter what women do or don't do with regard to parenting, someone will be delighted to tell them they're doing it wrong!

Co-incidentally, I was listening to a podcast about AP this morning, on a show called Science Vs, and it was very interesting. They try to break down the science behind stuff, and well...AP doesn't do very well at all on the backed-by-research-and-evidence front. To me, that usually tells us there's an agenda somewhere - my first thought was that it fits nicely into a backlash scenario, as it can easily be leveraged to put women firmly back in the domestic sphere.

ElspethFlashman Sat 20-Aug-16 12:44:15

AP is all about the mother. The father is treated as little more than a sperm donor tbh. Of course they hotly deny that - there's plenty of ways he can be involved! He can get you an endless supply of drinks and change nappies! But the undertone is that he needs to essentially keep the hell out of the way whilst Mummy gets on with the nurturing.

DR Sears has now revised his new edition to rather begrudgingly say that of course he understands that it's often necessary for women to work - but he advises getting flexible hours so you can basically work as little as possible. Cos that's totally feasible for most women, right? And the idea that women might want to work for enjoyment! C'mon now, let's not be silly!

53rdAndBird Sat 20-Aug-16 12:48:30

AP is all about the mother. The father is treated as little more than a sperm donor tbh. Of course they hotly deny that

Well, I'd hotly deny that because it's flatly not true in my family. My husband is plenty more than a sperm donor, thanks. But hey, what would I know about AP, as someone who actually does it... hmm

eyebrowsonfleek Sat 20-Aug-16 12:54:51

AP doesn't have to be all about sacrifice.

With my oldest, he hated being held and therefore never in a sling. With my youngest, he hated the buggy (later found out he was lactose intolerant) but loved the stretchy sling so he was basically in it for 12 weeks for all my waking hours. It had the bonus of keeping my hands free for housework and 2 other kids so it made my life easier. If I'd had a section or ds been bigger I might have made a different decision but that's ok too.

BLW looks like messy chaos to some who want to know how much their child is eating. I did BLW (well before the term was coined) so that my baby was distracted while I ate and because putting the baby in the highchair while I ate felt natural to me.

What I'm trying to say is that I think personality of parent and baby should determine how you parent not a parenting guru. The other thing- it's ok to change your mind with parenting. You might be anti-dummy but if baby is comforted by one, the world won't end.

MadrigalElectromotive Sat 20-Aug-16 13:09:58

Interesting topic. I'm ebf 3 month old DD at the moment, so I'm right in the throes of all of this.

I feel very strongly that women should not be forced into doing anything with their bodies that they don't want to. However, my recent experiences showed me that there are a lot of women who want to bf and the support just isn't there. So women are under enormous pressure to bf but then receive no help to actually do so. I think it's probably a very difficult balance to get right - when does support become coercion? Do women want to breastfeed for themselves or because they feel that they should?

I also think that the health benefits of breastfeeding for the mother should be emphasised more - it isn't just a good thing to do for babies but can actually be good for women too. I think the fact that it isn't demonstrates that mothers are somehow missing from discussions about parenting decisions.

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