But lately, I’ve noticed that something is lacking with a few vocal members of the attachment parenting community. Empathy. Yep, that’s putting yourself in another’s shoes.
You don’t have to agree. You don’t have to sanction. But it’d be nice if some APs would understand that it’s not as easy as popping a baby on a breast or in your bed. Life is not the same for everyone out there. Our experiences are different. Our reactions are different.
And until the Attachment Parenting community isolates the elitists, it will be hard to gain ground.
I babywear my son. He is over 15 months old and is still breastfeeding. He sleeps in a bed in our room and cosleeps with us if he needs to breastfeed in the night. I made his baby food and now he eats all the healthy homemade, homegrown food he can. We cloth diaper and line dry. I’m a convert.
But not because anyone forced me or guilted me into being a natural parent.
With my older son, I was a single mother. I went back to work at 6 weeks and pumped breastmilk for and during my night shifts at a nearby resort hotel. But my hours became longer and more frequent and demanding and eventually I had no time or too much stress to actually get any milk. My son was supplemented with organic formula while I worked those evenings after any breastmilk ran out. He breastfed for 10 months, though I used the Super Baby Food system religiously from the time he started eating solids.
Still, most of my friends considered me “crunchy”. Maybe it was my habit of recycling, though there was no curbside collection. Maybe it was because even 4 years ago, I asked for natural wooden toys only for the critter. Maybe because I coslept with my son before I even knew the term. Maybe it was that I minimally vaccinated and didn’t circumcise. Whatever the reason, I was still outside the mainstream.
And maybe that’s why I don’t have rose-colored glasses with every post I see about breastfeeding or sleep techniques. Because some writers simply do it poorly. Instead of touting the benefits of said natural parenting practice, they guilt their readers about choosing a different path.
Most recently, I saw this in a post that said that “forcing your baby to sleep alone” was akin to “forced sex”. (After numerous commenters protested, she changed the post to read that the “Cry It Out” method was disrespectful just as forced sex was disrespectful and removed the term “rape”.) I don’t even agree with CIO, but was turned off by the flippant use of rape imagery.
Hasn’t anyone ever heard the old adage about “catching flies with honey”? No, we don’t have to prance around the issues with Disney animals playing troubadour to our cause. But we don’t have to be so critical, either.
It’s elitist to advocate that all women breastfeed or to criticize all formula use without simultaneously fighting for family-friendly work environments. It is great to educate about elimination communication (EC) as long as you understand that many families don’t have the luxury of that time spent with their tot.
Just be open to understanding the “other side”.
Some people have said, “Well, if you don’t agree, go somewhere else and find like-minded people.” But why? Where does that lack of dialogue get us? It gets us preaching to the choir. No one is changing their behavior. There are still babies who never experience the joy of being worn. They planet continues to fill with disposable diapers. Women may hear Hanna Rosin and think hers is a pretty good reason to give up trying when it comes to breastfeeding.
And why? Because we’ve surrounded ourselves with “Yes!” Men.
Let’s do better.
I write about natural parenting. I follow children’s health studies and often use them to illustrate a point I agree with. When I found the study that showed that many researchers refuse to name formula as a culprit in a higher rate of illnesses, I blogged on it (partly because I loved their use of “Voldemort“). When I found a study that showed that “Home Birth Is-*Gasp!*-Safe!” I made sure people heard that. I don’t believe in fast food, and was intrigued when I read a study that suggested that the more often kids eat the junk, the lower they score on standardized tests. I both write human interest stories, and I post about breastfeeding laws, cloth diapers, and natural birthing.
I am opinionated about all of these things. But I try to tout the benefits of these granola-y lifestyle choices instead of vilify the “other side”. I’m not perfect. But I try. Mostly, I try by sharing my personal experiences in the hopes that others will understand what helped me get where I am today. (A place that still has a long way to go!)
I didn’t come to the natural parenting community through browbeating. I sincerely doubt we’ll win any converts like that.
Image: Smabs Sputzer of Flickr under a Creative Commons License.
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