My baby was six months old before I discovered attachment parenting was a “thing”: a movement with a name and groups and everything. Before I heard the phrase, I just thought what I did was just my parenting style: keeping my baby close, breastfeeding on demand, responding to her cues. Looking back, I’ve always been an attachment parent, even before I was a mum. I remember looking at slings when I was pregnant because I knew I’d want my precious baby close to my heart and it seemed the natural thing to do, after carrying her for nine months.
Since discovering, and becoming somewhat immersed in, the whole world of attachment parenting, I’ve done several things. I tracked down groups in my area and even started a sling meet, because there wasn’t one and I was often being asked questions about my slings, and joined an array of online forums and groups. My experience has overall been positive but there’s one thing I feel really lets our community down, and that’s the feeling of exclusivity. Before I say this I want to make it clear I’m not talking about every AP group or parent, just a small minority of them, but I feel it’s important to raise this, as our reputation depends on the impression these groups give out to prospective new members.
As an example, at one group I went to for the first time, I was approached the group leader who told me she had noticed my daughter was using disposables and asked whether I’d like her to show me how easy cloth nappys were. She said all this to me before welcoming me to the the group or even asking my, or my child’s name! I felt quite humiliated and judged and I didn’t go back to that group again because of it (not to mention, cloth nappys are surely more of a “green” issue than an “attachment parenting” one anyway!). I also noticed while there that she also really talked down to another mum who was asking what sling she should get as her Baby Bjorn was becoming uncomfortable. Rather than giving her advice, she just told her how unsafe forward facing carriers were and the mum looked really dejected. This woman would have probably put her off using slings at all if I hadn’t been there and been able to invite her to my sling meet where she could have a go with some slings herself and see what she liked.
The above group isn’t the only time I’ve witnessed this. Many online groups have members who seem to delight in posting about how AP they are and how mums aren’t “proper” attachment parents if they don’t do this, or that. A local mum I know personally through my sling meet once told me she went to a different sling group to check out their library stock and felt as though people were looking down on her when she bottle fed her baby, and said nobody talked to her while she was there. I found this appalling! They didn’t know how much she had struggled but eventually been unable to breastfeed and, even if she had bottle fed by choice, it wasn’t anyone’s business but her own and, in my opinion, certainly shouldn’t stop her feeling welcome at groups she’s attending because she’s genuinely interested to learn more. My own husband is strongly AP-minded but he has never breastfed – by this logic he could never be a “proper” attachment parent either. It’s just another example of the exclusivity and attitude of a small, but vocal, minority in the AP movement.
With attachment parenting already being, disappointingly, viewed as extreme or weird in mainstream media, I feel it’s important to make mums who are interested in it feel welcome. Whether they subscribe to all the attachment parenting principles or how strongly they follow them shouldn’t matter. What we, as attachment parents, should do is care for our babies in the best way we can and give anyone interested in learning more about AP any support we feel able to give. What we shouldn’t do is judge other (AP or non-AP) parents or try to tell them this is how it SHOULD be done. That just alienates and excludes people and frankly, is not behaviour I would wish to be associated with. Attachment Parenting is a loving and caring approach to bringing up a child; I just wish certain “attachment parents” would show a little bit of that love and care to their fellow parents.