An Open Letter to Nicola Kraus (or, another day, another angry-making article)

18 Sep

Dear Nicola Kraus,

So! I understand that you have discovered the one single method of parenting that works for everyone and you are proselytizing this fact via the Huffington Post. Well, that is good news! Please, tell me more!

No, but seriously: I find articles like yours incredibly difficult to read. Not only is the tone rude and condescending, but the content is full of assumptions and misinformation.

First of all, let’s talk about a few personal pet peeves that I have with regards discussions surrounding attachment parenting:

1. Dr. Sears did not come up with attachment theory. John Bowlby did. Doctor Sears may have popularized the idea and coined the phrase attachment parenting, but it’s a concept that’s been around since the 50s.

2. I bet that you actually practice attachment parenting, even if you don’t want to call it that. In fact, I guarantee it.

The basis of attachment theory is this, which comes from Bowlby’s seminal 1951 work, Maternal Care and Mental Health:

… the infant and young child should experience a warm, intimate, and continuous relationship with his mother (or permanent mother substitute) in which both find satisfaction and enjoyment.

Keep in mind that in the first half of the 20th century, women were getting a lot of not-so-great advice form doctors. They were told to put their babies on a schedule as soon as possible, feeding them only every three or four hours instead of whenever the baby was hungry. They were advised not to pick up their crying babies for fear of spoiling them, and there was also a pervasive belief that crying strengthened the lungs. I have a friend whose grandmother was instructed to wheel her infant son out into the garden every day and let him cry for half an hour. While her baby cried, she would sit at the table and weep because she hated it so much. But she still did it, because her doctor had told her to.

Attachment parenting, by contrast, suggests that you respond to your baby’s needs in an appropriate and timely fashion. Which, I am guessing, is probably something that you do.

Breastfeeding, cosleeping, babywearing, etc. are not necessary for attachment parenting. They’re tools that can help form a bond between parent and child, but they aren’t by any means required. Your friend Dr. Sears says the following:

AP is an approach, rather than a strict set of rules. It’s actually the style that many parents use instinctively. Parenting is too individual and baby too complex for there to be only one way. The important point is to get connected to your baby, and the baby B’s [his term for the set of tools mentioned above] of attachment parenting help. Once connected, stick with what is working and modify what is not. You will ultimately develop your own parenting style that helps parent and baby find a way to fit – the little word that so economically describes the relationship between parent and baby.

So even Doctor Sears says that you need to go with what’s best for you and your family.

I guess that what I really want to say with you is this: I’m happy that your kid is a great sleeper. I’m happy that you found a method that works for you. But what you should realize is: every child and every family is different.

For instance, my kid? My kid is 19 months and still sleeps in my bed, which I’m fine with. He didn’t end up there because I had romantic ideas about forming a bond with him. We have a crib for him. He hated it.

From just about day one, my son point-blank refused to sleep in his crib. He would fall asleep after nursing, I would swaddle him back up and gently (so gently) lie him down in his crib. Within ten minutes he would be screaming. I tried everything – waiting until he was deeply, deeply asleep to move him, putting him down when he was drowsy but still awake, keeping his spot in the crib warm with a heating pad – nothing worked.

On top of that, I was struggling with postpartum depression in the early months of his life, which was made much, much worse by my lack of sleep. Even if I had been comfortable with the idea of letting him cry it out (which I wasn’t), it would have meant several days of even less sleep. The idea of that would have made me cry, except that I already spent most of my time crying.

Once my son started sleeping in my bed, I found that it actually helped with my anxiety. For one thing, it was easy for me to check on him during the night to make sure that he was still breathing. It also made nighttime feeds easier – they were no longer this big production of getting him out of the crib, getting the nursing pillow in place, feeding him, then getting him back to sleep, putting him back in the crib, etc. Once he was in my bed I literally just had to roll over to nurse him and then roll back over once he was done.

The way that my husband and I parent isn’t for everyone. I get that. I try to be respectful of the way other people raise their children, and I think that by and large I’m pretty successful. As long as your kid is healthy, happy and well-fed, I think you’re doing a bang-up job. I would really appreciate it if you could extend me the same respect.

Oh, and by the way? When you let a 12-week-old cry it out, you are not teaching them to self-soothe, you’re teaching them that no one is coming to comfort them (and, by the way, there’s a world of difference between those two concepts). Science is behind me on this one. Science is awesome!

I totally agree with you on one thing, though – parenting is really fucking hard. The hardest part is that you have no idea what you’re doing, and you have to make important decisions on the fly while operating on little or no sleep. But the thing is, everyone is trying to do their best working with whatever they’re given. So why are you making people feel badly about the way they parent, when you already know that they’re doing their damnedest? How is your judgment and condescension helpful in any way? Just a few things you might want to think about.

Anyway, for the record, I don’t think that attachment parenting has made my kid clingy, or, you know, overly attached. In fact, I think the opposite is true: he’s so confident in our bond, so certain that I’ll be there to help him when he needs it, that he feels totally comfortable running off and doing his own thing. He’s happy to take off without looking back, because he just assumes that my husband or I will be close behind him. Because we always have been.

Sincerely,

Annabelle

p.s. You should maybe advise all of your sex-deprived friends to try getting it on in rooms other than the bedroom. The living room couch or the shower are two good suggestions. Tell them to be creative! If they really want to fuck, I’m sure they’ll find a way.

Theo, trying to claim the whole bed for himself

28 Responses to “An Open Letter to Nicola Kraus (or, another day, another angry-making article)”

  1. shannon September 18, 2012 at 6:55 am #

    I wish could be this articulate about smart issues. Did you link to this in the comments? YOU SHOULD.

    • bellejarblog September 19, 2012 at 2:50 am #

      I did! And I bet you totally could write something like this – just find an article that makes you mad/offended, and then write a super patient, reasonable response. I bet you would knock it out of the ballpark!

  2. shannon September 18, 2012 at 6:55 am #

    Also, I like your new layout. :)

    • bellejarblog September 19, 2012 at 2:50 am #

      Thanks! I just changed it again… still trying to find something that works. I love yours :P

  3. Mike September 18, 2012 at 4:40 pm #

    Loved this. Science is awesome and every child is their own unique set of challenges. I wish my son slept through the night and made my wifes life a lot easier while I’m at work, but those are all work in progress. Thanks for writting what I was thinking in reading the HuffPo article.

    • bellejarblog September 19, 2012 at 2:55 am #

      High five, science!

      Kids are definitely a work in progress. I figure that my son has to sleep through the night eventually, right? At worst, it’s only 17 more years until he goes away to college…

  4. Lynne Gomez September 18, 2012 at 4:48 pm #

    Thank you for this! The article you are responding to is disturbing on so many levels. I wonder what this mother would think of someone not feeding their infant for 12 hours at a time during the day… that would be constituted as abuse probably, right? But it’s perfectly ok to do it at night? I don’t get it! :(

    • bellejarblog September 19, 2012 at 2:58 am #

      Every kid is so different – some kids at 12 weeks old can and will definitely sleep 12 hours at a time, but not all of them! It’s so bonkers to me that people think that there is a one-size-fits-all method of parenting…

  5. synnabar September 18, 2012 at 5:14 pm #

    Thank you for taking the time to share this well-written (and informative!) reply. :)

    Also:

    “The way that my husband and I parent isn’t for everyone. I get that. I try to be respectful of the way other people raise their children, and I think that by and large I’m pretty successful. As long as your kid is healthy, happy and well-fed, I think you’re doing a bang-up job. I would really appreciate it if you could extend me the same respect.”

    Yes! A thousand times yes. Thank you!

    • bellejarblog September 19, 2012 at 2:59 am #

      I just don’t understand why people have to be so rude/judgmental about parenting online. Is it just because that kind of vitriol is going to generate page hits? I dunno!

  6. momentsofexhilaration September 18, 2012 at 6:03 pm #

    Great response!

  7. chelsealainewells September 18, 2012 at 7:00 pm #

    This is wonderful, I agree with every word you said. As a new mother doing her damndest on virtually no sleep, thank you.

    • bellejarblog September 19, 2012 at 3:00 am #

      Thank you.

      It does get better, I promise! How old is your little one?

  8. Jenn September 18, 2012 at 7:02 pm #

    This is a good response! Thank you- I feel all better now. I was so upset after reading that smug article!

    • bellejarblog September 19, 2012 at 3:02 am #

      Thank you! I found it pretty upsetting too – I don’t understand where that level of condescension comes from, seriously.

  9. acoffeejunky September 18, 2012 at 7:22 pm #

    Love it!…btw, I’m back-linking to your post :)

  10. William September 18, 2012 at 7:37 pm #

    Very well written! You made me feel much better about myself after that article made me feel like a terrible parent.

    • bellejarblog September 19, 2012 at 3:08 am #

      Thank you! I don’t get why people need to tear each other down in order to build themselves up. I’m sure you’re a fantastic parent.

  11. littlealbatross (@littlealbatross) September 18, 2012 at 10:13 pm #

    Found my way here from your HuffPo comment. Thanks for the smart response! I don’t understand why everything needs to be so dichotomous on the internets, and I totally agree with your point about being respectful.

    • bellejarblog September 19, 2012 at 3:10 am #

      I don’t get it either! Like, can’t we all just hug it out and admit that we’re all in this together?

  12. Anya Phenix September 19, 2012 at 3:15 am #

    Thank you so much for this! I was so saddened by Nicola’s article and the many smug and hateful comments toward AP. My husband and I did CIO for the first 5 years of my daughter’s life, and she was always scared, clingy, and anxious at bedtime. Then someone suggested I read about attachment parenting, and in these past 2 years we’ve been able to repair a lot of the anxiety issues she had developed, primarily by always being available for her and allowing her to co-sleep if she wants. Our relationships with her have improved tremendously, and she is much more independent now that she knows she can count on us to be there for her. Had we been listening to her needs the whole time, we would have realized that she needed more of us, not more independence. I completely agree that all kids are different, and there is no one perfect style of parenting. The best advice I’ve heard is to pay attention and listen to your child. They will always let you know what they need.

  13. playfulmeanderings September 19, 2012 at 5:57 pm #

    Point by point by point, you made the case for AP — your passion combined with logic, results and GREAT WRITING expertly exposes her faulty advise. What the “experts” fail to recognize again and again is that we become parents to expand our lives and to BE with our children, to make a FAMILY. We don’t want to put our babes on the shelf to visit once in a while. Anyway, keep writing as you do with animation and fervor.

    • bellejarblog September 20, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

      Yes, exactly! I mean, of course I want time alone with my spouse – who doesn’t? But when we decided to have kids, we realized that that time was going to become much more limited. In exchange, we got Theo, which seems like an awesome trade-off.

  14. transatlanticbelle September 26, 2012 at 10:39 pm #

    Great response to what appears to be a ‘smug’ article! Im so glad I’m not the only one who has researched Bowlby. How refreshing! My 10 month old daughter has slept at my side since birth and slept through the night every night since she was born. They are all so different. I would be sad to miss out on the cherubic stillness that engulfs her just before she wakes up, and that incredible silent smile she gives when she opens her eyes and…of course, there is Momma!
    Fab writing…my fav is the last sentence–cracked me up!;)

    • bellejarblog September 27, 2012 at 2:00 am #

      Hahaha thanks! I am always so confused when people think that having a baby in their bed means they can’t have sex. Like, you’ve never done the deed anywhere else in your house?? These people must have boring sex lives.

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    [...] have read comments from people but I do believe the one by BelleJar was the best. It’s well thought out and she said exactly what was on her mind without being [...]

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