Thursday, September 30, 2010

Something on Dr. Sears & My Stubborn Ways

Stubborn adj 1. Having or showing dogged determination not to change one's attitude or position on something, esp. in spite of good arguments or reasons to do so. Unreasonably or perversely unyielding.

I've been called stubborn a few thousand times in my short 25 years here on this earth. I typically disagree with this accusation. When I decide to adopt a belief, behavior, or opinion, I do so very thoughtfully with much research and deliberation. I'm not saying it's the only way to go about making a decision, but it's my way and it works for me. So, when someone disagrees with me on something, and perhaps has done less research or has put a little less thought into their position, and they have been unable to adequately convince me to budge from mine, I hold my ground. I have met my match on occasion and have completely changed my mind in a matter of moments. My husband, Eric, has done it. He's thoughtful and objective and it's one of the many reasons why I married him. My brilliant and thoroughly liberal friend, Erin, has also changed my view on something in an instant. So about 99% of the time I would say I am not stubborn, I am just unsatisfied with the argument being presented to me. Dr. Sears, however, has found my 1% of stubbornness. A flaw has been found and it may just cause me to fall apart.

I fancy myself a blend of parental instinct and textbook knowledge. I don't know how accurate that is, but that's how I see myself. I know I learned a lot of what I know from my mother, but most of us do whether we want to admit it or not. I have my own trial and errors as a nanny, as well as being able to witness the failings and successes of the parents I have worked for. I also have my Early Childhood Education courses that, believe it or not, I do draw on as a nanny and as a parent. However, I have not spent much time with parenting self help books. I usually know what the various author's points are. I know the theories behind Baby Wise and The Happiest Baby on the Block. I've skimmed The Magic Years and Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child because families I've worked for had them laying around. But I've never sat down and read one of these books cover to cover because I've never needed to. Milo is happy, and I am happy. We haven't needed any help.

Even though I did not feel there were any holes in my parenting style, I felt that there had to be holes in my perspective on one parenting style in particular: attachment parenting. Dr. William Sears' The Baby Book spawned an entire cult following of mothers and fathers that practice this approach to parenting called attachment parenting. My knowledge of it was that it encouraged parents to do everything possible to keep their child happy. If that meant wearing them in a sling all day so that they never fussed and learned to sooth them self, or if that meant the baby slept in bed with mom and dad because that's what the baby wanted, or if we have 4 year olds breastfeeding because mom can't say no, then that is what the parents would do. My personal experiences with people who co-slept or comforted their baby constantly were that these children did not adjust well and had few coping skills. This is not a problem if mother's arms or breasts are nearby, but when baby is left with a nanny who cannot be their human pacifier, hours and hours of crying result. So, my opinion of Dr. Sears and his movement were not high.

My exposure to attachment parenting increased when I began to cloth diaper and was frequenting a forum for cloth diapering mothers. Most of these mothers also practiced attachment parenting (we'll just use AP and save space), some more passionately than other. And of course I would occasionally butt heads with someone on an AP practice. I usually didn't like these women, so just like someone who only meets obnoxious, in your face Christians, I had no interest in what they had to say. However, I quite enjoy Dr. James Sears on the show The Doctors. He is smart, funny, and I nearly always agree with him. But he is Dr. William Sears' son, raised on the principles of AP parenting, and is a father who practiced it himself! How could I like him so much? How could I believe he and his father are so wrong? I wondered if maybe I was judging the belief by its followers. I needed to go to church myself and see what the hoopla was all about.

As I moved through the early chapters of the massive book (people don't call it the baby bible for nothing!) I agreed with every principle Sears and his wife, Martha, shared. Their positions on a peaceful birth, early bonding, and of course breastfeeding (Martha is an RN and breastfeeding consultant, and breastfed her own 8 children, even their adopted daughter) all jived with my own perfectly. I was even learning from them, and picked up some breastfeeding pointers I now can't wait to try with baby 2! I concentrated on remaining unguarded and open minded, and so far I was glad I had! Even when Sears talked of co-sleeping, or bedsharing as he put it, he was clear that it's all about what works for your family, and some mommies and babies are happiest in their own beds and crib. Nothing like the co-sleeping Nazi's I had encountered. Nearly 300 pages in and not one of my feathers had been ruffled. Dr. Bill and I were on the same page! I was ready to drink the Koolaid and label myself an AP mom for life!

As I reached chapter 14, "Babywearing: The Art and Science of Carrying Your Baby," I took a deep breath. Daily babywearing was one tool I could not understand. I think most mothers naturally hold their child a lot and their baby gets plenty of face time, but babies also need to learn to entertain themselves, sleep on their own, and sooth themselve. Deep breath. I cleared my mind and read on.

This was the only chapter where I felt Sears got a bit of an AP mom attitude. I felt that this was not a mere tool, but the only way. He argues that we need to look at gestation not as nine months but as eighteen, and babies need that continued, constant contact just as in the womb. He states that babies grow better when worn, their systems are better regulated, learning is enhanced (especially speech), and they are better bonded to their parents. Something in me sunk as I realized how similar his arguments were to my own passionate rants on the importance of breastfeeding. Though uncomfortable, I still finished the book.

So where is my pretty bow to wrap up this blog with? Friends, I don't know if I have one. I had an easy baby who rarely cried, and even when he did his needs were clear and quickly met by me. In the past I had considered that the women who gravitated towards the AP path of least resistance were women who were more emotional and weaker willed, and therefore they had needier, more emotional children. But Sears had three easy, crib sleeping sons then was blessed with a high need daughter that needed this kind of 24/7 hands on care. Who knows what I would do if in the same position. Though I have advocated crying-it-out, my happy, easy son never needed to, not more than a very short time at least.

High need babies aside, all of Sears arguments for babywearing are devastatingly good. I have no response and if I am the objective, open minded, and educated woman I claim to be, I have to change my mind to match the evidence. I haven't yet, but so far I see no way out.


  1. Should I post a link to this blog as comment number 789 of last December's DS drama blog? Haha. I will read the book, and try to remain open minded whilst doing so. I'm not against natural, intervention free birth, I'm just against pain. I'm afraid if I planned a natural birth then I will feel like a failure if I find myself too weak to follow through with it. I honestly haven't researched it much, just because I have had two easy and pleasant pain free epidural births...but I am anxious to read about it. Who knows, I might join the club!

  2. Oh my gosh no! LOL... Sears seems pretty relaxed on birth. He doesn't spend a ton of time on birth (he does have a whole book on birth though, I've ordered it), but he emphasizes a peaceful birth. I believe at one point he says that if you have a natural but traumatic birth, that's not good for anyone. However, I think he recognizes that interventions CAN lead to more trauma, like an epidural slowing labor, leading to pit, leading to fetal distress, leading to a c/s, leading to delayed bonding. But obviously your births have moved very smoothly with an epidural. Though, I really wonder how much of the fact that I was very medicated (lots of fentanyl on top of my epi) was behind the fact that I really didn't care about the new baby. I had no real desire to hold and bond with him. That is a side effect that is listed with medication, and I think that's something Sears is referring to because he really pushes bonding. Now I watch the video of Milo getting his first bath with the nurse and it makes me sick, he was so traumatized, bright red and screaming and the nurse wasn't comforting when she could be. I hate it. That's one thing I'm changing, I'll be giving the rest of my babies baths at the hospital. But at the time, I could have cared less. I've talked to other moms that have felt the same and it makes me sad. But, I don't know how much was the meds, how much was exhaustion, maybe a combination of the two. I just need my natural birth to know and compare.