Attachment parenting has received a bit of press recently, with this now famous and controversial Time magazine cover featuring a young mother breastfeeding her 3 year old son . The controversy was no doubt courted by the magazine, with this unusual and somewhat provocative pose (who breastfeeds a child like this?) for the mother in question. Interestingly, when I went to purchase the magazine at a news agency here in Australia, I finally found the magazine , containing the same articles but with the following cover (Time magazine publishes a South Pacific edition of its magazine, often with different covers):
The different priorities of the readership in Australia are clearly apparent!
On to the subject matter of the article….whilst it was the cover itself which received most of the attention, the article discusses a parenting theory made famous by Dr William Spears, “attachment parenting”. The jury is still out as to whether the benefits of the style of attachment parenting advocated by Spears actually benefits the child to the extent claimed by Spears, but one thing strikes me as something which needs to be considered when promoting any type of parenting, and that is the ability of all women and men to adopt the parenting style in question. By this I mean that we need to look at whether the promotion of a particular parenting approach by the media and other social institutions as one which is “best” for the child has a discriminatory effect on some groups in the community.
In regards to the attachment parenting approach, its focus on extended breast feeding, co-sleeping and baby wearing clearly excludes (in this day and age) both women who have to return to work not long after the birth of their baby because of financial circumstances and those women who choose to return to work after the birth of their baby because they have a job they enjoy and they want to keep. What then does this mean for feminism and its struggle to keep opportunities open to all women? If attachment parenting is the privilege of the few who can afford to do it, or who do not desire to work, how should feminists view this approach?
Women have long fought for the right to parent the way they want. For some women, attachment parenting the way Dr Spears advocates is that way, however we should be wary of publicly endorsing an approach which potentially leaves so many women unable to achieve it. Specific research should be conducted and publicized to ensure the claims made about this type of parenting are substantiated or put into context so that women who are unable to adopt such approaches are not left out in the cold or wrongly judged for not doing the best for their child.