Instinctive Care for Your Baby and Young Child
by Katie Allison Granju
Reviewed by Unity Dienes
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 17 No. 4, July-August 2000, pp. 137
Attachment Parenting: Instinctive Care for Your Baby and Young Child, by Katie Allison Granju, is a well-written and fun-to-read guide to "gentle, common sensical, cross-cultural, and time-tested parenting practices." Attachment parenting, according to Dr. William Sears who coined the term, consists of five components: birth bonding, breastfeeding, belief in the signal value of a baby's cry, babywearing, and bedsharing. Attachment Parenting discusses each of these five components, explaining why each is a good idea, how to put it into practice, and where to find supplies or additional information. Unlike The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age Two, Dr. Sears's massive compendium, this book presents the case for attachment parenting without the examples. The author amply supports her arguments and helpfully supplies an annotated resource list after each section. She points the way both to more information and to retailers, because even though "a lot of this mostly plastic baby gear is useless," there are still some goodies attachment parents might want to buy. Granju is intelligent and opinionated and she gives lots of advice and her reasons for it. Most of her evidence comes from scientific studies and common sense, but she also quotes from the personal experiences of real-life parents. We can only guess that the experiences of "Katie, mother of three" are those of the author herself, since Granju is careful to separate her arguments and her own experiences as a mother. This lends an academic credibility to the work, which is softened but not diminished by appeals to personal experience.
The various approaches Granju takes (logical argument, personal experiences, appeals to experts, and informative sidebars) are each typeset differently, which makes the book visually appealing and fun to page through. Similarly the division of the arguments into many smaller topics is a helpful feature for new parents, who may have to read only in small chunks of time. This book will be most helpful to expectant and new parents, but parents of older babies may find confirmation of their good parenting habits, information about how to contact other attachment parents, or how to defend their parenting style to family or friends. There is also a chapter on toddler nursing that seems intended to speak to mothers still nursing infants. Parents confronting the challenges that arise after the first year, such as discipline, may find that of the details presented are inapplicable to their situation. But even toddlers breastfeed, need to have their cries of distress met promptly and respectfully, often enjoy being held, and may find nighttime peace and comfort in the family bed. The principles described are most evidently applicable to parenting the very young baby, but do not lose their value when applied to parenting older children.
The parenting style described is an excellent match with LLL philosophy, but some of the topics covered go beyond the scope of LLLI. For example, while LLLI does affirm that the practice of mothers and babies sharing sleep may delay the return of fertility, promote a more abundant milk, and simplify nighttime nursings, LLLI does not insist that this is the only or even the best way for every mother to raise her baby. Granju, however, is much more adamant: the opening page refers to cribs as "babycages," and, disapproving of the Ferber method, she says "the cry it out method ... is dead wrong." This kind of judgmental attitude is not found in LLLI-published literature. The coverage of bottle feeding may also be too negative for some readers' taste. LLLI focuses on the advantages of breastfeeding; this book, to make a point, focuses on the disadvantages of bottle feeding. For instance, the author states that "lack of breastfeeding is clearly and consistently associated with learning deficiencies later in childhood" and that "formula-feeding is consistently associated with immune system disorders." This tone is not in the character of LLL and may annoy breastfeeding mothers who have made use of infant formulas. On the other hand, some of the information presented about the marketing and distribution of infant formula is not readily available from the more diplomatic LLLI sources, and budding lactivists may enjoy the juicy details. Granju does not mince words, and the result is a passionate book with flair. Like THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, this is a book I would give to all of my pregnant friends, and in fact I have already bought three copies of it. Yes, some of it is contentious, but that's what makes it so interesting to read. And parents don't have to agree with everything in it to benefit from the wonderful ideas it contains. As Granju says, "Sure, babies can survive with the mainstream, low-touch approach; but as caring parents, we want more than that for our infants, we want them to thrive." Ultimately, the book is about helping both babies and their parents to thrive. By creating a secure, two-way attachment between their baby and themselves, parents can both enjoy parenting more and richly nourish their infant's sense of security and love.
Attachment Parenting is published by Pocket Books © 1999, and is available through LLLI (825-7, $12.95).