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23 February 2007


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I am a complete believer of AP. I think to do it right, you need to have a lot of kids. I have four and it's easier with each one. It is also easier if you homeschool. I didn't start out this way. I had my first in childcare and in school and for many reasons pulled her and the next one out. The last two haven't darkened the door of a childcare or school and they seem more independent and better adjusted then the older ones (my kids ages are 11, 8, 6 and almost 3 and we're hoping to have more). They usually leave our bed around age 3 and go with their siblings--no big deal. I think kids were meant to be with their families for a long time--not farmed out to schools for more most of their waking hours. I don't mean to offend anyone who doesn't believe he/she can homeschool. That is not my intent--but I actually think it is easier than sending them away and then trying to undo what has been done to them.



Thanks for bearing with me as I try to sort out what I think and what I feel, what I know and only think I know.

I think you've exactly hit the nail on the head as to why I've been turned off about AP every time I've encountered it.

I think like most parenting styles AP works for some people and not for others. In my experience so far with my daughter I've been pretty frustrated by most of the advice books I've encountered because they don't seem to speak to where we are and what we need as individuals and as a family.

Also, I am turned me off by the extreme enthusiasm of so many of AP's adherents which seems to suggest I'm a bad parent or I don't love my child enough because, for example, co-sleeping doesn't work for me.

I've always been a light sleeper and having a baby in my bed is simply a guarantee that I won't sleep well. And frankly, I think my baby girl needs a well-rested mommy who doesn't snap at her rather than a night's sleep next to a mommy whose patience is worn thin from too much tossing and turning.

Sometimes she does sleep with me, but I never feel well rested and so once she's deeply asleep I usually transfer her to her crib. We've also found that she tends to sleep longer and deeper in her crib in her own room than she does in our room.

But I don't think she feels any less loved because she sleeps in a different room. We shower her with love and affection during the day and she is very independent, playing for long stretches of time on her own in the room where I'm sitting.

So I guess I agree with the basic premise, that children need to feel loved, but not necessarily that there is a one-size fits all solution to how to achieve that.

But more than that, what all the AP stuff I've encountered, even the extra stages you bring up, which do seem to be an improvement, is missing a spiritual aspect. The understanding of human nature seems shallow to me. Maybe I've been missing it and you can explain to me how it all meshes for you.

But it seems like love is more than just being "attached" to mom and dad And I think this is more than just quibbling more over the word choice. But you can tell me how your experience differs from my outsider's impression.
But when it comes down to it, I'd feel better if we were talking about "love" rather than "attachment". The word has negative as well as positive connotations for me.

Love is about more than fostering the attachment between parent and child. Sometimes loving someone means doing what is best for them even when it doesn't feel good. And maybe it's my misperception, but AP seems to be about making the child feel good. Love also necessitates inculcating virtue and teaching a child to love and serve God. Children need limits, boundaries but don't always like being told no.

And finally, in the end, all parents will fail because we are imperfect, fallen human beings. Above all, we must teach our children that God is the true parent who loves them and knows them and understands them, even when we fail to do so. Sometimes a child needs to obey not because he feels like it but because he knows that a parent is the authority. Just like I need to obey because I know God is the ultimate authority. (Obviously I'm addressing issue with older kids, not infants and toddlers.)

Thanks so much for your patience and I hope you can answer some of my questions, how it all fits in the bigger picture.


Melanie, if you are looking for a meshing of AP philosophy with Catholic doctrine, look no farther than Greg & Lisa Popcak --- they articulate it far better than anyone else. Greg writes about AP occasionally at Heart, Mind, and Spirit Blog, and there's a book called Parenting With Grace (thanks to Kelly who recommended it to me here in my comments.)

I'm thoroughly convinced that babies need the kinds of physical closeness that are propounded by AP theory. Obviously this can sometimes conflict with the needs of other members of the family, and when that happens, well, you do the best you can and if you're sure you have done so, guilt isn't the appropriate response (occasionally sorrow is --- I'd be sorrowful if some medical need, for instance, kept me from breastfeeding).

But before you reject AP on the grounds that it seems to conflict with Catholic doctrine, give it a fair shake by checking out the Popcaks' material.

I've been meaning to compare _Parenting with Grace_ point by point to some of what Neufeld says, especially for older children. For example, both are opposed to spanking as a discipline method. I don't remember Neufeld articulating a reason for it (it may be simply because he takes it for granted that his Canadian audiences agree); Greg Popcak's point is simply that spanking fails teach virtue. Whether you agree or not (I happen to agree), it is at least a viewpoint centered in Catholic faith.

BTW, I don't think the "basic premise" is that children need to feel loved --- the basic premise is that children need to form attachment, which is not the same thing! Children can and do attach to people who do not love them or even pretend to. AP says "be close to your child, and teach your child to imitate you, and your child will attach to you and you will have a healthy relationship." Neufeld goes one further by warning that the child must attach _deeply_ to the people who love her, because otherwise she is in danger of attaching to others who might do her harm or stunt her emotional growth.



Maybe I don't adhere to AP as much as I thought because discipline is an intregal part of our family life. Corner time, spanking and writing "I will not do such and such behavior" is very much a part of what we do. It's not all about making the child "feel good". I saw evidence of original sin as early as 7 months old with some of my kiddos and realize that they need love but also discipline.

I slept terribly with my first child and I cried all the time, but it gets easier with every baby. All of them seemed to sleep better when they were infants in my arms in a recliner and at the breast. I don't know about what the books are saying but I know about babies. I've had four and instinctively wanted them to be close to me at night and during the day.

A good parenting book is Dr. Ray Guarendi's (sp?) "Disciplining your Children." He is a great Catholic psychologist who has 10 children, all adopted.

Of course, if putting your baby in a crib is working for you, then, by all means, you should continue and don't feel guilty. The Lord doesn't want us to feel guilty (unless we have sinned) or anxious or worried!


One of these days I'd like to see a Dr. Greg/Dr. Ray shoot-out ;-)


I hope that you blog more about AP parenting, this book, etc. I've got the book on request at our library and would love to "compare notes".



Maybe our problems with co-sleeping lie in the difficulties we had coming home from the hospital. I had a c-section because she was a breach baby and so I was on some pretty heavy painkillers the first few weeks. In the hospital I nursed her but that was bout it, my husband and other family members had to do the diaper changes and all that. She slept in the room with us. Though that's hardly the right word. She almost never slept! When she did it was always in someone's arms.

She did continue to sleep better in our arms the first few months. But we had a very difficult time with breastfeeding at first. She didn't have her latch right and for the first month or so I had cracked, bleeding nipples and nursing was an ordeal rather than a pleasure. I'd often doze with her in the recliner, but couldn't manage a latch lying down and with the painkillers having her in our bed wasn't an option anyway.

Fortunately my parents were here for the first couple of weeks so we pretty much did baby holding in shifts. Even when they left my husband and I took her in shifts. I went to bed after dinner while he stayed up. He'd bring her to me when she got hungry and eventually we'd switch and I'd doze with her in the recliner while he went to bed.

I don't think I managed a good latch lying down until she was a couple of months old. And even then I never felt comfortable with her in the bed with us. It never felt safe for her. I like lots of big heavy blankets and pillows and we have a pillow top mattress. Both big no-nos for co-sleeping.

So safety was a factor, and my own tastes, my own sanity. I definitely wanted her close to me at night. The bassinet was right by our bed. But I slept better with her in that, within reach but separate. It's a juggling act, I'll admit. Trying to find the right balance between what she needs and what I need. But what didn't help was that half the books I read in my desperate attempt to find workable solutions made me feel guilty. If they'd just said that this works for some people but not for others, it would help. But all the experts seem to take the tack that their solution is the one that works, one size fits all.

Sorry for going on at length, but I guess I'm still frustrated. I know it will get easier. But I'm also looking forward to September when we'll be doing it all over again. I want to try to make that easier, especially since we'll then be juggling two kids. I wish attachment parenting seemed to offer a solution for us, but it doesn't. Looks like I'll still be practicing my juggling act. :)

I will try to look into the Popcak book, see what it says.

I'm still a long way from deciding about spanking. I'm kinda torn on that. My parents spanked but as often in anger as in calm discipline. I know I have a tendency to a temper and I don't want to hit my child when I'm upset. At the same time, I do think that for some kids words alone just won't get through, they need something more.

This is a great conversation. Thanks again for hosting it.

So my goal was to have her sleep on her own as soon as she could.


Melanie, it's totally plausible that the co-sleeping difficulties were related to the hospital situation and the bf'ing troubles. What makes co-sleeping easy is that it's easy to breastfeed and sleep at the same time! Take that out of the equation and it's going to be a lot harder.

I'm gonna write more in a new post a little later...


As I understand him, Neufeld's disagreement with spanking *and* things like time-outs, etc, is that they rupture the very attachment you're trying to foster. They may work for dealing with the moment, but you have to put in a *lot* of work to get the attachment relationship back to square one.

Melanie and all--
Regarding inculcating virtues, the talk I saw from Neufeld started with the question, "What makes a child easy to parent?" He listed things -- "wants to do what you ask," etc -- and then asked what makes a child like this. His answer, after rejecting lots of things, including how much we love our children, was how much the children love us. And from there he moved into attachment theory. So I'd say that means if our children are well-attached to us, it is much easier to say "this is of value" and "this is the way to live a holy life" and have them *care* and seek to live that way. Neufeld also speaks of the person a child attaches to being the compass point -- your child is going to attach to someone, and what they value your child will also value. Best that it be you :)

By the way, I got the impression that while Neufeld supports "traditional /Early Childhood AP", that since a child has such a need for attachment to someone, it is our job more to *avoid killing* the attachment impetus early on. It might be that focusing on the attachment is more important as a child grows, when a schoolmate or someone else might become competition. Perhaps this is why families who parent in a more mainstream way can still form strong attachments in phases 3-6? After all, since #1-2 are
"Through nearness and the senses (easiest but also the most superficial kind of attachment)"
"Through imitation and identification (deeper)"
it's not impossible to meet these needs just by cuddling cute babies lots and showing our children how to cook/sew/clean up even when we are not cosleeping or breastfeeding, and even though some of our actions (like some sleep training or discipline) might strain rather than strengthen the attachment.


Does anyone know where I can buy the DVD of Neufeld's talk? Is it still available? His book was incredible.

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