Time magazine has been getting a lot of attention lately after debuting its most recent issue, showcasing a controversial picture of a mother breastfeeding an almost 4-year-old child.
The picture relates to the magazine’s feature story about Dr. William Sears, a pediatrician who advocates ‘attachment parenting’ – a technique that encourages mothers and fathers to fully embrace babies’ dependency needs. Major components of this parenting style include responding attentively to your baby’s cries, minimizing parent-child separation, sleeping with your baby, wearing your baby in a sling or cloth carrier and extended breastfeeding.
Now I’m not a hypocrite – I do like some of the elements of Dr. Sears’ attachment parenting.
I do believe in breastfeeding. We can debate about how long a mother should breastfeed for, but I am a huge believer in nourishing your child naturally.
Parental bonding is also especially important for the newborn’s life. It not only benefits the baby but also the mother. As an OBGYN, I’ve found that mothers that have the good fortune to be available to bond with their babies have less anxiety and less post-partum depression. Unfortunately in our society , we have not paid attention to this. I know how many mothers need to also work. Their job supervisors are not understanding, and we need to have a better national policy to let women enjoy their maternity, because a lot of them want to.
Ultimately, I do think that children benefit from having parents that are very attached to them. For the first five years of life, if your parents are showing that degree of caring, you as a child are going to appreciate that—you’re going to be able to notice that it’s happening. And later on down the road, you will not have to deal with some of the adult psychological challenges that many people with absent parents face.
I’m in my children’s faces all the time! But I’d much rather have them say how their dad was always around, always teaching them things, always in their faces than say that their parents were never around and that they grew up not knowing their Dad.
I would argue that we have come from a society where parents are trying to play “catch up.” The parents who weren’t around for their children during their earlier years are now trying to pay attention – and it could be too late. These are the parents that are asking themselves, “Why is my teenager taking drugs? Why are my kids doing this or doing that?”
So while Time may be getting some heat for the article, at the end of the day, I would advocate for some of Dr. Sears’ principles.
Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. Click here for more information on Dr. Manny's work with Hackensack University Medical Center. Visit AskDrManny.com for more.