Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Touching on Parenting Philosophies…with my fist :-)

Alright, I’m going to take the parenting philosophy discussion to the next level. While I like the basic premise of Danielle Bean and others that we should all “do what works for our family,” I’m going to dare to say that the full-blown AP approach is actually harmful to families and should not be practiced by good Catholic parents. (Gasp!) Before I proceed, please allow me to emphasize that I do not speak on behalf of the other builders or anyone else with whom I am associated, except my husband who is even more extreme than I am.

I’m sure many of you are familiar with the Heart, Mind, and Strength Blog. If you’re not, they are a hard-core attachment parenting website, strongly advocating that AP is the one and only Catholic way to parent. Several months ago, Danielle Bean and Greg Popcack, Mr. Catholic AP King, debated about AP and whether it was or wasn’t the best way to parent. Many of the builders here followed the debate. Danielle Bean thought that many of the AP principles were all fine and dandy, but wondered how these principles could actually be practiced with a large family and with many babies closely spaced together? Greg Popcack actually stated that responsible parenthood required that a woman have children no closer together than every 2.5-3 years.. If AP didn’t naturally space babies this way, well then I guess a couple was “required” to use NFP to space babies this far apart?!? Upon reading this, red flags were immediately going up in my mind, as I question any philosophy that recommends a specific “spacing” for every family.

But on to my deeper criticisms of AP. Ultimately I believe the philosophy is child-led, rather than parent-led and it assumes that every want a baby experiences is good and should be met by the parents. Not meeting these wants means the mother and father have failed the child in some respect. The fundamental problem with this approach is that babies are born with original sin. While they are cute and adorable and very innocent compared to adults, the Church teaches that they are tainted with original sin, and so every desire of a baby is not necessarily a good that should be met by the parents. From the moment that a child exits the womb, parents must strike the delicate balance between comforting a child and building virtue through discipline. Every family will strike a different balance here, and many factors will affect the parents’ decisions. But strike a balance we all must do.

Another problem with AP is what it does to men. I’ve seen this scenario too many times. Man and woman get married. Man is supposedly head of household. Baby comes. Mother AP’s baby. Baby takes over family and marriage. Baby sleeps in bed and is comforted or nursed at every slight indication of baby’s displeasure. Dad leaves bed for couch. Man goes to work bleary-eyed wondering what happened to his life, and whether he’ll ever see his bed or wife again. This goes on for years and sometimes over a decade in AP households.

Instead of the old-fashioned Dad-Mom-Kids hierarchy where the marriage takes priority, you get the Kids-Mom-Dad hierarchy where the kids’ (often irrational) needs take priority. The attributes that men typically bring to family life—such as discipline, tough love, and objectivity—are cast aside as “selfish western values that thwart the mother-baby relationship.” In effect, you get an overly emotional and feminized brand of parenting that has no place for traditional fatherly input.

Please do not misunderstand what I am saying. I am not criticizing those that choose to feed on demand. I am not criticizing those that sleep with their babies. I am not criticizing those that chose to carry their baby in a sling, nurse their kid until they are 3 years old, or refuse to use a pacifier. Choosing to adopt one or a few of these AP principles is fine by me. What I am criticizing is the full-blown AP approach that people like Popcack endorse and consider the only good Catholic way to parent. I am contending that it is not the only way, and in fact, when taken to its extreme, it is actually a bad way of parenting. Yes, do what works for your family. But when doing so, be on guard for the dangers of closely following an AP philosophy.

I found this post necessary and important because so many Catholic communities are inundated with AP thoughts and practices. So many Catholic parents think that AP is the ideal, and they then feel guilty when falling short. This guilt is misplaced. You shouldn’t feel bad that your family functions on a regular schedule, your baby occasionally cries it out, your everyday life is more predictable, and you and your husband sleep well (and occasionally, together) because your kids are not in your bed.

Please note that this post is not meant to be comprehensive, and if there are particular questions or concerns about the positions I’m taking, I’d be glad to flesh them out. But since we were on the topic, I couldn’t resist giving my two cents.


Katherine said...


I've read about parenting, but the category of Attachment Parenting is a bit new to me. Would you mind simply listing what Attachment Parenting requires?

That said, I think requiring parents to wait 2.5-3 years to have another child is nuts even if simply because the body does not function that way but with rare exception. I got PG with my second while still nursing my 13 month old.

I can understand not letting a baby CIO until they are 3 or 4 months old - even the pediatrician at the hospital said newborns should not be left to CIO, but once they are older to know how to eat, how things work, know who you are and learn a bit, I don't think any parent is going to hell for it.

The previous post on this subject got my husband (moral theologian) and I discussing the priorities of marriage v. children. When I asked him if the relationship to the children should take priority or the relationship between spouses should, he said the relationship to the children should be built in to and out of the spousal one. So basically, if there isn't a healthy spousal relationship, the relationship to the children will not be healthy and will in fact be depriving the children of parents properly oriented towards each other. (I hope I stated that clearly)

Melinda said...

Hi Red,

Although my comment on the previous parenting philosophies post was a little tongue-in-cheek (I felt like so much of my experience had already been described in other comments), I think you have some great points here that I wanted to second.

A friend of mine brought Popcack's "integral parenting by spacing" concept to my attention earlier this year and we were both horrified. Talk about theologizing your preferences!

I think the problem is that some very normal, natural parenting techniques are put forward as the central ideas of attachment parenting - natural or minimal intervention childbirth, touch, nursing on demand, keeping your baby close, baby wearing (which is often just very convenient). All these things are completely healthy and normal for parenting a newborn and infant.

As my first baby got older I found the attachment parenting resources were less and less helpful, and my guilt was more and more intense. As I mentioned in the previous post, I'm blessed with a husband who doesn't suffer from indecision or guilt when it comes to protecting his sleep/sanity. We modified our approach on our own, but I guess because I do extended nursing (to 18 mos) and natural childbirth I still thought of myself as an attachment parent.

I was shocked when I met a "real believer" who told me about her discipline techniques - she had none. No time outs (they are shaming), no rewards (they are bribes), no nothing! On the other hand, she wasn't sure she wanted to have more than one child, because it was just so overwhelming. She explained to me that the central idea of AP and "Gentle Discipline" is that the child is inherently good. Of course, I knew that I had never believed that at all, and this allowed me to put my "failed attachment parenting" guilt behind me for good.

I also want to second your thoughts about the importance of the male influence in parenting, and the even greater importance of a healthy, well-cared-for marriage to the well-being of children.

I've never read Baby-wise or any of the other books you all mention, but maybe I should add them to my list. I'm pretty happy with our home-cooked style of nursing, cuddling, and firm discipline, but there's always room to learn more.

Time to stop writing about parenting and go do it. Thanks again ladies for the interesting topics!

Sarahndipity said...

I am not a hard-core APer (though I’m somewhat AP-ish). If I had to pick a “parenting philosophy,” it would be Danielle Bean’s “do what’s best for your family.” Actually, I had been under the impression that what AP is really supposed to be about is doing what’s best for your family. For example, breastfeeding is best, but if you can’t breastfeed, you can cuddle your baby while you’re bottlefeeding, etc. IMO, co-sleeping is fine if it works for you, but it isn’t good for anyone if it’s leaving the whole family tired and miserable. AP isn’t supposed to force dad to go sleep on the couch – if it does, there’s something wrong, and you’re definitely not doing what’s best for the family. It didn’t sound to me like Danielle’s “do what’s best for your family” philosophy was all that different from Greg Popcak’s philosophy, but as I recall, Greg had some issues with it, saying it sounded like “well-intentioned relativism.”

Anyway, although I don’t agree with Greg Popcak on everything, and I essentially think that AP is “doing what’s best for your family,” I feel like I have to defend him a little bit, especially in regards to the child spacing thing.

Red, you said “Greg Popcack actually stated that responsible parenthood required that a woman have children no closer together than every 2.5-3 years.” I don’t have his post in front of me, but as I recall that’s not exactly what he said. It didn’t seem to me like he was saying that babies absolutely have to be spaced this far apart. It was just a general guideline. What’s important is his larger point, which I agree with – in planning our family, we need to take into account the needs of our already born children. If you have a child that’s still quite needy, it might be better for everyone – and what’s best for the family – to put off having the next baby.

I know for me personally, I couldn’t imagine having kids closer together than 3 years, 2 years bare minimum. And I’m not even a hard-core APer. These people who have kids 16 months apart – my hat’s off to you, I don’t know how you do it! But maybe that’s because my daughter is what the parenting books euphemistically call “spirited.” :) I might feel differently if I had had a more laid-back kid. My husband and I still have just one child, who will be four in June. For financial and other reasons, our next kid will probably be about five years younger than the first.

As far as the “original sin” thing goes – you’re right that everyone is born with original sin, but a baby is not capable of personal sin. I think the key here is to distinguish a baby’s wants from a baby’s needs. AP-er’s often say that for the first year or so, a baby’s wants and needs are the same thing. All they really need is to be fed and cuddled. I am inclined to agree, although I also think that babies (and parents) need sleep, so teaching a baby to sleep (once it reaches an appropriate age) is meeting their needs, even if it involves a little crying.

Parents need to be able to distinguish between their own wants and needs, also. Going out to the bars or on vacation is a want than can be postponed while children are young, but sleep is not merely a want – sleep is a need. In the parenting styles post, someone mentioned being so tired as a new mom that they were afraid of falling asleep at the wheel. That’s a very real concern – certainly it’s better to teach the baby to sleep better than to have mom fall asleep at the wheel! I do think there is not enough emphasis in AP philosophy on teaching children to sleep well and establishing routines. I guess sleep is the area in which I’m the least AP, because while I agree that parents should meet all their children’s needs to the best of their ability, not teaching them to sleep is actually doing them a disservice. I know some people say that everyone sleeps better while co-sleeping, and that’s fine if it works for you, but I know for a lot of people (myself included), co-sleeping actually makes everyone sleep worse.

Has anyone heard of the book “Good Night, Sleep Tight” by Kim West? That’s my favorite book on sleep, by far. It’s extremely comprehensive. She has a chapter about getting off to the right start with your newborn in helping them sleep well. She suggests things like swaddling, having a flexible routine, putting your baby down “drowsy but awake” at least once a day, etc. In short, all very gentle ways to encourage your newborn to sleep as well as can be expected for a newborn, in order to avoid sleep problems down the road. That to me seems to be the best approach – gently encourage good sleep habits from the beginning, so hopefully CIO won’t be necessary later.

Ok, I've written a novel, sorry!

Bethany said...


I agree with your overall principle (refer to my rules in my post in topic ToPP..with a ten foot pole).

The one thing I do have to point out (to echo a previous comment) though is that while everyone is born with original sin... I believe Catholic teaching defines this as simply being capable of sin, however a sin cannot be committed if the person sinning is unaware that their actions are sinful. An infant/baby does not have the cognitive capabilities to be aware of their actions let alone the moral implications of their actions. While I agree that meeting their every need on demand is setting the parent and eventually the child up for failure, I think the argument that you implied (or at least I inferred, I'm often mistaken)that an infant's demands can be sinful, is flawed.

Again, I agree with the principles behind your remarks.

I think what scares me most- and again referring to my comment on the original post broaching these topics I have to plead ignorance of most parenting-help manuals - is that there is someone out there that is promoting one particular parenting style as the "one and only Catholic way to parent". Especially when that style seems to, by default, elicit guilt by those who don't strictly follow it.

As far as Melinda's experience with the "real believer". Sometimes I wonder if the lack of personal shame that a person feels when he or she has done something wrong is why there seem to be so many people today who behave so unethically, immorally. But that's a different point for the Devil's Advocate to ponder...

Anonymous said...

Red, you clearly like to stir up trouble :) :), and, if it doesn't get me all agitated, I will probably even enjoy returning here to see how the conversation develops!

Two things strike me right from the start. I know Popcak is a major proponant of AP, and that he is a very popular author. Having seen in more than one instance how he conducts himself in online discussions, however, I have zero interest in ever reading any of his books or following his advice. I'm probably throwing out the baby with the bathwater here, but so what. It'll be interesting to see if he finds his way to this discussion.

(Please note that AP in general actually appeals to me in many ways, and some of its ideals have been put to good use in our home. But a real AP follower would find much to critize, I'm sure. As would anyone, of any philosophical bent, who decided it was their job to judge my performance as a parent.)

The other wry observation I've made about AP--they say that the "natural" spacing only happens if the mom cosleeps and frequently nurses at night. Like, duh! Sounds like defacto abstinence to me, more than any "natural" function of the body. Whatever.

I appreciate your frank consideration of the topic in light of Catholic doctrine. Real food for thought. My own (oversimplified for this discussion, I fear) position is that, being doctrinaire on parenting issues is rarely helpful. In the end, all you can do is inform yourself as best you can, weigh the issues as best you understand them, pray, and hope for the best.

Is that the same as "doing what works for each family"? In both appearance and practice, it probably is. I guess it's the better part of charity to assume that everyone else has made their choices in good faith, and leave it at that--no matter where one falls on the APgood/APbad spectrum.

Since your take is different from any other I've seen so far, it'll certainly help inform decisions, and that's an important role. Thanks for taking the risk.

JesusThroughMary said...

Bethany -

Original sin is not what renders us capable of sin - that is free will. The blessed and glorious ever-virgin Theotokos was born immaculate, free from any stain of original sin, and yet was capable of sin. Adam himself was obviously capable of sin before he committed the original sin. Only Christ is impeccable due to the union of His divine nature to His human nature.

Original sin, rather, refers to the disfiguring of human nature that occurred as a result of Adam's fall, which places us in a state of disfavor with God (a state from which we are restored by baptism), and which renders all of us concupiscent, or inclined to sin (a condition from which we are not rescued by baptism, but which we must work to overcome by living a Christian life).

I say all this to get to the point that it is not contrary to Catholic doctrine to say, as Red did, that a child who has not reached the age of reason could act in a manner that is, in itself, objectively sinful. That is not the same as saying that a child is committing an actual sin, since the child lacks the ability to understand that an action is sinful or to act rationally. However, it isn't a problem, as far as I can tell, to say that concupiscence in children causes them to make demands that are not for their good. In fact, I would say that it guarantees that they will. It's precisely because they lack the use of reason that we, as their parents, need to exercise our reason in determine whether we should accede to their demands.

If I have misstated the position of the Church, I will gladly accept correction.

I have never gotten the word verification to work before the third try....

Mary Alice said...

The Sears Baby Book really freaked me out, I thought baby wearing and such might be interesting, but when I got to the part about adoptive parents using some sort of drip that attaches to the breast so that they could breast feed with formula I just thought that was a bit over the top.

As it happens with the baby wearing, my children all usually fall asleep when being worn, which is a great way to help a fussy baby get a nap, especially when away from home, but I can't do it outside of nap time because they take all these little cat naps that then lead to inconsistent sleep.

I used a doula who was hardcore AP, she and her husband both had to quit their jobs in order to parent one child.

I am a mother of 5 under 6 with a husband who works 60+ hours a week, so I also have to look at what is realistic for our family.

Also, since it has become a very high priority for us to homeschool, the needs of the older children need to be balanced with the needs of the new born.

I guess since everything I read about AP was secular (Sears) I did not know, until Red and Juris brought it to my attention, about the Catholic connection. Interestingly, I knew more people who would get dogmatic in the other direction, until one friend finally said "remember, you can love Jesus and take your baby to bed with you!"

Right Said Red said...


Here is an exact quote from Popcack on the 2.5-3 year thing:

"Attachment parenting and the Catholic concept of "Integral Procreation" go hand-in-hand. Integral Procreation is a corollary of responsible parenthood which asserts that being open to life requires parents to not simply say "yes" to conception, but mainly be willing to say "yes" to all the needs a child presents in every age and stage in order to give that child the best chance to become the saint he or she was created to become.

I would agree that you cannot do AP without going to the nuthouse if you have another child every year. But the AP response would be that, unless God has somehow specifically called a person to act in a manner that is contrary to what he created the child's body to need (which would be remarkable considering Pope Benedict's assertion at Ravensburg that the Christian God is a God of order and reason who does not contradict the laws of his own creation) then it is IMPERATIVE to the bonding process and the health of the mother that children be spaced about 2.5 to 3 years apart (give or take)." (emphasis added)

I think this is pretty strong language...not a general guideline, your thoughts?


Right Said Red said...


I was about to type up an answer to your original sin comment, but then JesusthroughMary summed up my position beautifully with a comment above. Does that comment clarify things?


Maria said...

Great post, Red! You summed up my won thoughts on AP philosophy quite well. While I like many of the techniques APers advocate (nursing, babywearing, etc.), the philosophy has several serious flaws, especially the notion that our children come out with only "good" demands.

I was especially put off by Mr. Popcack's comments about spacing children. To imply that by not spacing my children 2.5-3 years apart was not really loving my children and meeting their needs seriously offended me. Plus it really wasn't my idea to have 3 in 3 years - it was God's! I was so angry when I read his comments that my husband made me turn off the computer so I didn't go into labor with my third!

k said...

Ok so I am hesitant to wade in here, being the non-catholic one (hmmm, should I just change my screen name to "non-catholic one" so I don't have to say that everytime) and seeing how this conversation and even the one that prompted this one, seem to involve religion and parenting philosophy together...but here I go anyway.

I guess I am pretty AP in the sense that everyone else has said (babywearing, homebirthing (although ended up in the hospital), cloth diapering, co-sleeping, breastfeeding, yada yada). However, and I am sure there will be disagreements, my main concern is how very un-feminist may of these parenting philosophies are.

Maybe some folks think un-feminist is a good thing, but what I mean is... I am a person, a mother, and wife. I have priorities and obligations and connections with my husband and child (you guys would add your God in there too), but I also have them to MYSELF. I will say again I am person, I have needs and desires that are as legitimate as my husbands and as my childs.

I think that most would agree that "If mama ain't happy, nobody's happy" but beyond just the concept that a happy mother makes for a happy household I would argue, I deserve to be happy just because I am person, and all people deserve such.

So in that quite selfish frame of mind, my parenting philosophy basically comes with finding a balance between nurturing my family and not loosing myself in that process. It is not always easy, and I would say I am only partially successful. My 2 year old would argue that he probably gets ignored way too much (but Alice says he plays really well so I am sticking with it :), we are routine oriented because he thrives and I need some order, and to know firmly when I have time for myself. I breastfed for longer then I would prefer, co-slept for longer then I would prefer, and didn't CIO early enough. However, after the fog of first time parenting has faded I know more of my preferences now and will assert them more strongly with future babes.

Sorry this is so long, feel free to argue away with me or ask for any clarification!

JesusThroughMary said...

Well put, k. And very Catholic. :o)

Juris Mater said...

Anonymous--I like your observation that AP proponents "say that the 'natural' spacing only happens if the mom cosleeps and frequently nurses at night. Like, duh! Sounds like defacto abstinence to me, more than any 'natural' function of the body."

My theory is similar: the delayed return of fertility for hardcore APers is not as quite mysterious and natural as the "ecological breastfeeding" camp professes. There are fairly simple physical explanations. What woman's fertility WOULD return when: (1) she has rarely slept in the same bed as her husband since her baby was born, (2) her body is taxed by the physical effects of constant interrupted sleep and possibly drained of vitamins from lots and lots of nursing, (3) her parenting philosophy tells her that her body belongs first to her nursing baby (or 5 year old or whatever) and second to her husband, and she has come to embrace this emotionally and (thanks to the Catholic AP dogmatics) spiritually, (4) all the nursing = an extra dose of the hormones that bond her physically and emotionally to her baby all day and all night and (5) it can be hard enough to lose baby weight, regain energy for anyone but your baby, and generally get your sense of wifely self back while nursing on a schedule, in my experience--AP must be more drastic in this sense.

Red, I'm wondering how Sheila Kippley talked you into leaving her out : ) Her book "Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood: God's Plan for You and Your Baby" isn't escaping this discussion. More on that later!

Katherine said...

Trying to read up a bit more about "Attachment Parenting" one thing struck me. It is a very passive approach to parenting. I think that is what Red was saying about it being child-led. The parent is 100% passive always reacting rather than acting.

Personally, I don't see how such a philosophy could be really Catholic because the parent is given charge of the child. It is MY responsibility to raise my child and while she will teach me things, I have to be the leader. A dear priest friend of mine repeats to me often, "Remember, YOU are the authority. YOU are in charge." To adopt a mindframe that you as a parent are simply following wherever, however and whenever child leads is, I think, really dangerous for the wellfare of everyone involved.

That said, I certainly think a parent can actively decide to breastfeed because it is best for baby or consciously decide to babywear because it is convenient or deliberately decide to give birth naturally because it is, so to speak, the way God intended it to be, etc. as the leader rather than the follower but I think having that leading mentality is important for all involved.

I hope I made sense.

Elena said...


This is my first time commenting on this blog but I have been enjoying your conversations for a while. Interestingly, it was my father who first referred me to the site.

As a 30-year old mother of four children under five (the twins will be five in a week!), I am particularly intrigued by the latest discussion concerning AP.

I took great care not to read any parenting books during my first pregnancy except for Babywise. Ezzo's principles jived with my own need for order and routine. I always felt a certain affinity for the scheduled mother and a definite disdain for the AP parent (although that has changed greatly). With each successive pregnancy, I mellowed and bought my first sling with baby no.4. I am currently holding baby no.4 who is hiccuping as he recovers from a failed attempt at CIO.

At the moment I am quite tired and finding it difficult to express what I want to say. But I think that what I want to say is two things:

1. If these babies have taught me anything it is death to self. At times this comes through AP, sometimes through Babywise but always through babies and their needs. It was very easy to talk about dieing to self before babies came along but the rubber hit the road on that first night in the hospital with twin noses peeking above the isolettes.

2. We need to lose the guilt regarding motherhood. We are so overly analytical at times that we can fall nothing but short of any ideal. I constantly beat myself up about having given formula as a supplement to the twins and cause much undue stress in our household as to when to give a bottle to the singletons. If this guilt is indicative of anything it is of my need to grow in security as a woman, wife and mother. Ahhhh! I know that I need to relax a little and listen to the objective voice of my husband who actually cares for my welfare first. (Thanks for the eloquent reminder Red.) It's easy to forget that even though he isn't nursing or home all day, he does have a grace of state as husband and father to guide me as a wife and mother. I should remember this when he walks through the door tonight!!

Hopefully some of this makes sense. One aside: Mary Alice - it's an encouragement to see another Catholic mommy with mutiples. I would love to hear what you have to say about homeschooling multiples. The twins are in school but we are considering pulling them out.

Funny aside:

Female 4-year old somehow managed to get 2-year old out of crib. When questioned, she said: "I used a stool."

Male 4-year old twin just approached me with completely blue hands. "I'm a blue monster." Mom needs to follow up on this.

Anonymous said...

I have a wonderful friend with 5 kids under 6 years. When my first was 3-4 months old she gave me the most wonderful and freeing advise. She reminded me that the Bible is a good source to look to for parenting advise!! God loves us, He ALWAYS responds when we cry but He DOES NOT always say yes and give us our way. I liked that. We are responsible for reacting to our young babies cry, we should never tune them out, but we may react to it but saying "it is best for you to 'suffer' a bit more little one and learn to sleep/ play independently etc... It is for your own good."
I am glad that God alows me to suffer even when I don't like it because I know He desires only good things for His children.

JesusThroughMary said...

"I have a wonderful friend with 5 kids under 6 years."

It's amazing how many people on this blog have a friend like that. :o)

Kat said...

I've been enjoying this conversation today, and I appreciate the time that everyone has put into their comments.

My only contribution at this point is in response to the comments that some of us have made about certain parts of AP - ecological breastfeeding and co-sleeping, to be exact - being harmful to a marriage because they marginalize dad and make him a lower priority than the children and the marriage union. My response would be that I have seen a couple of families be very successful in maintaining a strong marriage union while still practicing the "family bed" and "nursing on demand". I think that the trick for these families is that BOTH husband and wife are on board with the decision to parent in this way.

To summarize: Some of us have insinuated that the decision to AP is very one-sided, that the decision to AP is the mom's decision and that the dad is left completely out of the picture. What I'm saying is that AP can be successful if the husband and wife have made the decision to do it together. If this is the case, then the marriage relationship is maintained as the #1 priority, and everything else follows as it should.

Erin said...

I have been reading this blog for awhile and find it SO REFRESHING!! I have two girls under two and while it has been a challenge, it has been a HUGE Blessing!! I am definetly "refining and changing" parenting styles with the second that we learned didn't work with the first...which I think is always overwhelming because it is new!! I also had read the debate between Popcak and Bean and thought it was "sad" how the AP philosphy and Popcak really created a sense of guilt and such for the Catholic non-APers. I also use some "AP" techniques and integrate them with other practices and child-rearing theories and then like so mnay have said, apply them to our own family situation and each particular child's needs etc. Congrats to all you wonderful mommies out there (and papas)...keep having those beautiful babies...and creating these beautiful cathedrals...that if looked at closely will all have their own significant and unique details and design, but will all be beautiful and wonderful and cherished no matter how they were "built!"
(Thanks Red for the courage to post this and engage the conversation....I needed it after getting so discouraged with the AP pressure!!)

Anonymous said...

I'm struck that all of you seem up on this controversy, and I wonder why. Although I'm also a conservative Catholic with a grad. school degree from an Ivy univ., I've never had the slightest interest in reading a parenting philosophy. Did I miss the boat? Is this really necessary? Because it seems like it's the priorities of practical points that posters here are willing to stick to, rather than the philosophical parts.

But on the topic of Catholic child-rearing books, has anyone come across anything good on encouraging vocations in the home? My pre-school son has been quite interested in the Eucharist since he started talking & we've done a lot of small things to honor that interest. We know lots of priests & the vocation director anyway, but I wonder if any of you have seen anything about raising kids, especially boys, with openness to to a religious vocation as one of the explicit goals?

Bethany said...


I appreciate your clarification. I believe, when I was talking to my husband (B.A./M.A. in
Theology) about something similar, he used the phrase "inclined to sin" and in my inability to retrieve the words from my memory used the phrase "capable of sin" synonymously, in error. It is obviously not synonymous as you pointed out.

Despite the minor in Theology I received in college, I still feel at a disadvantage having converted to Catholicism at the age of 20. Sometimes it takes a while (a long while) to grab hold of the specifics that cradle Catholics (like my husband) take for granted.

JesusThroughMary said...

Anonymous -

I think everybody agrees that the practical matters of childrearing are what's important, but it's good sometimes to step back and take a look at the philosophical underpinnings, the unspoken assumptions, that every parent takes into parenting. Sometimes speaking those unspoken assumptions can bring things to light that might make us change course for the better.

Bethany -

In my experience, most of the cradle Catholics our age don't know the first thing about the Divine and Catholic Faith, without which noone can be saved. The ones who do know anything are mostly reverts, are devout in spite of their upbringing and not because of it, and are often inspired by converts like yourself to dig deeper into the treasure chest of our holy religion. We're all in the same boat.

Red -

I think you might deserve a game misconduct for instigation on this one. You did drop the gloves and go third man in on Juris Mater's fight. I'm going to be at work until 11 now, and that certainly can't be good for my family.

Bethany said...

I guess my husband's upbringing was more unusual than he claims. His parents, both Catholic, raised both him and his sister in the church and both were very active in their parish; his mom still is.

His mother nearly had a heart attack when he was in high school because he didn't go through with his confirmation classes with everyone else. He felt he couldn't agree to something he didn't fully understand. Needless to say he was confirmed his sophomore year of college after taking several theology courses (we attended a Catholic University) and that summer he decided to major in Theology/Pastoral Ministry, he hasn't looked back since. His mother is thrilled.

I guess I just assumed (probably shouldn't) that most Catholics resembled his family. Though it is interesting that his sister, who went through her Confirmation Classes at 13 now considers herself a non-denominational Christian and has sadly fallen away from the Catholic Church. This has become an issue with choosing God Parents for our children.

Juris Mater said...

Kat--I'm glad you brought up the point about full-out AP not necessarily being incompatible with a strong marriage! That was my very first question after reading Red's post (and my previous comment was more targeted at the issue of the delayed return of fertility in particular). During the Popcak/Bean/Etc controversy a while back about AP, I was so interested in the statements of well known bloggers like Elizabeth Foss that attachment parenting is without doubt the best style for their own marriage. I suspect some couples when practicing forms of AP are more relaxed, have a greater sense of personal well-being and family unity, and lots of other good benefits. Actually a good friend of all of ours from college is an avid AP dad, and they're delighting in their new marriage and happily expecting their second baby, arriving 13 months after their first. No delayed return of fertility or lack of "marital consortium" there : )

stephmomof6 said...

I have to say that I don't understand the venom with which you all speak about the Popcak's and attachment parenting.  I have co-slept for the first six months with several of my children and never did my husband sleep anywhere but with me.  I do think that having a large family has negatively impacted our sex life, especially now that I have a couple of teenagers.  However, I don't think that this means that God doesn't want us to have large families (or teens for that matter ;))Attachment parenting isn't about a bunch of rules to follow--it is about developing a relationship with your child.  Certainly, we must feed, clothe, and give affection to our children.  Although you can do this in many ways, there are certain things you can do to enrich your ability to do this like breastfeeding and keeping your children with you in arms or slings rather than strollers and bouncy seats.  There are certain things you can do to maximize the chances that breastfeeding will go well such as cosleeping and night nursing and feeding on demand.  HOWEVER, these ways of parenting simply make it easier for you to meet your baby's NEEDS and learn his/her cues so you can create a peaceful environment to help him/her grow.  Since I don't use all of them, I certainly think you can develop this relationship without them, but I am certainly glad that someone has taught them to me so I can give my children the best start I possibly can--taking into account the needs of God, my spouse, my infant and my other children and even my own.Many people think of the Catholic Church as a bunch of rules and crazy religious practices that are so hard to follow that it drives us crazy and increases our guilt trying to do it all.  However, it is because we lose sight of the fact that we are trying to develop a relationship with God.  Certainly we must pray, attend Sunday Mass and receive the Sacraments.  However, there are certain things that we could do to enrich our relationship or to create a more conducive environment for learning God's will for me (adoration, rosary, devotions).  However, I often have to juggle that with what I am truly capable of at the time.  Sometimes I cannot get to adoration because I have a sick child at home, so I pray instead and offer my service to Jesus through Mary.  I don't get angry at the people who have told me of the importance of adoration simply because I cannot make it because of the other NEEDS of my life at this moment.  I am grateful that they shared these beautiful practices with me and I adopt them as much as I can. The wonderful people who learned to serve God through serving their families that have shared so much with me and there have been times when I have realized that I am not doing A or B because I am putting my WANTS over the NEEDS of my family.  I am glad their example nudged me to give more of myself.  There are wonderful people who, by their example of service to Christ, have shown me that I sometimes put off doing A or B because I am putting my WANTS before His WILL for me.  I am glad that they challenged me as well.More importantly, I am glad that prayer, time and experience has shown me that, although I follow imperfectly, our Blessed Mother can take my efforts and bring them to the feet of Christ to do with what He will.  This applies to my parenting efforts as well as my efforts to grow closer to Christ.  I just wish you ladies could have known the AP families that I do and have studied it enough to know that AP is more that a set of rules to follow.  I think that if you had met these women and seen the beautiful way that they behave both temporally and with their eyes fixed on the eternal, you might think a little differently.I hope that I have not offended.  It was not my intention.Stephanie

JesusThroughMary said...

I am by no means an expert on these things, but hardcore AP still seems a little off to me. The best argument I've seen presented in this debate so far is the argument that AP doesn't respect the natural hierarchy of the family, but actually exactly inverts it. That's my read on AP at this point after 40 posts or so (which constitutes my entire life's worth of reading on the subject). If an AP dad is fine with that, and his marriage and family are happy, I'm happy for them. But if the fact that a child wants something doesn't imply that he should have it, neither does the fact that a husband and wife are both happy with their lifestyle make it a healthy lifestyle. It could be that they're drinking from the same glass of Kool-Aid.

Katherine said...


You had some wonderful things to say. I think I, and maybe some others, are still confused on just what AP is and what might be included with it but not necessary to it. I guess a way I would phrase it, to you or anyone who advocates or defends it or even just thinks well of it is this:

What criteria would you use to determine if someone uses Attachment Parenting?

Juris Mater said...

AP dogmatic Greg Poppycock, I mean Popcak, hangs his hat largely on the scientific finding that denying a baby's wants (not responding every time) elevates the baby's "cortisol levels". Elevated cortisol levels in childhood, apparently, cause all types of emotional disorders and insecurities in adulthood. This is part of their reasoning that you should space your babies 2.5-3 years--doing anything to elevate cortisol levels is a failure in parenting because it will cause the baby to struggle more in adulthood, and the Church asks us to adequately parent the children we already have before we have more children.

Are there any medical people out there who have heard of this cortisol thing? I think I remember reading a comment from a nurse on Danielle Bean's blog that, in order for childhood cortisol levels to rise high enough to have any impact in adulthood, a child would have to basically be abused--like left alone to cry for days on end, starved, and generally neglected for a very long period of time. I'd be so interested to know more, though.

JesusThroughMary said...

Sounds like Scientology to me.

Kat said...

Good question, Katherine. It seems to me that there is a distinction between Attachment Parenting in general, and Popcak's specific brand of AP. Am I right in making this distinction, or is Popcak's the only "version" of AP that there is?

From reading the discussion, it seems that the most contentious issue with Popcak's philosophy is the Integral Procreation tenet, in which he implies that parents who space their children closer than 2.5-3 years apart are doing psychological harm to their children.

SueB said...

First time here. This is a very cool idea for a blog. I'm looking forward to visiting it again.

I remember well the AP debate. I remember thinking: this is ridiculous. Someone at Heart, Mind and Strength reviewed a book, LIKED THE BOOK, disagreed with one sentence or paragraph, someone told on the reviewer, the author (who I love) responded and a whole crew of popular Catholic bloggers took offense and wrote floods of words in defense of their own parenting styles.

It was interesting and even entertaining, but in the end who cares? I am not disparaging your awesome blog entry, I applaud shaking one's fist at almost all parenting philosophies, but that Catholics and Christians actually fight over this, to me, is just wrong.

My rule is this: You are the only expert on your child and on your family.

I don't believe that anyone in this debate was saying that I must do anything, and if they were (unless they are putting Church teaching in front of me), I ignore them. I admit that some people came across badly, but as Christians, we owe people the benefit of the doubt.

St. Augustine is often quoted, "In essentials, unity, in non-essentials diversity, in all things charity." Despite my vast Google research (3 minutes,) I cannot tell you from which writing it came. Sorry. I think that Augustine's quote is appropriate here.

Anonymous said...

Amen to Stephanie's insightful comments. I had to laugh to read someone's horror over an AP friend's "lack" of disciplinary methods. My husband (who is my St. Joseph!) and I don't practice any methods for our three children except extended breastfeeding, courtesy and kindness to all, clarity about our (admittedly high) expectations, and lots of joy. It works beautifully for us and the daily compliments on our children's sociability and respect confirm our intuition and research. By the way, two other points to contradict some of the swirling myths: my husband (a Ph.D.) was the one who bought, read, and embraced the Sears book during my first pregnancy; thanks to AP's encouragement of attached fathers, I had time and support to finish my own Ph.D. recently, while mothering and homeschooling three young children. He's a great hands-on dad who really knows how to take care of our children. The only thing I would change about our life is we would love more children (married late, so nature against us). God bless you all, and thank you again to Stephanie for her comments.

Ellyn said...

If I had read this discussion 30 years ago, I don't think I would have wanted to have children at all.

Integral Procreation, AP etc. - it all sounds so clinical.

I think Elena hit the nail on the head when she mentioned death to self. My children saved my life in that respect.

Mr. Red said...

I think this discussion has helped me better understand the issues on each side. At this point, please allow me to focus in on the issue that I see as central, something that jesusthrumary previously touched upon.

As previously stated, "true," full-blown, Popcak AP is built on a false premise--namely, that the baby's wants are always in accord with the baby's good. This premise is wrong because a baby, like an adult, suffers from the effects of original sin, and therefore the baby instinctively desires things that are not ordered towards his good or the will of God. Thus, the child-led AP philosphy is fundamentally flawed.

This is not to say that AP is worthless. AP can still have good aspects from which we can learn, just as, in the realm of spiritual thought, Buddhism has good aspects from which we can learn. But the child-led AP philosophy, like Buddhist spirituality, is built on a false premise, and therefore it cannot be good in the fullest sense of the word.

Reasonable minds can differ on the consequences of building a parenting philosophy on AP's faulty premise (e.g., effect on sleep, effect on husbands, effect on marriage). I can admit that. But those disagreements should not cloud the simple fact that a child-led philosophy IS fundamentally flawed, and therefore should be approached with great caution.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Red, your comments about babies and original sin sound more Protestant than Catholic. Would you please elaborate? I know that Ezzo is a very controversial parenting practice strongly encouraged within Christian churches (non-Catholic); I have never before seen a Catholic endorsement of it. In fact, I remember reading that its underlying view of human nature and original sin was theologically flawed. I do know that La Leche League, which promotes breastfeeding on demand, was founded by seven or eight Catholic moms at a church picnic. I imagine they adopted the image of a lactating madonna to share a sense that the parenting philosophy they promote mimics what most Catholics believe the sort of domestic life lived by Holy Family. I read once of suggested mediations for the rosary based on Our Blessed Mother's breastfeeding and weaning. I find all of this approach to motherhood so natural and refreshing and deeply, richly Catholic, and think it has deep roots in Catholic theology and outlooks.

Mr. Red said...


I don't remember mentioning Ezzo LLL.

I've been called many things, but never a Protestant. : )

As for original sin, checkout the Catechism's discussion (paragraphs 402-406), especially the discussion of "concupiscence," which is the inclination of fallen men (and babies) towards evil.

Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Red, Thank you for your response. I should point that I didn't call you a Protestant--I said your position sounded more rooted in Protestant than Catholic theology; and I--not you--brought up Ezzo and La Leche League because--and my point remains--they are rooted in two clearly distinct theological traditions. Clearly man has a disposition to sin the comes from original sin. I think we all accept that. What distinguishes Catholic thinking from Protestant thinking (many competing definitions within Protestantism) is the degree to which man--and each individual--is affected by sin. In the broadest sense, for instance, our physical natures are permanently affected by original sin; isn't that where sickness and death come from? But Catholics teach that although we are affected physically and spiritually affected by sin, we retain our natural goodness and the image of God. The Ezzo position holds that babies are sinful and parents need to wipe out that sinfulness. Ergo, parents can and should use corporal punishment on a baby in order to train the baby to goodness and virtue. To argue that a baby--a baby!--is sinning when he cries or fusses or doesn't sleep or spits food out of his mouth or bites his mama's breast is not--to me, at least--recognizably rooted in Catholic theology. Which is why I asked why you argued in your previous comment that babies desire what is not ordered for their good or the will of God. My understanding of Catholic theology on sin requires certain conditions. In other words, I give my kids a few years before I start suggesting to them that their actions are, as my saintly mother would say, "a matter for confession."

JesusThroughMary said...

Anonymous -

You said, "I imagine they adopted the image of a lactating madonna to share a sense that the parenting philosophy they promote mimics what most Catholics believe the sort of domestic life lived by Holy Family."

I think it's quite a reach to say that "most Catholics" believe that the Holy Family practiced attachment parenting. The fact is, most Catholics have never given it a thought. The Church certainly has never decreed that one or another philosophy is "authentically Catholic". The life of the Holy Family is hidden from us, and probably for good reason. The whole reason for this post is that some in the Catholic community have overstepped their bounds by proclaiming that their philosophy of parenting is the One True Way. Those who make that claim, whether Popcak, LLL, or whoever, are out of line - they're trying to be more Catholic than the Pope. If the Church with her 2,000 years of wisdom and her charism of infallibility hasn't told us the way Mary raised Jesus, what gives any of us the right to do so? If anything, that is a Protestant mentality.

JesusThroughMary said...

Anonymous -

The distinction between concupiscence and actual sin has already been covered in previous posts. Concupiscence is the issue, not actual sin.

JesusThroughMary said...

Mr. Red said...
I think this discussion has helped me better understand the issues on each side. At this point, please allow me to focus in on the issue that I see as central, something that jesusthrumary previously touched upon.

As previously stated, "true," full-blown, Popcak AP is built on a false premise--namely, that the baby's wants are always in accord with the baby's good. This premise is wrong because a baby, like an adult, suffers from the effects of original sin, and therefore the baby instinctively desires things that are not ordered towards his good or the will of God. Thus, the child-led AP philosphy is fundamentally flawed.

This is not to say that AP is worthless. AP can still have good aspects from which we can learn, just as, in the realm of spiritual thought, Buddhism has good aspects from which we can learn. But the child-led AP philosophy, like Buddhist spirituality, is built on a false premise, and therefore it cannot be good in the fullest sense of the word.

Reasonable minds can differ on the consequences of building a parenting philosophy on AP's faulty premise (e.g., effect on sleep, effect on husbands, effect on marriage). I can admit that. But those disagreements should not cloud the simple fact that a child-led philosophy IS fundamentally flawed, and therefore should be approached with great caution.

April 11, 2008 10:22 AM

Mr. Red did not say....

JesusThroughMary said...

Anonymous, please disregard my previous post.

Ken said...

First, just a quick statement to say how wonderful of a blog this is. The level of civility in the discussions, particularly in posts like this, is amazing considering the nature of the topics. As a father and husband, and I'm not sure how many male readers there are but there are clearly very few male commenters, I find the conversations very helpful.

The one thing I would add to this thread is the value of stretching babies/toddlers. With our three children (4 1/2, 3, 4 months (all boys)) I've found that we get way ahead of the curve by doing things with them that stretch their attention span, ability to sit still, be quiet, etc. far before everyone else tries. This can start much earlier than most parents think.

From the beginning, we have sat in the front pew at Mass (which is also great because they can see what's happening). About the only window of time where that is difficult is when they start babbling (4-6 months?) to about 1 year. After a year old, they're old enough to be able to be quiet.

We are season ticket holders for a college football team and we have taken them from birth. They have to learn how to sit on a bench for 3+ hours (OK, the young ones get a couple breaks) starting from as soon as they can sit by themselves.

Of course we have the melt-downs and horrible Mass trips that everyone else does. But what I've found is that by the time they're 3, they're WAY ahead of the curve. They've learned discipline (and frankly to enjoy things that require discipline) far earlier than their peers who many of whom are just starting to learn.

The thing that troubles me about an excessive AP (first time I've heard the term) mindset is the way it pampers and caters to babies/toddlers who in my opinion it is very important to start stretching. As early as birth, there are opportunities to stretch a child (holding off feeding, diaper changes, etc.). While it shouldn't be a goal to make use of every stretching opportunity (in fact that would be REALLY bad), I think it is wise, particularly through hobbies and activities, to start them on these processes as soon as possible.

Right Said Red said...


I think you are confusing what it means for a baby to have original sin. Mr. Red and I are not saying that babies sin (as you say the Ezzo's claim). I think Jesusthroughmary made this point earlier, and I will quote it again here for clarification.

"Original sin, rather, refers to the disfiguring of human nature that occurred as a result of Adam's fall, which places us in a state of disfavor with God (a state from which we are restored by baptism), and which renders all of us concupiscent, or inclined to sin (a condition from which we are not rescued by baptism, but which we must work to overcome by living a Christian life).

I say all this to get to the point that it is not contrary to Catholic doctrine to say, as Red did, that a child who has not reached the age of reason could act in a manner that is, in itself, objectively sinful. That is not the same as saying that a child is committing an actual sin, since the child lacks the ability to understand that an action is sinful or to act rationally. However, it isn't a problem, as far as I can tell, to say that concupiscence in children causes them to make demands that are not for their good. In fact, I would say that it guarantees that they will. It's precisely because they lack the use of reason that we, as their parents, need to exercise our reason in determine whether we should accede to their demands."

Well put JesusthroughMary.

I don't think anyone here has argued that a baby that fusses is sinning, that is ridiculous! What I am arguing is that a baby that fusses might be fussing for something that is not in his or her best interest. Because of original sin, a baby might desire something that is not a "good." This is a really important distinction, and this is where I think AP is theologically mistaken.


JesusThroughMary said...

Allow me to correct my own grammar.

in determine = in determining

mvhphmmn = a weird word verification

Anonymous said...

Okay, guys! I didn't mean to stir up such a pot! Let me try again. Mr. Red wrote:

"As previously stated, "true," full-blown, Popcak AP is built on a false premise--namely, that the baby's wants are always in accord with the baby's good. This premise is wrong because a baby, like an adult, suffers from the effects of original sin, and therefore the baby instinctively desires things that are not ordered towards his good or the will of God. Thus, the child-led AP philosphy is fundamentally flawed."

As soon as I read that I thought of the critique of Ezzos methods by Catholics and Christians. I intended to point out to Mr. Red that his critique of AP "sounded more Protestant than Catholic" based on my knowledge of the critique of Ezzo's method. Now, I haven't read these critiques since my oldest was born, which was 10 years ago, but thanks to the internet I immediately located John Kippley's critique. I think it's worth reading because we would all then be on the same page. I am NOT saying that any of you think babies are depraved. But I am saying--and my brief return to Kippley confirms--that Ezzo thinks so, and if we are going to talk about babies and original sin we should look at how MANY people (mis)understand this. (Aren't Ezzo's books bestsellers?) We have to make distinctions. So, if you have a minute or ten, here's what I was thinking about. (Or simply google Kippley on Ezzo method and find it from there.) I would love your comments.

Mary Alice said...

Someone said:

" It works beautifully for us and the daily compliments on our children's sociability and respect confirm our intuition and research."

Let's talk about intuition, for a moment. I think that if you have good "baby sense" or are naturally "child wise" you might be better able to use a gently child guided approach to raising children with success. Also, if your children conform well to reasonable social expectations, which some children do naturally.

With my fifth child, I am able to rely on my intuition, but this is the first time this has been the case for me. I must be a slow learner, but it has taken me all this long to distinguish a hunger cue from a bored, tired, diaper, etc, cue.

My first child was rocked or fed all day every day. I didn't know what else to do for him, so whenever he cried either I fed him or my mother-in-law rocked him to sleep. Sometimes he had a dirty diaper all day! As he got older, we tried "redirecting" rather than discipline, and once I let him actually break a glass coffe table because I didn't know that I could (should?!) say no to him.

My first child has continued to be my most complicated emotionally, he is 6 and it is still hard for me to "meet his needs", it would be even if he were my only child. I just don't "get" him, so I can't rely on my intuition. Instead of asking for food when he is hungry he gets grumpy or sad, instead of going to bed when he is sleepy he gets wired and high energy. I now know that he "needs" food and sleep at certain times, but I cannot rely on him to "lead" me to these needs. I have other children who just curl up and rest when they are tired!

For me, as a young mom with no friends with kids and little support for the philosophy, attempting to AP was a train-wreck.

Gary Ezzo saved my life, he saved my marriage and he saved my family. I do beleive that some of his writings are based in Protestant theology, but BabyWise is a secular program which just gave me the support I needed to meet my child's need for sleep, play and food. BabyWise goes up to 6 months and really does not address discipline issues.

I think that the eat-play-sleep routine is also found in The Baby Whisperer, mentioned by B-Mama, so if you find Ezzo objectionable (and I might if I read more of his child training stuff), that might be a better avenue to get this sort of support.

Someone mentioned being worried that they would run their car off the road when they were a sleep deprived new parent. My problem was that I actually hoped that I would. I seriously never want to go back to that place. I was just reading in Mothering Multiples about sleep deprivation, and I think that even if Mom and Dad trade off and support each other, even more support is needed when you are nursing round the clock. Family dynamics are such that this support is often not easily available unless it is going to be paid for.

I think that we as mothers, especially Catholic mothers, could be doing more to support each other. When I had twins, my Mormon neighbors brought me meals for weeks. That is the nature of their community, they build in a support network even when people are far from family. I think that this sort of support is coming about in some parishes, but we could use more of it.

Lastly, I want to note that if my children were three years apart I would have PT (6), the twins (3) and the Lion (0). That leaves out my Holly who is the absolute joy of my life as well as my biggest helper and the best friend to all of her siblings. I could not be more glad that my fertility returned when I was 6 months post partum and that God led my husband and I to be open to life right away.

Also, I have twin brothers who are exactly 12 months younger than me. The most blessed day of my life was the day they were born! Even if my cortisol levels are through the roof, at least I have them to comfort me!

Bethany said...

The more I read about AP, the more I realize that this is the approach that my aunt and uncle took in raising their son (my cousin); he turned 10 in Dec. Which then lead me to realize one of the things I find troubling about this parenting philosophy.

Older infants and young children are often MUCH smarter than people, even parents, give them credit for. It should never be underestimated the ability of a toddler or young child to manipulate a situation to get what they think they want. Not malicious manipulation mind you, but manipulation none-the-less. As someone who worked in early childhood education for several years, I witnessed many a toddler yelling, screaming, crying to no end, begging their mother or father (now brought to tears themselves) not to leave them. The minute that parent pulled out of the parking lot, that same child, tears gone- smile on the face, was playing dress up, eating breakfast, even mischievously stealing toys from other children.

Often times these parents pulled their children at tremendous hardship to themselves and their families because they could not handle their child's tantrums every morning. "They need more attention from mommy." these parents say. In fact, these children did want to be home with their parent, not because they were attention starved, but because at home they were able to do whatever their little hearts desired and at "school" they had to follow rules and could not be the centers of attention.

This may even sound like an "only-child syndrome", but I have seen it with many children, only and siblings alike.

The point of this rant is that it is important not to underestimate your child's intelligence. Even my sweet little 10mth old, will pull her brothers hair, when she thinks I'm not looking, to try and get at what they have in their hand. If I look at her she smiles sweetly and lays her head down.

If only it took a look for her brothers to behave.

Anonymous said...

I just happened upon this site from Danielle Bean's link....very interesting! I just had to respond to a few of the anti-AP comments. To Juris Mater, please don't assume that because someone co-sleeps that they are automatically pushing their husbands away. That is not fair!!! Many men, my husband included, actually like having snuggle time with the baby. I have to say I found your comments sort of insulting. There were a few other posts too that automatically assume that people doing AP-style (I say AP Style b/c I wouldn't say I adhere to all the philosophy, its just easier to use AP or natural parenting in this discussion) somehow automatically have bad marriages. That irks me to no end!!!

I would also want to respond to the original post- I agree with Popcack on some things but not on others (i.e. you have to have 3 years of space- I think you should take kids as they come barring serious circumstances. I guess I am a providentialist or whatever he calls them...but NFP use is a whole other ball of wax) but the bottom line on parenting is that children are little people with big emotional needs and people disagree on how to meet or temper those needs.

On last thing on Babywise- I admit I hate the whole cry it out thing especially for a six week old!! I would just point out to the Catholics that the original name for the program was called "Growing Kids God's Way" and it was used in a number of evangelical/christian churches. So that makes me think that it might have, at its root, an inaccurate understanding of the human person.... just a few random thoughts while the kids play in the bath!!!

Juris Mater said...

Most recent Anonymous--you're definitely right, I was too quick to tie AP with husbands on the couch. I tried to back away from that in my followup comment--I meant only to suggest some circumstances that may accompany AP that could contribute to mom's delayed return of fertility, not to dysfunctional marriage. And in that same followup post, I agreed with Kat that I KNOW there are happy AP couples!

And yes, Ezzo does think he has discovered God's way to parent ("Growing Kids God's Way"), as does Sheila Kippley in her HARDcore AP book entitled "Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood: God's Plan for You and Your Baby". Pretty bold titles!

stephmomof6 said...

I think there is some misunderstanding about attachment parenting. The point of attachment parenting is to spend a lot of time with your baby (ie. the breastfeeding, babywearing and cosleeping) so you can learn his/her cues and learn how to respond to his/her NEEDS. There is nothing in the official AP handbook or in Greg Popcak's book (which I have actually read) that says anything about responding to a child's wants or about the child leading anything but weaning.

It is about learning to respond to your baby's NEEDS and, as you have more babies, being able to prioritize the NEEDS of your whole family so you can meet them the most effectively. Any mother who subjugates her spouse's true needs for her baby's wants is not practicing attachment parenting, but spouse avoidance. However, there are many different ways to meet your spouse's needs and your baby's needs.

For example, let's say I have a 3 month-old who nurses very frequently, but usually goes down for a good three hours around 9pm. I also have a spouse who has a legitimate need for intimacy, both physical and emotional. I can put the other children to bed, power nurse the infant for a bit and put him/her to sleep in a side-car cosleeper or mattress on the floor or crib or whatever. I will finish off the steak and potatoes I started for a late dinner with husband and we will eat and be intimate in our bed. When baby awakes, I will bring him/her in bed with me and we will sleep/nurse/whatever until morning. Or I can pump, hire a sitter and go out to dinner with spouse, making sure to have my breastpads in my shirt to prevent leakage, etc. Neither is bad or sinful, but the former would be the more AP way. Now, if I or my spouse expressed a NEED to get out of the house for a few hours or he (I) would go crazy, then prioritizing the needs is in order. Spouse need to get out comes before baby's need to have me in close proximity. I can still meet the baby's need for food by hiring the sitter and pumping if need be.

As far as discipline goes, no child has a need to break things or throw things or hit people, etc. I have read the Popcak's book and they are in fact stricter disciplinarians than I am. They just do it in a different way. For example, they respect a toddler's desire to walk as a neutral one, neither sinful nor virtuous. They also see the need for safety. They establish a hold me or hold you policy. The toddler may walk while holding a parent's (or sibling's) hand. If the toddler refuses, then he/she must be held by parent or sibling no matter how much he/she cries about it. It may take a little longer to teach this behavior, but it meets the needs of the parent and respects the neutral desires of the child. It results in a child learning the virtue of self control.

I could give other examples for situations involving older children as well, but you can read the book. AP is not about giving a child all they want. It is about remembering that the Church teaches that Man is inherently good but has been weakened through sin. Realizing this, you can look at your child and see their neutral need behind their sinful behavior. Then you can teach them a virtuous way to go about getting their needs met.

As far as the 2.5-3 years, I can see what Greg's point is. This type of parenting is time-consuming in the beginning. However, in the large family, it isn't just the parents who are involved, but the siblings as well. In our house, older children change diapers, help little ones dress in the morning and they all do chores together. I am sure it is the same at your houses. In light of this, the increased time of spacing is unnecessary. Plus, in evaluating the NEEDS of your whole family, you may need to let some types of AP parenting techniques go by the wayside. The point is to respond to your family's NEEDS. That said, if you truly believe that God is calling you to parent in a manner that is different, then you must do that.

Having been raised a Protestant, one of the things that drew me to the Catholic Church was the idea that, as creations of the Almighty God, we desire good. Original sin weakens our will and so the battle begins in our flesh. However, grace helps us to win that war, not just cover a disfigured person. I do truly believe that ap results from that same philosophy and has as its aim the teaching of virtue while respecting the dignity of the individual. I do not think we all need to think the same on this issue. My friends are many and varied and I love them all. One thing I love the best about them is that they are charitable and respecting of one another's views, learning what they can from each and never being judgemental of things that are between God and sacrimentally created parents.

Stephanie-->oh, there really isn't an AP handbook. LOL.

Right Said Red said...

Stephanie, et al-

Just so there is not any confusion,

"Sears says that in the first year of life, a child's needs and wants are one and the same."

JesusThroughMary said...

I've noticed that everyone who starts out defending AP is forced to admit it's impossible to achieve all the time, that at some point they're forced to abandon or modify its principles. In other words, every "AP" parent that's commented so far has to water down the... never mind. But the True Believers would say that to compromise on any aspect of AP is immoral. Are there no good parents in the world, or is AP impossible, or is it not actually an ideal but an extreme?

Anonymous said...

I have posted at least three or four times today and I am puzzled how JesusThroughMary concludes that I have modified or abandoned in any way my commitment to extended breastfeeding, family bed, et cetera. I also don't understand JurisMater's (great blogname!)comparison of Ezzo and Kippley. Kippley basically advocates what La Leche League, the Academy of Pediatrics, the WHO, and other groups (not to mention JPII's stated approval of extended nursing) advocate: breastfeeding on demand without schedules. There really isn't anything remotely controversial about that core teaching. The same cannot be said about Ezzo's methods, which have been routinely and strongly criticized by medical experts for what are considered dangerous practices of scheduled breastfeeding.

JesusThroughMary said...

Since you're anonymous, I don't know which posts are you and which are other Anonymi; which ones are you claiming?

Katherine said...

I'm just thinking out loud here, but...

JesusthroughMary said:
I've noticed that everyone who starts out defending AP is forced to admit it's impossible to achieve all the time, that at some point they're forced to abandon or modify its principles. In other words, every "AP" parent that's commented so far has to water down the... never mind. But the True Believers would say that to compromise on any aspect of AP is immoral. Are there no good parents in the world, or is AP impossible, or is it not actually an ideal but an extreme?

Maybe we have misunderstood AP and AP in itself is NOT using the principles ALL the time but includes judgement on when the princples apply in a different way? For example - Catholic teaching states that abortion is a moral and intrinsic evil (I don't think anyone here would disagree). But if a woman has uterine cancer and to save her life doctors must remove her uterus, Catholic Social Teaching and the princple of Good Intention says that since the intention is to save the mother and the loss of the baby is not intended but is a tragic consequence, it is not a sin. This is not an exception to the rule that abortion is evil but rather is the judgement that intention makes a difference.

Maybe true AP is simply using good judgment in meeting the needs of everyone? Maybe Attachment Parenting includes Attachment Spousing?

I honestly don't know. I'm new to this category of AP. Any thoughts?

Katherine said...

I went searching some more for what attachment parenting is and the Dr. Sears sight had some info....

"Attachment is a special bond between parent and child; a feeling that draws you magnet-like to your baby; a relationship that when felt to its deepest degree causes the mother to feel that the baby is a part of her. This feeling is so strong that, at least in the early months, the attached mother feels complete when she is with her baby and incomplete if they are apart."

It also said:
Attachment parenting is not indulgent parenting. You may hear or worry that being nurturing and responsive to your baby's needs might spoil your baby and set you up for being manipulated manipulated by your baby. This is why we stress that attachment parenting is responding appropriately to your baby's needs, which means knowing when to say "yes" and when to say "no." Sometimes in their zeal to give children everything they need, it's easy for parents to give their children everything they want.

Attachment parenting is a question of balance –not being indulgent or permissive, yet being attentive. As you and your baby grow together, you will develop the right balance between attentive, but not indulgent. In fact, being possessive, or a "smother mother" (or father) is unfair to the child, fosters an inappropriate dependency on the parent, and hinders your child from becoming normally independent. For example, you don't need to respond to the cries of a seven-month-old baby as quickly as you would a seven-day-old baby."

So maybe AP is just another way of doing things that some people simply take too far?

Anonymous said...

Well I am not one for participating in blogs. I have never read one before. My wife brought my attention to this. I am a father of 3 and my wife and I have used attachment parenting with all. I am a catholic and strive to be the best I can be. I am not sure I even understand why this debate is going on. I am exhausted after reading it. Basically the red head, who I assume believes everything she says is "right", started this debate with her "fist" approach. I have never been kicked out of my bed. I think allowing a child to cry it out is cruel and ridiculous. I can only smile by the comments on original sin made by the red heads husband. AP allows parents to know their child and helps their child feel right. That sums it up. My guess is it comes down to what you are willing to commit to. You may want more freedom so to speak than what you think AP will allow. Let's not get overly theoretical here. Obviously the red head was touched personally when someone brought up AP or she would not have started with her fist. This blog I'm afraid has not become about discussing an issue (AP) and it's implications on being catholic, but about personal ideals in living your life. In other words you just don't want your kids in bed with you or attached to your hip. Just to clarify I am not trying to be disrespectful with this ;). Thought I'd throw that wink in there - I actually never saw that used before.

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Right Said Red said...

I'm sorry, I should have closed comments on this a while ago. Please feel free to comment on more recent posts.