The Business of Attachment Parenting

Jamie Lynne Grumet, 26- year-old mother of two children in Los Angeles, is the woman on Time’s May 21 cover story which caused heated debates about the effectiveness of attachment parenting. It is this particular photograph that shows Grumet, proponent of attachment parenting, breast-feeding her three-year old son Aram who turns four next month that shocks the public.

Even though the photo may seem scandalous and alarming, the philosophy behind it is not new and has a large number of followers; many of them living in the U.S. Dr. Bill Sears, the renowned pediatrician, is the guru of the child-rearing philosophy that redefined the bond between mother and its baby over the past two decades.

His attachment-parenting bible, a purple 767-page tome called The Baby Book turns 20 this year with more than 1.5 million copies sold worldwide and available in print in 18 languages. It popularizes educational methods that are more about parental sacrifice and devotion than bringing up autonomous children.

Now it would be quite obvious to argue whether attachment parenting also known as extreme parenting is an appropriate way to encourage more mothers to rely on their basic instincts and form a loving relationship with their babies since science proved the beneficial effect on an overall well-being and emotional health. Looking at it from another angle one could interpret this parenting style as an antifeminist plot to convince women of giving up their careers in order to stay at home and take care of their children full time.

However, it is not my intention to discuss these questions but rather lead you in a direction that focuses on the business idea that this “project” entails.

What is it all about

Let’s first of all have a closer look at Dr. Bill Sears’ three basic principles of attachment parenting that are being described in his book of which a new edition has been published recently.

Breast-feeding

According to Sears breast-feeding is one of the key factors that help raising secure and confident children. Under the motto “Breast is best” babies should feed on demand and if the mother agrees, even into toddlerhood.

Scientific researches confirm that mother and baby should determine frequency and duration of breast-feeding. There is no argument about how long to nurse.

Responding to cries

Sears claims that parents shouldn’t follow the cry-it-out approach and let their children cry from time to time but respond to every baby’s whimper because it is a plea for help and could damage the brain which could lead to developmental disorders.

Science does not provide concrete evidence that leaving children to cry can affect brain development. On his website Sears speaks of “harmful neurological effects that may have permanent implications…” and cites several scientific studies to back up his assumptions. Nonetheless, it turns out that some of his sources are studies that involved rats instead of human beings.

Co-Sleeping

Sears believes that sharing the bed with the baby is totally okay. It could also be a bassinet that is attached to the side of the parents’ bed but both ways work out for him.

Science says that co-sleeping is critical if the baby is quite young. It is not only critical but also deadly because a sleeping adult might suffocate the baby. Despite public health-warnings 19% of two-month-old babies slept in the parents’ bed. This percentage was published by the U.S. government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2005.

So far so good; there are advocates and opponents of this parenting style. In 2011 the book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother has been published that is the exact opposite of what Dr. Bill Sears prays and outlines why parents should demand more from their children and not the other way round.

You can decide whether you agree with Sears or not, but what captured my attention even more when examining this case is the fact that he seems to be on a mission pursuing a certain strategy that is not only beneficial for our society but also for himself and his family.

The 71-year-old father of eight children creates an impression of a superstar, a preacher of a parenting style that exists for years and decades. In fact, if we go back to the three principles and rethink them, we notice that it’s nothing new. Mothers are doing that all the time, maybe subconsciously not calling it attachment parenting.

20 years ago when The Baby Book was published a label was put on the educational methods and that is when the business idea started to develop.

Sears and his wife Martha have published more than 40 books on parenting and pregnancy which are updated frequently so that new editions are sold. He promotes his books with various television appearances and propagates his philosophy in all sorts of interviews.

It seems as if he was ubiquitous. In addition to his books which are only one part of his empire, Sears runs several for-profit websites. One of them is www.askdrsears.com where he gives advice to parents on how to take care of their children taking into account his principles. Another website, that is www.drsearsfamilyessentials.com , is even more striking. Here you can buy a wide variety of products including nutritional supplements, baby food, beverages, skin care products, baby- carrying slings and nursing covers, eating ware and so on. The list is endless.

All these products are necessary in combination with the advice you can get on his website to make sure that your children will turn out to be well adjusted.

Doesn’t that look like a mere attempt to make money? Ok, one could argue that he is just trying to spread his idea, to reach the public but having an own product line? Isn’t that a bit exaggerated?

With the Portable Pediatrician App for iPhone and Android you can always stay up-to-date and inform yourself about everything that concerns your baby. Wow! Isn’t that great?

Last weekend, May 19 & 20,2012, Dr. Bill Sears was a featured speaker at the New Baby Expo 2012 in Honolulu, Hawaii. There again Sears shared his health tips on how to raise healthy children.

For more information about  the New Baby Expo 2012 check out this web site:

New Baby Expo 2012

The whole family earns fees from the sale of attachment-parenting gadgets since Dr. Sears outsourced one part of his “empire” to his adult children. The way he tries to raise social awareness is somewhat ridiculous although he might have good intentions.

His constant media presence arouses suspicion that money plays an important role, even though it cannot be proved.

What do you think about Sears’ way of popularizing his philosophy? Is it the money that motivates him or is it rather the need to share his knowledge with the whole world so that everybody can benefit from it?

This video might help you to answer this question.

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4 Responses to The Business of Attachment Parenting

  1. lilmeu says:

    Hey Mirella!
    Lovely blog post! I don´t think so because I consider the cover of “times” to be cute or somehow dinky; no! This picture is terrible and actually unnatural. I cannot imagine that I have ever seen such a controversial image. A mother breast-feeds her children; not her baby! If she would have fed a baby this would be okay for me because I love ones. I also like children and toddlers, but not if they are considered as babies! I know that there are indeed more parents who behave like the mother on the “times”-cover. Therefore, it is a cool idea to write about such a current issue because this behaviour of attachment parenting can lead to serious consequences (as you already said!)
    Although I heard about this problem, I never was informed about this in detail. For example, I didn´t know the three basic principles about attachment parenting. Additionally, I really like your video at the end of your blog post! That diverts your topic very well which leads the reader to think about your blog post even after he/she has read it! Well done 🙂

  2. Great content, I ponder how you would are performing, for you to please go to compose these kinds of superior posts. Probably over time as well as in our blog are going to have very similar facts.

  3. tankennethhh says:

    Hi Mirella,
    You’ve got a great article going on here. I got a question regarding the part on whether the things Dr Sears does is ‘a mere attempt to make money’. Are there other people out there who share your sentiments as well? Or is it just your opinion?

    • mirkalilka says:

      Hey Kenneth,

      I chose this topic for my blog post because I recently read an article about attachment parenting in the European issue of the Time Magazine. However, the cover of the American issue caught my attention even more because it is quite controversial. The money- aspect that I mentioned in my post resulted from my own perception, this was actually not the controversial point of the public debate. It is something that I came up with myself because when reading several other related articles and during my research, I got the impression that Dr. Sears actually makes good money with his ideology. He has websites, books, products and frequently appears on TV shows. That’s why I thought that it would be interesting to highlight this topic. Unfortunately I couldn’t find other opinions on that particular point, because everyone was busy discussing whether attachment parenting is too exaggerated or not.

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