Attachment Parenting vs. Babywise Parenting

Baby Journal – The Real Story Behind Your Baby’s Life

One only has to walk to the parenting section of Barnes & Noble to see that there are more than one hundred books on child rearing and infant care up for selection on the shelves. Any new parent, staring at all the titles, would have a hard time knowing which book is the best to buy and which parenting philosophy is the one to adopt.

Topping the list of confusion are two main parenting styles: Attachment Parenting and Babywise. The books on each of these styles have back covers that provoke interest by claiming to make the baby years easier for both baby and parents. Each style touts its own wonderful results, and both books, without clearly mentioning one another, take issue with the tenets held by the other camp.

Talk to parents who employ either method and you will find out that they swear by the one they chose. The reasons these parents give about why they chose the method they did makes complete sense, and only results in more confusion as to which is the better style to follow.

Speak with parents (and even doctors) who believe in one particular theory, and you will find that, as sold as they are on one way, they are adamantly opposed to the other. They are adamant, to the point of downright hot-tempered arguments, as to why the other style is so completely wrong and off base.

So which is the book to buy? Which style is the style that is best for you and your baby? Perhaps an overall snapshot and exploration of the two styles may help a parent better know which style they will want to pursue with their children.

Babywise, according to the promo on the back cover of On Becoming Babywise, states: “Scientists can put a man on the moon but they can not answer the most basic question of early parenting: how to have a happy and contented baby who sleeps continually through the night like the rest of the family and a mother who is not in a perpetual state of exhaustion.”

Open the front cover of the 2001 edition and the reader can find almost seven full pages, from both health care professionals and parents, exclaiming the brilliance of the Babywise parenting style.

Go a bit further into the introduction and read the first paragraph:

Yes, one day people will stop you on the street, at the grocery store, and in the church nursery to comment, ‘Your baby is so content.’ Then they will insult you with the following statement, ‘You’re so lucky to have an easy baby. What? Sleeping through the night already? How old is he? You’re really lucky!’

Reading these words makes the thought of having an “easy baby” extremely appealing, and the reader senses that employing the Baby Wise techniques will result in this wondrous child.

Babywise follows a PDF format, otherwise known as Parent Directed Feeding. This is written out in equation form:

Hunger Cue + Clock + PA (Parental Assessment) = Feeding Time

This is as scheduled as it sounds. Babywise believes that the parents know best what the baby needs and when (s)he needs it. This includes sleep times, feeding times, and awake times. The book goes on to share, step-by-step, a desirable schedule to follow with your baby, complete with what time to wake your baby, what point to feed him or her throughout their day, and a bedtime routine to follow.

Babywise argues that scheduled babies feel safe and secure because they know what each day will contain. Because the baby feels secure in the expected, he or she will begin sleeping through the night sooner and more consistently than babies who are not scheduled.

Although this style depends heavily on scheduling, the authors do leave room for flexibility, throwing in the PA clause. They encourage parents to have a flexible schedule, and not go by strict minutes on the clock. Instead, they teach the parent to help baby get into a schedule while at the same time assessing what it is the baby needs.

For instance, they state that if you have determined that 10:00 a.m. is a feeding time but your baby is screaming her hunger cry at 9:30, it is ok to stop and feed her, based on her need.

At the same time, this method cautions to not let baby determine their schedule, but to always be based on the parents’ assessment of what the baby needs most at any particular time.

Attachment parenting approaches feeding and sleeping a completely different way. Attachment parenting operates in such a way that the parents respond to their baby’s cues when it comes to eating and sleeping instead of determining the baby’s schedule for them. Attachment parenting is built around Attachment Theory — the theory that babies who form strong attachments to their caregivers early on have security and self-confidence when they are older. It encourages parents to learn their baby’s cues and be able to respond to them in a timely manner.

This is where nursing on demand comes in. Instead of nursing on a schedule as Babywise practices, the AP style is to allow baby to nurse any time the parent senses they are hungry and wanting the breast (or bottle). The goal of AP is to notice the baby’s cues before they reach the crying stage, and respond to them early on.

They follow the same format for sleeping as well, encouraging parents to allow the baby to sleep according to their own schedule. However, although AP teaches that the best method of parenting is to follow the baby’s cues, they do address the need for a solid night’s sleep in their book, The Baby Book, and encourage developing a schedule for the baby as they grow older. This schedule is formed more on attempting to understand why your baby is still waking in the night and responding to the reasons, rather than just following a sleep schedule, like Babywise (which usually takes place with crying-it-out sessions).

Attachment Parenting has seven basic tenets to its philosophy, called the seven B’s of Attachment Parenting. Listed in the first chapter of The Baby Book, by William and Martha Sears, they are as follows:

1. Birth Bonding –- Connect with your baby early.

2. Belief in Your Baby’s Cries – Read and respond to your baby’s cues.

3. Breastfeed Your Baby

4. Babywearing – Carry your baby a lot.

5. Bedding Close to Baby

6. Balance and Boundaries

7. Beware of Baby Trainers

Just like Babywise, Attachment Parenting declares itself to be the way to parent your baby. The founders of this parenting style, Dr. William Sears and his wife Martha (an R.N) argue that following strict parenting styles with babies is a moot point because all babies and all parents are different.

No one can employ one style of parenting across the board, they argue, because each of us are different, with different needs, and that includes each baby. Therefore, this style of parenting encourages you to learn your child, what they need, and to respond accordingly, instead of forcing them into a blanket format.

Those who argue against this method state that a baby can’t possibly know what they need and it is up to the adult to determine what is best for their infant.

Both camps have valid arguments, and both have points that make logical sense. So which method do you choose for yourself?

Choose what best works for you, plain and simple. Your mother-in-law may urge you to follow the Babywise method, while your best friend urges you to follow the Attachment Parenting method. Don’t choose a style based on what others think you should do. Choose a style that makes the most sense to you.

To put it another way, choose the style that “clicks” for you when you read about it.

This will probably mean buying both books. Buy both books, read them through, take notes if you need to, and discuss what you read with your partner. After fully educating yourself on both parenting styles, make an informed choice about which you will use.

Sometimes, as this writer finds herself doing, you will read both books and, in the end, find yourself employing techniques from both parenting camps. My baby is on a sleep schedule (Babywise) but I don’t let her cry it out when I’m putting her to bed (Attachment Parenting). I wear her in a sling (Attachment Parenting) but I also encourage her to play on the floor or in her pack-n-play by herself and learn how to be without me at different periods throughout her day (Babywise).

In the end you may find yourself with an eclectic parenting style that belongs in neither the Babywise camp nor the Attachment Parenting camp, but that’s ok. Ultimately, you have to do what works best for you and your baby. Discovering what that is, is just a part of the parenting journey.

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