Thursday, June 20, 2013

10 Lies About Attachment Parenting

Gary Ezzo does not agree with Attachment-style parenting.

In his church-based Parenting Program called "Preparation for Parenthood" as well as his secular book "On Becoming Babywise," Ezzo  portrays the typical "Attachment Parent" as an ill-informed, secular humanist who attempts to be a child's 'buddy' rather than a  decent parent. The child of these Attachment Parents is described as self-centered, chaotic, and ill-prepared for the world as a result of being subjected to his parents' philosophies.

The following list corrects a few of the misconceptions (or lies) that Mr. Ezzo  writes about Attachment Parenting.

Note :
"PFP" = Preparation for Parenting (Ezzo's church-based parenting program)
"BW" = Babywise (Ezzo's secular book based on the church-based program)
"AP" = Attachment Parenting (A style of parenting that focuses on becoming closely tuned to your baby)
"PDF" = Parent Directed Feeding (The feeding schedule described in Babywise)

1. Ezzo claims Attachment Parents follow a “Neoprimitivistic” school of thought  that hopes to “undo birth trauma.” (BW ’98 pg 31-2)

a) Attachment Parenting proponents believe that good communication begins in infancy. Learning how your child communicates helps you understand your child better, leading to closer relationships and ultimately avoiding many negative behaviors and conflicts.

The term “Attachment Parenting” was coined by Dr. William Sears, a pediatrician and father of eightDr. Sears wife, Martha, served as a La Leche League Leader. Together they are well-qualified to share information about normal growth and development, breastfeeding, baby care,  and parenting.

In contrast, Gary Ezzo and his wife, Ann Marie, parents of two, have no experience or credentials in lactation or child development.

b)  "Attachment Parents are not attempting to "undo birth trauma."("Does the birthing process really create psychologically fragile children?" ~ BW '98 p.36) The Birth Trauma theory of which Ezzo is skeptical surfaced after birth had indeed become quite traumatic for babies. During the early part of the last century, births were occurring in institutions for the first time in history. In contrast to being born at home surrounded by family and a midwife, the new standard delivery method in American hospitals involved grasping an unborn baby's emerging head with metal forceps and pulling the baby it out of its unconscious mother. Amnesiac drugs given to the mother prior to this procedure negatively affected the babies' normal inclination to begin breathing, therefore babies were immediately held by the heels and slapped to make them breathe. Rather than transitioning from the womb to the world on its mother body as the placenta completed its job, the umbilical cord was immediately clamped and cut so the baby could be taken to a nursery for resuscitation - and for observation, since unconscious mothers cannot care for their own babies.
 I would definitely call this introduction into the world traumatic.

2. Ezzo claims Attachment Parents cannot be Christians. 

He says that Christians who practice attachment parenting “are Christians up to a point… [but  are not subjecting] their personal opinions, reasoning, and emotions to the guidelines of Scripture...” (PFP pg. 21)

a) La Leche League
Far from a group of neo-primitivistic secular humanists, the founding mothers of La Leche League were members of a close-knit church, as part of a community outreach.

The idea for La Leche League was conceived at a church picnic, when the  nursing mothers noticed they had been approached by several others expressing their regret in not being able to breastfeed. The church had recently hosted a series called the Christian Family Movement in which attendees were encouraged to reach out to others in the community. The few nursing mothers thought that perhaps helping other mothers succeed in breastfeeding was a God-given opportunity. They realized that if they helped mothers, they helped entire families, and if they helped families, they were helping the whole community.

Most of the founding moms themselves had not been successful either when trying to breastfeed their first  babies. Each of them had learned  by experience that the secret of success was to watch the baby instead of the clock, selflessly nursing the new baby as often as the baby seemed to need it.
This was a terribly radical idea at the time. Science was the new god. Doctors, rather than mothers, delivered babies. Doctors, rather than mothers, formulated milk for the babies. Doctors, rather than moms and babies, regulated the times babies were to be fed. Formula was new, modern and scientific; breastfeeding was seen as something the lower animals did. Formula was expensive but seen as superior, especially in an era of prosperity. Breastfeeding was for the poor.

The name "La Leche League" was chosen because 'breast' or 'breastfeeding' were words that could not be used in polite company in the 1950's.

b) Dr. William Sears
Dr. Sears is a pediatrician, and author of Christian Parenting. His wife, also Christian, is a nurse and a La Leche League Leader

c) It is extremely arrogant to say anyone not feeding their child on a schedule cannot be Christian.

d) If Ezzo's PDF program were indeed a Godly parenting program, it would be the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. This schedule could not work in Jesus' time when people did not have timepieces.
It would not work for Christians in less developed nations where fewer people rely on clocks.

e) Ezzo recognizes that mothers in less-developed nations carry their babies attached in wraps or slings "out of convenience" but he claims mothers in North America are only doing so because they are afraid the child is suffering Birth Trauma.

d) In Preparation for Parenting, Ezzo attacks Christians who AP as follows: 
Here are three questions for the Christian community to consider:
(1) Did God make a mistake when creating the birthing process by introducing trauma?
(2) Did Jesus suffer from psychic shock and separation anxiety as a result of His birth?
(3) Was Mary a bad mother because she laid Jesus in a manger (literally a feeding crib) and not a family bed? To all three questions, we answer "no."

I would answer:
(1) God did not make a mistake creating the birthing process, but MAN made the mistake of messing with it, thinking they can improve upon it.
(2) If Jesus had been born in modern times, yes! If born today, He would have been ultrasounded several times in his mother's womb, his birth would be induced by 40 weeks, monitored and assisted by forceps, scissors, scalpel or cesarean section. His cord would be clamped before it finished its function, so He could be taken from his mother, and would likely have a tube put in his nose, mouth, possibly even lungs suction fluids,then medicine would be put in his eyes, and He'd be injected with Vitamin K. He'd be placed on a metal scale, weighed, measured and tagged, then taken to the NICU for observation, due to the  increased risks involved in virgin birth.
 And yes, this would likely cause some psychic shock and separation anxiety.
(3) No, Mary was not a bad mother because she put her baby in a manger. It was probably the only place not covered in animal manure and amniotic fluid.
I also doubt that Mary and Joseph would have toted a feeding crib with them when they fled to Egypt in the middle of the night.

Here are three questions I would ask Mr. Ezzo to consider:
(1) Did Mary have a clock in Jesus' nursery?
(2) Did she have to check the sundial to know when it was time to feed her baby?
(3) Without a clock, how was she able to stretch out his feeding intervals in 15-minute increments as he grew? Or measure the time he spent in his playpen to "develop mental focusing skills, a sustained attention span, creativity, and orderliness"? [BW'98 pp190-191]

 His "infant management program" is obviously not feasible for Christians living in less-developed nations - or else all believers outside of the Western world are "only Christian up to a point."

 3. Ezzo states that for Attachment Parents, the primary signal for food is the baby’s cry. (BW '98 page 33)

This is not correct and it is not descriptive of attachment parenting.
a). Crying is not the primary signal for food; crying is a late signal for hunger.
In other words, after the baby has been hinting - after the baby has been rooting and smacking his lips and getting restless, after the baby has been asking politely for several minutes, then baby becomes increasingly agitated - and the mother continues to ignore these signals, then comes the late signal: he cries. Nobody was paying attention to his distress until he cried.  Attachment mothers notice the early signals, and respond when the baby asks politely. That is why they cry less.

b) Ezzo does not understand that nursing is not just “food” for the baby. Formula may substitute for mother’s milk, but bottles do not substitute for mother’s body, her smell, her voice and her warmth and her taste, which changes from feed to fed unlike formula.
Attachment Parents recognize the baby needs a mother's presence as much he needs her milk. Her breast is a source of comfort and nurture and delight, - and this is biblical: "that you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breast; that you may drink deeply with delight from her glorious abundance...Her children will be nursed at her breasts, carried in her arms, and held on her lap. I will comfort you there in Jerusalem as a mother comforts her child."  ~ Isaiah 66:11-13

 4. Ezzo believes you can hurt a baby by picking him up too much (page141) and disapproves of the use of baby slings, even claiming this hinders the child's development. (page 34)

Attachment parents use a sling for many reasons.
a) It’s convenient, keeping the baby where you can see it, the cat can’t jump on it and the toddler can’t poke it. Mother doesn't need to keep going to check on the baby.
b) It's easier than a stroller in many situations (walking in rough terrain, at the beach, in the woods, etc.)
c) It keeps baby content. They are soothed and calm by mother's movements.
d) It benefits the baby's learning. When baby is at eye level,  he is able to see what his mother does  and how she does it, constantly watching and learning about the world he lives in. (How does this hinder development?)
e)  Lying alone in a crib or playpen hinders development! Carring actually enhances the baby's development in a variety of ways.
f) Moms quickly recognize changes in the baby’s movement that indicate things like hunger, sleepiness, and discomfort, and respond accordingly.
g) They are simply following the wisdom of their ancestors and sisters and around the world.  ( .)

Ezzo mentions the women “in some third-world nations and primitive settings, [carrying] their babies in an infant sling as they move through their day. Their actions are not based on a need to create an attachment with their child nor spurred on by Freud’s writing. For these mothers it is simply a matter of convenience and safety.” (page189)
Attachment parents agree. They do not use a sling to 'create attachment' or because they care about Freud's writing. It's convenient and safer than leaving your baby alone, whether you're in a primitive world or not.

5. Ezzo claims babies raised by Attachment Parents are insecure.

Ezzo says, “A baby’s security is tied to his or her developing relationships with mom and dad, not simply the proximity of mom. The child who is physically attached to mom through baby slings and shared sleep is not necessarily experiencing relational attachment. That statement is easily proven. Just remove the child from mom at any point and observe how secure he or she appears. It’s disheartening for a parent to see and hear her own child in a state of hysteria under the stress of independence.”  (pg 139-140)

a) Why is he using ‘the stress of independence’ to prove ‘relational attachment?’ Doesn't a child's stress upon being removed from mother PROVE his attachment to her? Or does Ezzo think indifference to his mother's absence proves attachment?
b) How does the Babywised child's indifference to his parents' absence show more of a 'developing relationship' than the child who appears distressed? Isn't indifference indicative of a weaker relationship?
c) Is your goal to rear children who are attached to their loved ones or indifferent to them?

d) How you can have a good developing relationship with mom and dad without proximity?

e) Why would he think a small child - who is incapable of getting his own food or keeping himself warm - shouldn't be upset when left alone?

 f) I would remind the reader how disheartening it is for a parent to see and hear her own child in a state of hysteria when he needs to sleep away from home.
 What Ezzo doesn't realize is that having a baby who doesn’t require his own crib, has advantages.
 Ezzo says, “Try placing an “attached” baby in his own crib and in all probability there will be a great deal of crying” (Babywise ’98 pg. 139)
Of course! The baby would cry because he is not accustomed to being left there.
Try taking the PDF child camping and in all probability there will be a great deal of crying because baby isn't in his own bed. Meanwhile, the AP’d baby will fall asleep and stay asleep anywhere. His security is not in his furniture, but in the proximity of those who love and care for him.

 6. Ezzo claims that frequent nursing is so exhausting that many mothers quit prematurely, and that PDF moms are better rested. 

Actually, studies show that nursing mothers get the most sleep.

Frequent nursing assures more than just milk supply; it also increases maternal hormones in the mother - hormones designed to make her feel loving, calm, and motherly, delighting in her baby. These hormones increase every time she breastfeeds. Wouldn't you want a child's mother to feel more loving, more nurturing, more calm? Far from the “mutual discontentment” (pg.44) he predicts when a mother feeds on demand, the mother who nurses more often is happier and more content
The more she nurses, the less she cares how much she nurses!

This is a gift from God, ensuring we find joy and contentment in caring for our babies so we don’t leave them outside for the buzzards!
Ezzo is correct in saying the AP baby will in all likelihood continue to waken at night longer than the PDF child. However, what Ezzo doesn't know is that night waking is not nearly the same problem for Attachment Parents as it is for the PDF mom:

 Since the AP mother believes in sleeping with or near baby, this means
  • She doesn’t have to go to the baby’s room and sit in a chair for those feedings, but can tuck the baby in bed with her, warm and sleeping while baby nurses.
  • Studies have shown that when you sleep close to your baby you share the same sleep cycles. This means:
1) Nursing mothers enter light sleep cycles with their babies, becoming aware of the baby's waking movements. They are not being woken out of a deep sleep by a crying child. Many mothers report that they can sleep through a thunderstorm yet are aware of slight changes in the baby’s breathing.

2). Mother will slip back into that rejuvenating, deep REM sleep as quickly as her baby does.

  • Fathers are rarely aware that the baby even wakes.
  • You can sleep in later when you co-sleep. (My firstborn would happily keep nursing on and off and I could stay in bed till 10.)
On the Preparation for Parenthood tapes the female speaker mentions - with a tone of disgust - that the AP moms joke about still being woken at night with an EIGHT month old. My response: that’s right, they JOKE about it! It’s not a big deal!

7. Ezzo claims the AP mother isn't able to make good decisions about her child's needs.

 “By blocking the cry, mother loses confidence in her own decision-making. She also misses out on assessing the child’s real need. While she may be meeting a secondary cue, she probably is missing her baby’s primary cues.” (Pg 139)
"Blocking" something means to hinder or obstruct it. AP's are not hindering the baby's communication, they are learning baby's language, interpreting it and acting accordingly.
 The AP'd baby doesn't cry much because he doesn't need to. Mother doesn't wait for the distress call, she already knows what baby wants. This is the essence of the “attachment” in attachment parenting. There is a level of communication and understanding such that the baby doesn't have to resort to crying to be "heard."

 8. Ezzo  claims breastfeeding works better on a PDF schedule. 

PDF involves making the baby wait for feedings, using a pacifier if necessary, and include keeping the baby in his own room.  Ezzo discourages the use of a baby monitor (page 187), so the baby's early signals won't be heard, only the distressed baby's cries.
A study on five hospital practices from the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative showed that women who used pacifiers, delayed the first feed, gave formula, did not breastfeed on demand, and did not room in, were eight times less likely to be breastfeeding at two months than women who experienced none of these practices.

 9. Ezzo claims most AP'd babies are fussy.  

"Because of the lack of order associated with the attachment-parenting methodology, the one statement attachment mothers do not hear is: "My, what a good natured baby you have!" PFP page 49

That is simply not true, and the first lie I saw when I looked at a copy of Babywise. As a member of  La Leche League for many years, I often heard moms comment on how frequently they were complimented on our delightful, happy babies. We felt sorry for all the moms who had put their babies on feeding schedules and didn't know how liberating it was to nurse freely on baby's request. At LLL Conferences where there would be hundreds of babies in attendance, only rarely did you hear one crying.

10.  Ezzo claimed babies are born in a state of metabolic chaos.

He says the parent’s job is to stabilize their hunger metabolism the PDF. 
Medically defined as a severe disturbance in amino acid chemistry, a result of chronic illness with multiple causes, metabolic chaos is NOT a normal condition of the newborn.


  1. Well meaning friends in my church insisted I read this book before the birth of my first child. I had ZERO experience with babies and had a terrible mother myself so I needed guidance. This book taught me not to listen to my baby's cues. It made me think I had to "battle him" for control, that he didn't know what he wanted and that he had to conform to what "the experts" said was best for him. The result is that my son and I never truly bonded. I rigidly stuck to the schedule outlined in this book to the detriment of my relationship with my baby. It is possibly the biggest regret of my life. Nine years and two more kids later, I can still see the effects of how the principles of this book traumatized my bond with my first child. The guilt I feel, doesn't go away. I now tell everyone I know who is expecting NOT to read this book. Thank you for writing this post.

  2. I don't even understand why someone like this author (Ezzo) can be so self-righteous as to think his method is the only one that is approved by God.

    When I had my first baby, I felt so overwhelmed. I had never heard of 'attachment parenting' or any other 'methods'. I realized that God would know best on how to care for my child, so I decided to trust the instincts that He gave me. Shortly before my baby was born, we had a cat give birth to a litter of kittens. I noticed that she, too, answered her babies' cries immediately. No one interfered with her mothering ability and those kittens grew up well. I followed my instincts and answered my baby's cries as quickly as possible, watched for signs of hunger early and kept her close. Not only did I do this for her, but for my next nine children. Only after the birth of my tenth child did I find out the method of following the instincts that God gave me was called "Attachment Parenting".

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  5. I know his mother, and I know and respect the reasoning behind her parenting decisions and their family values. I know, too, that she feels guilty at times over values, wants, and double stroller

  6. Very well articulated. This article is certainly worth bookmarking to share with those “well meaning” Christians who hold Ezzo up as some baby raising god.

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