I think the zeitgeist may have just crested the wave of all-absorbing parenting, turning over to something more sanely balanced. I hope so, anyway. In January, Jill Lepore wrote in the New Yorker a great history of the breast pump, concluding that breast-pumps get promoted while the harder policies of flexible work and decent parental leave get ignored. Then this week, Judith Warner wrote in the New York Times the “heresy” that breast-pumps are over-rated, and a little formula once in a while will liberate mom without destroying baby. Hanna Rosin upped the ante, writing in The Atlantic The Case Against Breastfeeding.
Maybe that’s not a trend; maybe it’s just seeming like a trend because my facebook friends keep forwarding it.
But I for one am happy to see the general parenting-trend swing away from the obsessive, guilt-inducing, mother’s-needs-ignoring tenets of attachment parenting. Attachment parenting is a philosophy that seems liberal (always go to your child when she cries) but ends up being conservative (women should ignore their own needs for the sake of their children).
These recent articles are about breast-feeding and breast-pumping, which is just one part of attachment parenting, but to me the reasoning in the articles leads to questioning much of the overly-baby-focussed, mom-ignoring recent trends, in which mothers assume their babies need constant stimulation and support, when actually babies sometimes need to be left alone. I don’t want to be misunderstood: I love my baby sling, but I also refuse to judge others who don’t love theirs, and I am trying to reject the guilt and pressure that gets piled on to motherhood.
Breastfeeding may increase a baby’s i.q. by a few nonconsequential points. It may do nothing. It certainly keeps moms physically tied to their baby’s sides, keeps parenting from being shared equally between mothers and fathers (especially at night, at least in our household), and keeps a few moms who can’t breastfeed feeling like failures.
I enjoyed breastfeeding, but we gave Sophie other foods at 4 months instead of the recommended 6 (she was just so hungry, and pumping was so hard, and honestly we didn’t realize that 6 months of exclusive breastmilk even is the recommendations). Then I stopped pumping around 12 months, even though I have only today stopped breastfeeding, at 23 months. (I’ll let you know how the weaning goes in another post. )
I’m no model for sane and balanced parenting. But I’m trying to be a good parent while still being good to myself — so I welcome the recent feminist articles about not pressuring every mother to do any one thing.
Next on my reading list: Amy Richard’s Opting In: Having a Child without Losing Yourself. As soon as I decide what else to fill up my amazon.com cart with in order to qualify for free shipping.