Dr. Bill Sears has been a pediatrician for the past 40 years, and has, as he told me himself, attended over 1,000 births. “There’s no question to me who the stronger gender is,” he said with an earnest laugh. And it is precisely this strength, as perceived by Dr. Sears, that makes attachment parenting such an easy and natural choice for moms. And yes, he meant both working moms and SAHM alike.
Dr. Sears spoke to me over the phone as he waited in line at the airport on Monday afternoon. He was happy and eager to talk about the Time magazine controversy because, as I found out, he had mostly wonderful things to say about it. We started with the cover photo, naturally. Many MamaPop writers considered the image to be not so much offensive as it was just downright ridiculous. Women don’t even NURSE that way, for one, and, second, why are they LOOKING at us that way?
So, what did Dr. Sears think? Well, he agreed.
“I think the cover is certainly not what I would have chosen, nor something that the cover mother would have chosen. But looking at the big picture, looking at it three days later, I think it was a brilliant decision on the part of Time Magazine because it got readers’ attention. It was provocative. It was shock value, and that’s what sells magazines. It turned out to be one of Time‘s most successful covers ever. It got people to open up the magazine.”
Certainly, these are valid points, but did it do more harm than good? Dr. Sears seems to think that it is what you make of it. For instance, in wondering why the child’s face was unobstructed and whether the very staging of the act of nursing undermined its importance, Dr. Bill didn’t sound concerned. He knows Jamie Gruber, the mom who appeared on the cover, and spoke fondly of her, her husband, and the glowing social effects that attachment parenting had on their nearly-four year-old. The child exists in a supportive and loving environment, and as mother Jamie pointed out, she was breastfed until age 6 by her own mother. No oedipal complexes there!
So we delved a bit deeper into the piece, into the foundation of attachment parenting itself. His biggest concern of the article was the use of one word: extreme.
“Certainly I wouldn’t call attachment parenting extreme. Attachment parenting is far from extreme. It is a very natural, instinctual way of parenting which most moms do anyway, and they don’t think it’s extreme.”
Well, obviously the ones practicing attachment parenting wouldn’t find it extreme. Alicia Silverstone comes to mind, and I used her baby-bird feeding video as an example to clarify what I meant.
“Yeah, well, those things…I don’t even waste my time thinking about crazy [sic] Silverstein headlines. Those are so bizarre. If the media wouldn’t nourish those things, they wouldn’t get published.”
He then abruptly changed the topic so he could go back to defending attachment parenting as non-extreme. He may be slightly out of touch, but he is focused on his message.
“Attachment parenting is the oldest style of parenting in the world. If you go to South America, or Asia, or these other countries that have had a lot longer experience parenting than we have, and they say, What’s the big deal? The World Health Organization advises, for optimal health, breastfeed your baby until two years of age and beyond [his emphasis]. Because these organizations? They understand science. They understand that, the longer a mother breastfeeds, the more likely–no guarantee, of course….I was bottle fed, and my mother did the best she could–the more likely these babies are going to end up healthier, happier, and smarter.”
When I asked him why the American Pediatric Association recommends six months to a year, he brushed them off as being out of touch. “They’re always five years behind.”
So maybe he had some insight as to how attachment parenting has become a point of derision among mothers. I even threw the phrase MOMMY WARS in there, but Dr. Bill didn’t seem to bite. He heard me mention stay-at-home moms versus working mothers, and took that as his speaking point.
“Attachment parenting is even more important, more necessary, for a working mom. See, these are tools. These are tools; these are tools, not rules. They are tools that, on the basis of my forty years of study and experience, are investment tools. The tools you use to increase your investment into your child, and increase the likelihood of your child turning out with those three outcomes: healthy, happy, and smart. Now, does it mean you have to practice all the tools, all the time? No! Every parent chooses the tools that work for their situation and for their child. As a doctor, it’s up to us to get the parents those tools. How they use them, how often they use them, how long they use them–that’s up to the individual parent.”
But what about those critics that see attachment parenting as anti-feminist? It certainly puts several expectations upon the mother, and looks toward stereotypical “motherly instincts” to guide a woman in caring, incessantly, for her child.
Dr. Sears simply doesn’t see it that way.
“If I had to pick the most erroneous statement in the world I’ve ever heard, it’s that one. That is so wrong. That is so opposite. It’s actually the other way around. And here’s why: I get tons of letters from parents, and the two biggest words these mothers use are ‘validating’ and ‘empowering.’ Thank you Dr. Sears for validating my instinct. Thank you Dr. Bill for empowering me with tools to take charge of my baby and my parenting. I’ve been to over 1,000 births, and there’s no question to me who the stronger gender is.”
And then he references the article he praised at the beginning of the interview.
“The only thing that I thought was a low-blow in the Time article was the term ‘misogynyst.’ Most people missed that anyway, but I don’t even want to go there. I had to ask my wife what that meant, and she said, ‘You don’t wanna know.’”
We talked briefly about co-sleeping, and how there is no science to support the fact that co-sleeping increases the likelihood of SIDS. That there are instances of unsafe co-sleeping with underlying circumstances such as alcohol or drugs, that are used to perpetuate something that is simply untrue. He referenced a study by Dr. James McKenna, Chief of the Mother-Baby Sleep Laboratory at Notre Dame, which looked specifically at bed sharing. The finding there was that, with bed-sharing mothers and their babies, there became a mutual awareness. When something started happening with the baby’s breathing, the mother would wake up. Therefore, it’s actually “safer” for the mom to sleep with the baby, provided it’s being done safely.
And then we cut all the crap and just talked about boobs.
“Did you hear that Kroger pulled their issues of Time from the registers?” I asked him.
“Oh, I knew it. I would hope mothers are out there picketing Kroger. You know, why doesn’t Kroger take the magazines off that portray breasts to sell beer? And I hope you put that in. When stores start doing that, they forget: what is the purpose of the breast? It’s to nurture a child. It’s to nurture a human being. Magazines that portray breasts to sell beer and cars? That’s downgrading women. If I were a woman, I’d be out there picketing those magazines, not breastfeeding. I think they blew it, and I hope they get a huge backlash. I hope bloggers all over America get on that.”
And at about that point, my three year-old woke up from his nap and tried to spill water all over my laptop, so I thanked the good doctor and wished him a safe trip home.
My overall impression is that this man may be a tad out of touch with the modern woman, but he is a good person and by-and-large an advocate for women and their babies. And because of that, I’m passing on the torch, fellow bloggers. It’s time to get sassy with Kroger, ya’heard?TOP POSTS