Time magazine cover suggests attachment parenting has gone too far

Time magazine’s latest cover photo has created quite a buzz: A super-trim, blonde 26-year-old mother standing in skinny jeans and a tank top, hand on hip, chest thrust out with an exposed breast—affixed to which is the mouth of her 3-year-old son, who’s standing on a stool to reach it. The magazine is marking the 20-year anniversary of “attachment parenting”, a phrase coined by Dr. Bill Sears and his wife Martha in The Baby Book, a best-seller that came out in 1992.

Attachment parenting advocates for keeping your baby as close to your body as possible—at pretty much all times. Parents are supposed to wear their babies in slings, instead of pushing them in strollers. Mothers breastfeed their toddlers, some through nursery school. And parents co-sleep with their kids in the same room, with babies in attached bassinets and older kids in the bed.

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“The essence of attachment parenting is about forming and nurturing strong connections between parents and their children,” reads the website of Attachment Parenting International. “It is to raise children who will become adults with a highly developed capacity for empathy and connection. It eliminates violence as a means for raising children, and ultimately helps to prevent violence in society as a whole.”

I’m curious, though, whether that’s been validated in research studies. A quick Medline search of the term “attachment parenting” yielded many studies showing that kids who don’t form strong attachments to their parents are worse off than those who do, but none that I saw that actually tested the precepts of attachment parenting like co-sleeping and prolonged breastfeeding.

Sears claims on his website that the latest research reveals that infants’ brains are “hardwired with strong needs to be nurtured and to remain physically close to the primary caregiver, usually the mother, during the first few years of life.”

That’s most likely true, but does that mean mothers need to give up their professional lives for several years to keep baby close to them at all times? Also, what happens to a couple’s sex life when baby makes three in bed? And where’s the fine line between being an attached parent and becoming one of those nuisance helicopter parents that kids try to escape by heading across country to college?

I’d like to know what you think of Time’s cover and attachment parenting in general.