Is Attachment Parenting ‘Anti-Libertarian?’

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In a misguided, ill-informed article Kennedy tells readers "Why I Mock u2018Attachment Parenting' and the Kids it Produces: or, the case for libertarian parenting."

Kennedy's main problem with attachment parents seems to be the way they feed their kids. Which is strange because attachment parenting doesn't have much to say about how one should feed one's kids beyond encouraging breastfeeding and "feeding with love and respect." It certainly doesn't require one to be gluten free or vegan. And there are plenty of non-parents and plenty of libertarians who don't want to eat the food poisoned by the taxpayer subsidized monopolist Monsanto company.

I'm not even sure what to say about Kennedy's mean-spirited mocking of potentially fatal food allergies. Perhaps if one doesn't want to deal with a nut-free policy, which may be necessary to save the life of someone else's child, one could, in the spirit of libertarianism, choose a different school (preferably one that isn't funded by the federal government).

Food preference seems and odd place for an alleged libertarian to spend the bulk of her criticism of a parenting philosophy.

Kennedy isn't really attacking attachment parenting anyway. She's just ascribed the label to any style of parenting she happens to find personally annoying. An examination of the principles of attachment parenting reveals that attachment parenting can be very attractive to those professing a libertarian point of view.

There are varying definitions of attachment parenting, but for the sake of this article, I'll use the 7 Baby B's put forth by Dr. William Sears, the man who is credited with coining the term "attachment parenting."

  1. Birth Bonding. The ideal is a non-medicated birth with no separation of the mother and baby. At first blush I don't see this as an important political marker, but it can be noted that this style of birth is not the norm in US hospitals. To obtain this ideal, many parents must fight for the right to birth their way. Some opt to birth at home in order to avoid bureaucratic interference in their birth choices. A few even become vocal advocates for more freedom regarding where and with whom a woman gives birth. Commies!
  2. Breastfeeding. Mothers are encouraged to breastfeed their infants if they are able. They are not forced to breastfeed. There is no attachment parenting Gestapo. But it's encouraged. As a benefit, each mother who avoids buying formula lessens her contribution to the heavily subsidized corn and soy industries.
  3. Babywearing. This means carrying your baby in some sort of contraption that attaches the bundle of joy to your body. It promotes, among other things, freedom of movement for the parent. Ever tried to climb a mountain with a baby stroller?
  4. Bedding close to baby. While Kennedy spent a fair amount of her time criticizing this practice, I'm not sure how, exactly, it is anti-libertarian. Her main argument seems to be that with a baby nearby, the parents can't enjoy "the acts which brought their babies into being." Strangely though, many attachment parents do manage to have more than one child.
  5. Belief in the language value of your baby's cry. Basically, attachment parents believe (and research supports) that when a baby cries he's trying to communicate and a parent should try to figure out what his message is. Furthermore, by responding appropriately and sensitively to that message, a parent can help the baby develop successful communication skills. Attachment parents don't believe that all babies should be on the same four-hour feeding schedule. They don't believe that all babies have the same sleep needs. They don't believe in any one-size-fits-all approach to parenting. They believe that each baby is an individual and deserves to be listened to and responded to as an individual. Ironically, Kennedy argues that treating one's baby as a unique individual makes one a communist.
  6. Beware of baby trainers. Again, this is about eschewing any rigid system of parenting that ignores a family's or a child's unique needs. Attachment parenting is about trusting one's gut and listening to one's child. It's not about obeying commands from on high. While some parents can become dogmatic about the principles of attachment parenting, most recognize the necessity of rational thinking and balance. Which brings me to . . .
  7. Balance. The idea here is recognizing that while your baby is an individual with rights, so are you. You don't have neglect yourself to care for your baby.

That's it. That's the 7 Baby B's spelled out by attachment parenting expert, Dr. William Sears. There's one more tenet that many attachment parents adhere to once their babies are no longer babies, and that's Gentle Discipline. There have been thousands of pages written on exactly what this means, but to summarize briefly it means that a parent does not have the right to coerce a child through intimidation or violence. Now, good libertarians can disagree over whether the principles that guide interactions between adults and the state must also guide the relationships within a private family of adults and children. But non-coercion and non-violence are hardly anti-libertarian ideals.

I'm sure that libertarian parents subscribe to a wide range of parenting philosophies. Unless you're sending your newborn off to be raised in a state-run orphanage, I'm not sure your parenting choices can be said to be anti-libertarian. I would, however, argue that the principles of attachment parenting dovetail nicely with those of libertarianism.

Jessica McMaken [send her mail] has worked as an education policy writer, an early-childhood special educator, and has been an education consultant and parent educator since 2007. She has a master’s degree in education from the University of Colorado.

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