Katie Allison Granju and Betsy Babb Kennedy, RN, MSN
Question: How do I deal with family members who are not supportive of my decision to parent according to the AP philosophy?
Answer:The most obvious answer to this question is to politely but firmly tell the intrusive family members that you appreciate their concern but that you and your partner have given your parenting style considerable thought and are raising your children in the way that is most appropriate for your family. Another possible response is to explain that your pediatrician has endorsed your parenting style, and then just leave it at that. Don't allow yourself to be sucked into discussions you don't feel like having over and over. Make it clear through your tone and body language that, as far as you are concerned, the matter is closed. Then go about the business of responsively meeting your children's needs.
Not always easy
Of course, the obvious answer is not always the easiest answer. Parents or others may not accept your response and keep pestering you. If at that point you choose to continue to spend time with them, you may need to learn how to mentally "turn them off" when they start talking about parenting issues. It's helpful to give some thought to why so many people seem almost offended by the sight of a parent nurturing her baby or young child in an attached style. In many cases it is because the critic in question either didn't receive enough loving touch from his own childhood and still carries the scars, *or* the person feels guilty about the way they parented their own children when they see someone doing things -- such as breastfeeding or co-sleeping -- that they wish they had done. Your own parenting may feel threatening to them -- as if you are passing judgment. Although understanding the reasons that may underlie criticism for attachment parenting won't silence your family members, it may give you some insight so that, when they bring the subject up yet again, you understand where they are coming from.
If you feel that your family members have any openness to learning new things, and you feel confident enough in your own parenting to engage in a dialog with them, you might try showing them copies of your favorite attachment parenting books and articles. Seeing the widespread medical, scientific, and parental support for attachment parenting practices may begin the process of changing their minds. Lastly, be sure that you get some support from other parents who agree with your choices and parenting style.
The best places for this are at local La Leche League meetings (which is a great place to meet new friends with babies and young children of all ages) or on one of the many attachment parenting chatrooms, mailing lists or forums (like this one!) on the Internet.