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The Case Against Dr. Sears

April 13, 2009

It’s hard to ignore Dr. Sears. His son’s book, The Vaccine Book is very popular and discussed in my circle of parents. He has a wide presence on the internet. He has created the entire movement of attachment parenting. His beliefs have encouraged the use of “wearing your baby”, a popular practice that I personally love. Soho Parenting (Jean and Lisa), Experts on this blog, see the influence of Dr. Sears’s philosophy of attachment parenting has on their clients. These mothers are exhausted, overwhelmed and feel guilty for wanting some time to themselves. A recent article in The Atlantic, challenges our society’s current push for exclusively breast feeding. Jean and Lisa ask, is it really about the pressure to breastfeed or the pressure to be with your child 24 hours a day?

Is it the “Case Against Breastfeeding” or the Case Against Dr. Sears?

by Jean Kunhardt and Lisa Spiegel of Soho Parenting

The Case Against Breast Feeding by Hanna Rosin appears in the April issue of The Atlantic. The title is sensationalist. The content of the article addresses inconsistent findings in medical literature about the superiority of breast feeding, the snobbery of the 21st century perfectionist supermom, and the possibility that the pressure to nurse is a new form of prison for women. All interesting. In our previous post on breast feeding we addressed some of these same issues. Judith Warner, of the New York Times reacts to Rosin’s article with admiration and the anticipation of reprisal. While she applauds Rosin’s challenge to present day pressure on women to exclusively beastfeed, she fears the backlash. “I am sure that … the Dr. William Sears-inspired attachment parenting crowd will soon assail {Rosin} in the blogosphere.”

We are struck that both Rosin and Warner still look to Dr. Sears and his disciples for affirmation. We were hoping we were about done with Dr. Sears and “attachment parenting”. I can’t count the number of mothers who have come to Soho Parenting with “Post-Traumatic Sears Disorder.” Here are the symptoms: debilitating guilt, exhaustion, crying outbursts, marital conflict and a baby who cannot sit or play independently for more than two minutes. Of course, that could describe any new mother, but the followers of Sears have a special brand of this overwhelmed state. They have drunk the Sears Kool-Aid that 24/7 nursing, holding, “bonding” with your baby is the only way to secure the mother baby attachment. They come for guidance when their babies are 6, 9, 12 months, feeling like complete failures. They just can’t manage what Dr. Sears’s wife, Martha Sears has purportedly done with her 11 children.

The detox program we offer is simple. Feed your baby during the day when she should be eating. Have them sleep from a nice early bedtime until morning. Honor your babies need for comfort, connection and love as well as for solitude and their capacity to use and develop their own resources.

Jean Kunhardt, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, has graduate degrees in Early Childhood and Special Education from Bank Street College. In addition to leading parenting groups, she specializes in children’s sleep as well as working with couples and adults using a mind-body approach to psychotherapy. She and her sister, Sandra K. Baslie, are the granddaughters of Dorothy Kunhardt, creator of the beloved children’s book, Pat the Bunny. She is the proud mother of high school and college-aged children.
Lisa Spiegel has a Master’s in degree in developmental psychology from Columbia University and is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. From her two decades of work with adults and children, she has developed an approach that draws on an eclectic range of disciplines, including psychotherapy, hypnosis, meditation, yoga, and EMDR. She also specializes in children’s sleep issues, as well as marriage counseling. She enjoys spending time with her high school and college age daughters.

For more than two decades Soho Parenting has offered realistic, insightful and practical guidance to strengthen parents and help create close and communicative families.

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