I could tell from the dad’s voice that he was at the end of his tether. He hadn't slept in eight months and was utterly spent, all the time. He would fall asleep at his desk or neglect his work. He and his wife always fought and they hadn’t had sex in nearly five months. “What can I do?” he begged me.
I have been a nanny and parenting consultant all of my professional life. Often friends of the families I work for will ask me for advice. The dad on the phone was the friend of a former employer. After asking him a few questions, I knew immediately what the problem was.
The dad and his wife had decided to try “attachment parenting” with their newborn son. That meant they slept in bed with their son every night, fed him milk every time he cried, and carried him everywhere they went in a baby sling. Though the intentions behind the philosophy are wonderful—let's raise secure, attached, emotionally healthy children—attachment parenting is an unsustainable model. I am an absolute proponent of meeting a baby's needs—and especially to meeting every need as soon as you can in those first couple of fragile weeks. And some elements of attachment parenting—such as sleeping in the same room as a newborn (but not in the same bed), and baby-wearing when it's convenient—are great. But like so many trends that catch on through social media and word-of-mouth, it's gotten out of balance. And like many well-intentioned practices, when taken to an extreme, it loses all value.