Saturday, January 5, 2013

Book review: Beyond the Sling by Mayim Bialik

"You already know the majority of what you need to know to be an incredible parent."
 ~Mayim Bialik

When I heard that Mayim Biaik wrote a book about attachment parenting I couldn't help but wonder what she had to say.  She is best known for her roles as Blossom Russo on the 90’s TV show Blossom and Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory - Love that show! Love her on that show! She is great! It’s great! Love it, love it!

After receiving her PhD she decided to go back to acting instead of perusing a career in academics in order to be able to spend as much time with her children as possible.  She believes, as I do, that no one can meet her children’s needs the way their parents can.  No one can or cares to understand their needs the way Momma does.  No one can make her children feel as safe and secure as their parents do. 

Attachment parenting is a parenting philosophy that emphasizes creating a healthy strong attachment between baby and parent especially in the first couple years of life by breastfeeding on que, baby wearing and co-sleeping and other techniques. The theory is that it is this early healthy attachment that lays the groundwork for raising independent confident adults.

Despite my curiosity I hesitated to read this.  Seems like whenever I read a parenting book, especially an attachment parenting book, it just makes me feel like less of a Mom, like I’m not doing enough.  That probably says more about me and my insecurities than anything else, but there it is, that’s how I feel.  I try to avoid reading material that makes me feel bad about myself. 

I was really curious about this book though, so I picked it up at the library and decided to just read the first chapter and get a feel for her style.  If I felt I was being preached at or judged in some way I would just take the book back and forget about it.

In the first chapter she introduces the idea that we know intuitively how to raise our children.  We know how to provide for their needs the best.  We know how to support them in their development if we just tune in to them and ourselves. This is all instinct. It is part of how we evolved. It’s a hormonal response to care for your children and we do not need to be taught.  No one else can possibly know what’s right for you or your children better than you. 

So far so good. So I kept reading.

The book is divided into two main sections, what baby needs; smooth birth, breastfeeding, to be held and touched/babywearing, co-sleeping, and introducing the potty through elimination communication. What baby does not need; stuff, medical intervention, pressure and punishment.

I found it really interesting to hear about her very unconventional but inspiring parenting decisions she has made for her family.  She is very careful to state that these are the parenting choices that work for her and her family and that by no means would this lifestyle work for everyone.  She is very clear in her belief that every family needs to do what is right for them.  That there is no one right way for everyone to parent.  That her way is not necessarily the best way, just the best way for her family.

I truly enjoyed the read.  I found the tone of the book conversational and not at all preachy.  The topics covered were interesting and although the overall concepts of attachment parenting are not new to me I did gain a different understanding as to why and how someone might make the decisions she has. 

Never once was I put off.  Never once did I feel she was judgmental of other parenting styles.  Never once did I find myself feeling defensive. This is really saying a lot considering what a personal and heated topic parenthood can be.   

From the chapter on breastfeeding I learned about all sorts of interesting uses for breast milk.  Breast milk is naturally lubricating and anti-bacterial.  After reading this I started using the handexpression technique listed in the resources to start applying breast milk to my sons eczema several times daily.

I have been so reluctant to use a steroid cream or even lotion on my tiny little baby even though his skin has been pretty bad this winter. Everything you put on your skin is absorbed into the bloodstream, everything! So I was happy to give breast milk a try. And it worked! His skin has really cleared up!  I can’t tell you how amazing this is to me!

I was particularly inspired by her chapters on letting kids be kids and gentle punishment.  Her thoughts were lovely and gentle.  Truly heartfelt and considerate of a young child’s needs.  She gave me a new perspective on forcing kids to share and pushing them to say please and thank you.  I love the idea of modeling these positive behaviors and helping kids to see it in action.

Probably my biggest take away was about elimination communication.  I am totally in awe of her experiences with her children.  I had heard of this practice before but it seemed to extreme and just unrealistic but reading about her experiences with her boys makes me want to look into it further.  Something about the way she presents it just made it seem so reasonable.    I've been doing some more reading on the topic, I will have to let you know more as I explore the possibility.

The resources at the back of the book are a true gold mine.  Good references to all sorts of interesting books, movies and website to learn more on the topics covered. I have found all sorts of great stuff back there including the link to the hand expression technique I have been using to slather my baby boy with breast milk every day.

Honestly how much you enjoy this book might have a little something to do with how much you tend to lean toward the attachment parenting model yourself.  I don’t want to say it wouldn't be a good read if your parenting philosophy is very different, but you will surely have a different reaction to the book.

If you are curious about what attachment parenting is all about or how it really works in real life this book certainly will give you an idea.  If these concepts are completely foreign to you and your parenting style you are likely to still find some value. It might all seem a bit extreme but still thought provoking.

 I found the book interesting, insightful and sincere.  I truly enjoyed every page.

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