Monday, April 30, 2012

Review: Mayim Bialik's Beyond the Sling

As promised, I started Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way by Blossom and  Big Bang Theory's beloved Mayim Bialik (she's got her Ph D. in neuroscience now, if you haven't heard, the woman is SMART!).

Anywhoo, Bialik is a self-proclaimed "green" and "granola" mama. So I knew what I was getting into when I picked up her book. I say this because, I'm typically an "eye-roller" when is comes to the Granolas. I am the opposite of a Granola, at least by most measures of the term. I had a scheduled c-section, I breastfed until my lady bits just couldn't take it anymore--and couldn't establish a supply (read stopped for my convenience), fed organic baby food until we just couldn't afford it anymore (WIC only provided non-organic for us while my DH was unemployed), we eat a standard American diet including beef, I use disposable diapers, and my son plays with gasp, PLASTIC toys--some of which are even from China, double gasp
Image from

But, after reading Bialik's book, she (almost) has me as an "Attachment Parenting (AP)" convert, at least I feel a little more "crunchy" after some shifting of my thoughts on certain topics. What is attachment parenting? From what I glean from Bialik's book, attachment parenting is a form of parenting naturally, where you use your primal instincts to raise your child, providing the ideal attachment to the mother, and sense of security for the child. Some of the things that AP parents practice are:
  • "Natural, drug-free birth
  • Breastfeeding
  • Sensitivity to your children and their needs
  • Bonding through touch
  • Co-sleeping
  • Be an available parent
  • Positive discipline, i.e. no spanking or other forms if corporal punishment
  • Balance of the child's needs and your own" (Beyond the Sling, p.10)
Bialik goes on to back up all of these practices with scientific evidence from reputable sources like the AAP.  But all of the beliefs are rooted in the fact that these are all practices that our "cave people" ancestors did, and most Non-Western communities still do as the norm.

Her argument for natural childbirth, and VBAC (vaginal birth after Cesarean) has me really considering establishing a natural birth plan for when I have my next child. And her honest approach to breast feeding and her tips for establishing breast feeding support, have given me the power to actually WANT to breastfeed, where as before, I viewed it as an obligation to my baby.

With my next child, I also hopeful to be an avid "babywearer". My son, was diagnosed with colic, but it is evident to me in hind-sight that he was just a "high-needs" baby
\ that wanted to be held a lot. I was of the school of thought that you can hold a baby too much, and that the only way to establish independence is to put them down. Bialik's emphasis on a baby's "wants are their needs" for at least their first year of life, really changed my mind on this. I truly believe that if I just would have worn my son, and kept him close, that he would not have been such a screamer and I wouldn't have ended up with post-partum depression.

I also endorse Bialik's take on buying limited amounts of "baby-stuff", and staying away from "unnecessary medical intervention". However, there are some portions of her book that I disagree with.

For starters, Bialik does not let her children watch TV or movies. The book seems to illustrate that her main reasoning for this is because it encourages consumerism in children. I.e. they see Dora on T.V., so they are going to want the Dora doll at the store. Though the AAP doesn't approve of limited T.V. watching until after age 2, my son has been "watching" T.V. since about 3 months. I view the T.V. as a learning tool. My son ONLY watches educational television, with no commercials, with one exception. Disney movies, specifically Cars. It was evident in my son's ability to sign around 9 months that the Baby Signing Time DVDs encouraged his signing. It is also evident in his ability to count to 10 and name all of the letters of the alphabet before the age of two, that watching shows like Team UmiZoomi and SuperWhy are encouraging his alphanumeric skills. Does he point out all of the stuff in the store that has Lightening McQueen and Dora on it? Sure he does, but do I buy all of it for him? No. Because that is part of effective parenting too, that is, teaching kids that they can't always get what they want.

I'm also not totally on board with Bialik's takes on pressure and discipline. 

Overall, Bialik's Beyond the Sling is a great book, and well argued. It really got me, a not so crunchy mama, thinking, and provided me with a very well-reasoned, and honest approach to this alternative way of parenting. To be honest, I couldn't put the book down, in part because I find this style of parenting so fascinating (Bialik's second son being "potty-trained from birth" and the topic of Elimination Communication was a jaw dropper.), and because I now wish that I could parent in such a fashion (I think I would have to develop a WHOLE new idea of patience). Overall, I give this book 5 out of 5 stars for it's honest, real-life application and it's ability to open my eyes, and leave my judgement behind. 

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