Attachment parenting is an increasingly popular style of childrearing that emphasises ‘natural’ activities such as extended breastfeeding, bedsharing and babywearing. Such parenting activities are framed as the key to addressing a variety of social ills. Parents’ choices are thus made deeply significant with the potential to guarantee the well-being of future societies.
Examining black mothers’ engagements with attachment parenting, Hamilton shows the limitations of this neoliberal approach. Unique in its intersectional analysis of contemporary mothering ideologies, this outstanding book fills a gap in the literature on parenting culture studies, drawing on black feminist theorizing to analyse intensive mothering practices and policies.
Black Mothers and Attachment Parenting is shortlisted for the 2021 BSA Philip Abrams Memorial Prize.
In this Open Space piece, my aim is to meditate on the current moment, to draw connections between relationality and black feminist theory and to harness the strategies and tools they might offer; a praxis for living and being in the world as well as changing it. In particular, I will use my project, an intersectional examination of parental leave in the UK, as a lens through which to discover what intellectual and methodological possibilities a relational approach might offer, especially as I carry out research in a post-COVID-19 world, a world in which black lives appear to matter.
This chapter introduces the attachment parenting (AP) phenomenon from the perspectives of black mothers. It reviews insights that the narratives of black mothers offer about the contemporary and particular experience of motherhood. It also analyzes AP journeys from the extreme practice of privileged white hippies to an increasingly accepted and influential dogma in the policies of the state and medical professionals. The chapter talks about the disruption of dominant construction of good mothering as the province of only white, middle-class women through the engagements of black mothers. It documents the diverse ways black women use AP to assert themselves as good mothers.
This chapter examines contemporary political contexts that focuses on how attachment parenting (AP) matches with neoliberal politics and emphasizes the notion that society is ‘post’ race. It highlights both the specificities and similarities in Britain and Canada as they have similarly sized black populations and comparable histories of migration. It also offers unique and underexplored insights about contemporary blackness and motherhood in the two countries. The chapter looks at interviews with women and their shared characteristics that inform the analysis of their experiences. It describes scientific motherhood as the idea that mothering should be guided by scientific supervision and principles.
This chapter recounts how attachment parenting (AP) has grown in popularity and has inspired a host of media and public attention since it was first named in the late 1980s. It refers to the establishment of organisations, like the Attachment Parenting International, that reflect the global expansion of the philosophy’s reach, with forums and support groups in locations such as Brazil, Norway, and Turkey. It also cites the increased interest in AP as part of a broader intensification of parenting that is captured in the ideology of intensive mothering. The chapter addresses why AP has emerged at this particular socioeconomic moment, linking AP’s heightened popularity to the dominance of neoliberalism in Britain and Canada. It explains how neoliberalism is inextricably tied to motherhood and understood as essential to the production of good citizens.
This chapter begins with an analysis of the slogan ‘breast is best’, which is considered a universal refrain that captures state and public attitudes towards breastfeeding. It looks at the interviews with women that expressed broad support for breastfeeding in varying degrees of individual success and described it as the normative practice of the good mother. It also examines the support for breastfeeding and the tensions it creates for women as they invoke the language of nature to justify its superiority, account for breastfeeding failures, and risk breastfeeding for too long. The chapter explores women’s experiences of breastfeeding as evidence of the diversity of socioeconomic circumstances. It expands the predominant thinking around black women’s breastfeeding experiences beyond claims that they reject breastfeeding for its risky proximity to nature.
This chapter focuses on sleep as a universal and widely debated topic for parents and parenting experts. It talks about the where, when, and how of infant sleep that motivates public awareness campaigns, forum discussions, scholarly research, and parenting literature as each offers different solutions to the problem of managing babies’ sleep. It also mentions the danger associated with the sleeping habit of babies, specifically the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The chapter mentions Back to Sleep as the most famous anti-SIDS campaigns in the mid-1990s, which advised parents to put babies to sleep on their backs. It examines bedsharing as the attachment parenting’s solution to the problem of sleep, which is defined as a baby and its caregiver sharing an adult bed.
This chapter describes babywearing as the most mainstream and uncontroversial among the techniques of breastfeeding and bedsharing, which are the most associated with attachment parenting (AP). It explains babywearing as an inoffensively visible marker of the values of bonding and attachment that is unquestioningly accepted in contemporary parenting cultures. It also discusses how the acceptance of babywearing is used in AP as a transition from the fringe parenting style to the normative approach to raising children. The chapter highlights the appearance of babywearing in state-produced parenting advice and in the experiences and ideas of black mothers. It looks at the narratives of women that draw attention to the dangers of babywearing, both in terms of physical safety and cultural relevance.
This chapter elaborates on how attachment parenting (AP) presupposes and reinforces women’s biological responsibility for the work of childrearing. It discusses AP’s notion that cis women are the only possible and appropriate parents and idealizes a biological relationship between mother and child. It also talks about AP’s particular identification of mothers’ bodies as a site through which good parenting may be enacted. The chapter delves into parental leave as the most prominent among gendered beliefs about appropriate caregivers, which are shaped by policies and legislation that govern the experience of childrearing. It deliberates how AP aligns with the underlying message of parental leave legislation that stresses the importance of the early years of an infant’s life and that mothers are uniquely suited to perform such care.
This chapter focuses on the effort to balance work and family as one of the defining features of contemporary parenthood. It discusses the conflict between staying at home or working outside for women, which has been captured in the prevailing mommy wars discourse. It also explores the discourse about women’s recent entrance into the paid workforce, which has revealed a variety of unresolved obstacles that must be overcome in order for women to meet both the economic responsibilities as good citizens and the requirements of raising good citizens. The chapter recounts how black women have been socially positioned as workers and forced to balance work and motherhood for generations, from slavery through colonialism and into the postwar period. It focuses on the narratives of two black mothers living in Canada, where one chooses to stay at home while the other opts to return to work.