Attachment Parenting and Depression

I've given a lot of thought to your question. I imagine you've asked Jason's and my input because you saw that we are therapists, and perhaps you can tell that we also practice attachment parenting.

I do not know of any articles or studies done that address the issue of attachment parenting and depression. I thought I would respond as both a mom who practices attachment parenting and as a professional whose focus has been child development and family psychology.

When I reflected on your question, I asked myself how come I'm not depressed? What are the components that I think are involved in an attachment parenting mom not getting depressed?

I think the key is support from one's partner. Real, concrete ACTIONS of support, not just philosophical support. An attachment parenting mom spends most, if not all, of her time GIVING. For moms who choose this style of parenting because it resonates with who they are, feels intuitively right to them, there is usually an enormous amount of joy and an incredible, unexpected expansion of the capacity to love and serve. One is transported, it seems, to a new way of being in the world. The glow, the radiance, the bliss that one sees on new moms' faces reflects, I believe, this new inner experience of complete and boundless love.

Then there is practical reality. If mom is holding the baby non-stop, nursing almost continuously, who is taking care of mom? That's where the partner or support person is crucial. For example, Jason makes breakfast for me almost every day. After a night of interrupted sleep, sleeping with a baby on top of me, I cannot tell you how much it means to me to feel nurtured by breakfast being made for me, served to me, and then the kitchen cleaned up afterwards. For the first six months, approximately, of our daughter's life, Jason also prepared lunch food for me before he went to work. The few times he didn't, I wasn't able to eat lunch that day because of Rachel's needs.

So I think that the partner's care of the mom is one very major anti-depressant in an attachment-parenting home.

I also think that some attachment-parenting moms might be getting hit with waves of emotions that they did not anticipate, and they might not know how to handle these feelings or resolve the issues. For some moms, new parenthood might not be all joy and bliss; they may be experiencing overwhelm, anxiety, fear, even grief at the loss of their old life. Or these kinds of feelings may be intermingled with the joy and feelings of profound love for their newborn.

Assistance for these kinds of feelings and issues is often not easily available. Very few people in our society, it seems, know how to deal with their own or another's painful feelings. And yet, identifying the feelings, expressing them to someone who is a safe, non-shaming listener, finding others who can validate the new mom's feelings -- is often vital to being able to move through the post-partum depression. Writing in a journal, meditating (if one is able despite sleep deprivation), learning that there are other moms who feel overwhelmed and depressed, too -- all can help.

This aspect of the "attachment parenting depression" may stem most from lack of emotional preparedness for the new job at hand -- is there any new mom who EVER knew ahead of time what it REALLY was like? And from lack of emotional training in dealing with one's emotions -- learning to feel them, recognize them, and release them. Our society neither prepares us for parenthood, nor for being the emotional being we are.

I don't know if you'll find any of this useful, but these are my thoughts regarding your very thought-provoking question.


Linda E. Katz, Ph.D., writing from the San Francisco Bay Area
The Center for Creative Growth - Counseling with Heart
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