Mayim Bialik Talks Attachment Parenting + "Beyond the Sling" Giveaway

Posted by Mom365 Special

Mom365 contributor Lynda Edwards interviewed actress and author Mayim Bialik by email. Edwards, a contributor, has written for Vogue, Rolling Stone and PBS, among others. Read her interview with Bialik and enter to win a copy of Bialik's book about her experiences with attachment parenting, "Beyond the Sling." (Read on to learn how to enter.)

Long before the TIME breastfeeding cover sparked a debate over attachment parenting, actress Mayim Bialik was an AP advocate. Her book "Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way, " describes how she and her husband used AP principals with their two children. The actress also has a PhD in neuroscience, so her theories are buttressed by her own research.

Bialik is a beloved TV icon for two TV generations. Gen Xers know her as the self-assured, offbeat Blossom. Millenials root for her as the brilliant, goofy scientist in the Big Bang Theory.

Here are Bialik's answers to questions about breastfeeding a son past age 3 and juggling jobs and babies.  

How did your expertise in neuroscience guide you and your husband through attachment parenting?

I like to say you don't need a PhD in neuroscience to parent. But for me, learning about the natural physiology of the body, and about fetal and primate development in particular, made it clear that what intuitively made sense was reinforced by understanding the brain. In addition, learning about the similarities between the hormones secreted by all primates during attachment  confirmed that as primates, we are made to give birth, breastfeed, sleep with our babies, carry them and be there for them.

Is attachment parenting an approach available to all moms? Any suggestions for moms with few resources who want to adapt attachment parenting to their own situations?

AP is about being educated about birth and breastfeeding, and that information is available to every woman. You can work and still have a natural birth, and breastfeed or pump if it works for you. Sleeping safely with a child and using slings is something available to all parents, and the principles of gentle discipline are available to all parents. I know single moms who practice AP, working part time from home or trading childcare with others. I know AP moms who work and the dad is home, and I know AP parents who both work. All kinds of people practice AP; it's not for wealthy people; I don't know any wealthy AP families personally!

You mention sacrifices that you made to be true to attachment parenting. What was the biggest sacrifice you made?

I chose not to pursue a career in academia because I wanted to be more available to my son and have another child. There are AP professor mamas, though; I just didn't see it as working for me and my husband and our personalities!

You juggled earning a Ph.D. with work and caring for a small son while pregnant with your second son! A lot of moms and moms-to-be want to go back to school to improve their paychecks. Any advice for how to stay fit and sane?

Have the right kind of support. For me, my husband was able to share childcare while we both worked on our degrees. You have to know your limits as well, and adjust your expectations accordingly. I had to know when to give up for the day or the week if our little guy was having a fussy time, or cutting a tooth, or was sick. He had to be my first priority no matter what. It took me a bit longer to finish my PhD, but it was worth it knowing I did my best by him.

How did your experience nursing your second son differ from nursing your first? Were you able to implement any approaches you learned by trial and error?

I had very difficult times with both boys, which I describe in explicit detail in my book. I knew a lot with #2 that I learned from #1 and that helped, but the most important thing I knew was to get help RIGHT AWAY when I was in trouble or confused or had any concerns at all. Some women have an easy time, but I am not one of them! I was able to persevere though, and it was more than worth it. I nursed both my sons well into toddlerhood, and they are healthy, happy and content. 

You write in your book about toilet raining your boys early using Elimination Communication - which requires tuning in to your baby's cues about peeing and pooping. What kind of extra chores or cleanup did Elimination Communication (EC) involve? Can parents who both work full time manage it?

You have to have a caregiver reinforce EC in the learning months; you can do part-time EC, but it may not have the same learning curve. We have wood floors, so if our little guys peed on the floor by accident we had extra diapers handy--cloth prefolds--but that was pretty much it. We chose to use all-in-one diapers as back-up and so we just washed those in our machine. Breastmilk poop is very easy to clean, doesn't smell bad and doesn't stain. If we left poop on a diaper and it stained, we just hung it outside in the sun and it was amazing how it would disappear from just sunlight!

Critics argue that Attachment Parenting is  "imprisonment" for women, which does not reflect your positive and happy experience.  How did attachment parenting empower you?

Knowing how the human body works and was designed to perpetuate the survival of our species is the most empowering feminist thing I did. Rickie Lake's "The Business of Being Born" is a great place to start learning about the empowerment of this style of life. My experience has not been all positive and happy though; it's been extremely grueling, exhausting and humbling as my desire for perfection has been challenged by 2 little men who keep reminding me I am not done growing and learning. That's empowering for sure.

To enter to win a copy of Mayim Bialik's book "Beyond the Sling," tell us about your experiences with breastfeeding, baby wearing or natural birth - positive or negative! - in the comments box below. We'll pick a winner on May 31.


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