“Is Attachment Parenting the Cat’s Meow?” by Sonja Yoerg

Jun 26th, 2012 | By | Category: Fake Nonfiction, Prose

SAUSALITO, CA – Like many Americans, Teresa Jasper reacted strongly to the Time magazine cover story that asks “Are You Mom Enough?” The cover shows a three-year old boy standing on a chair breastfeeding from his attractive mother. “Parenting is hard enough without being judged,” Jasper says as she hands her two-year old a juice box. “I’m supposed to feel guilty because I don’t want my kid kicking me all night?”

As the Time story explains, attachment parenting asks mothers to give unwavering round-the-clock attention to their children. The family shares a bed, and the mother totes the babies everywhere and nurses on-demand, even into toddlerhood. The prize at the end of years of co-sleeping, schlepping and suckling is, in theory, an emotionally well-adjusted child.

“And a trim figure,” says attachment advocate Susan Schlecter. “We had two sets of twins two years apart. Not only am I slim, my arms are totally ripped from lugging them around.” Scientific studies show that parents who sleep with their children weigh less those who use cribs, or “jails,” as attachment guru Dr. Bill Sears refers to them. Mothers following Sears’ practices are also, however, more prone to accidents. “Once I so tired I almost fed my toddler conventionally grown produce,” Schlecter confesses.

“They’re pussies,” says Jasper of the attachment über-moms. “What’s wrong with ‘no’? Let them cry it out and get over themselves. Works for my kids. And my husband.”

But a growing trend suggests that attachment parenting hasn’t yet reached its limit. “If it’s about the whole family,” says PETA spokesperson Tony Gussman, “then we can’t leave out companion animals.” More than half of American pet owners consider their dogs and cats to be full-fledged family members. As Gussman points out, “Everyone in your Christmas photo is family.”

Many pet owners have already adopted two of the essential tenets of attachment parenting: constant contact and co-sleeping. Reluctant to part with their pets, people drive with them on their laps, stash them in their purses and take them along on vacation. “I couldn’t enjoy myself if Barbie was sulking at home,” said Barbara Wu, shopping in downtown San Francisco. Wu cradled her Shih Tzu against her chest in a pet sling modeled after those favored by the attachment set.  

And more than half of pet owners already sleep with their cats and dogs, and sometimes prefer the animals to their human bedmates. “If anyone is going to get kicked out, it’s my husband,” says Julia Bartleby. The Sausalito couple shares their bed with an infant son, a three-year old daughter, an eighty-pound malamute and a Siberian hamster. “Bill’s the only one that snores and farts.”

A recent blog post by “Dances With Cats” suggests the final frontier in inter-species attachment has been crossed. While watching her Siamese kitten kneading a pillow, “Dances” had a revelation. “She’d been weaned too early—that was obvious. Poor thing was emotionally scarred. But now that I was her mother, I could try to fix that. She was already lapping up the spills anyway.”

Daniel Velasquez, Chief Veterinarian at the Holistic Companion Animal Center in Tiburon, maintains that cases of humans nursing their animal “children” are vastly underreported. Whatever the prevalence, he asserts, there’s no cause for concern. “It’s natural,” Velasquez argues. “And the nutritional discrepancy between human and cat or dog milk won’t harm the animal. This isn’t nutritional suckling. It’s the same as a three-year old child breastfeeding. It’s all about bonding.”

Not all experts agree. “That’s sick,” said Tonya Webber, a San Jose veterinarian. When asked to elaborate, she said, “That’s really f—ing sick.”

But the practice might be catching on. Last week, a client told Velasquez that her son now refuses to breastfeed. Between innings at baseball games, he now prefers a sports drink to a quick suckle even after his mother told him the drink contained high fructose corn syrup. She was thinking of getting a dog to take his place, but was concerned that her husband might want to walk it and thereby sabotage their unique attachment.

“Get a Bichon Frise,” Velasquez recommended. “He won’t be seen dead with it.”


Sonja Yoerg is the author of Clever as a Fox, a book about animal intelligence. She awaits (prays nightly for) representation for her first novel. Meanwhile, she writes pieces like this to mortify her teenage daughters.

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