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A Conversation with The Big Bang Theory’s Mayim Bialik on Attachment Parenting

Attachment Parenting International  defines attachment parenting as ”an approach to childrearing that promotes a secure attachment bond between parents and their children.”

In general that means you carry your baby throughout the day.  You nurse your baby throughout a 24-hour period.  And you may sleep with your baby in the same bed.  See API’s Infant Sleep Safety guidelines

Any sleep-deprived parent may wonder how is that possible? Doesn’t mom and dad get a break at some point?  And what about um, sex? If the baby is sleeping with you, what then?

Those questions and more are answered in actress Mayim Bialik’s new book Beyond the Sling.

It’s a look into Attachment Parenting from the ground level by someone who has lived it for more than 6 years.

You may know Bialik from her role on the CBS hit comedy The Big Bang Theory or you may remember her from her years starring in the NBC sitcom Blossom.

Reading her book you easily forget the term “celebrity” and see a mom, a very dedicated and devoted mom.   She has two boys, ages 3 and 6.

Oh and did I mention Bialik also has a PhD in neuroscience? She draws on her experience as a neuroscientist in her book.

Among the revelations in her book:

  1. She’s never had a crib or a bassinet
  2. She and her two kids and husband all sleep together on a futon-style bed on the floor (the family bed)
  3. She nursed both of her children through their toddler years and still occasionally nurses her 3-year old son
  4. Her children didn’t wear diapers.  She used  a technique called ‘elimination communication’ with both of her kids.

I recently interviewed Biliak about her book.  Below are excerpts from that conversation:


ParentsDesk: Why did you decide to write this book?

Bialik:  I was blogging and writing for  I wanted to blog and write about my experience.  The notion of a real life perspective on Attachment Parenting was not out there. These were the conversations I was having with my friends and with my mom groups.

Society doesn’t really support this kind of parenting. Generally in the last 100 years we’ve moved into a parent-centered philosophy that teaches early independence of a child in all realms, sleep, speech, learning the alphabet.  It’s a Western competitive aspect to parenting.

ParentsDesk:   What is the Attachment Parenting philosophy? 

 Bialik:   That a child’s voice matters.  We honor the needs of the children at night and during the day.  We choose to lower expectations of what life looks like with less sleep, less time alone and less time together.

Parents need to rely on their intuition and respond to their child’s cries.

ParentsDesk:  A lot of people reading this article will ask, so what’s wrong with “Crying it Out?”  (the practice of not responding to a child’s cry at night as part of sleep training.)

Bialik:  Children have needs at night and day.  A baby does not know it needs to sleep.  ‘Crying it Out’ is telling a child I won’t respond to your needs at night.  The child will stop asking.  But you’re teaching the child to give up.   A baby’s wants and needs are the same thing.   We believe there’s no such thing as crocodile tears.  Babies and toddlers have a limited vocabulary and we need to honor what they’re saying.  Especially in the first year, parents need to respond to the mammalian signals for distress.  The baby’s developing brain needs these secure attachments.   A baby’s cry is designed to get a parent to respond. There are parents who will lock themselves in another room or leave the house because they can’t stand to hear their babies cry when they are “crying it out.”  That goes against all parental instincts.

ParentsDesk: Your whole family sleeps in the same room and has since birth.  How do you keep the kids from not waking each other up?

Part of it is knowing it will happen.  Particularly for the first 6 weeks after my second child was born my older son was woken up. He wasn’t even three. There were times when I struggled with nursing. I dealt with it by taking the baby in another room.  I just had to hold onto the thought that it would get better.  I was also nervous my older son would stop napping.  And that did happen. He was used to napping with me and started giving up the nap.   But that’s what it looks like when you have a baby in bed.

ParentsDesk:  You have to have a very supportive spouse who will agree to have the kids sleeping in same bed all the time.

 Bialik: People do modifications. If you have a spouse with a high sex drive, having a newborn in bed can be challenging.  I was a little surprised by my husband’s willingness to give up the bed. That’s not the way we were raised. But we do it for the family cohesiveness and find other times to be intimate.

ParentsDesk:  How long do plan to have a family bed?

Bialik: We don’t have a set plan. We live in a one-bedroom house.  My older son is six.  He already has a lot of nighttime independence. He’ll go to the bathroom and then put himself back to sleep.  So this is working well.   It varies child to child.  But 6-9 years is generally the range.

ParentsDesk:  In reading your book it’s easy to forget that you’re a celebrity. You didn’t write it from that perspective.

Bialik:  My first identity is as a mom.  The only time my being a celebrity comes up is in the context when people think “Oh she’s doing attachment parenting because she’s rich.”  But the friends who are doing attachment parenting come in all different sizes. They’re not considered rich. And you don’t need a PhD in neuroscience.  We have confirmation that intuitively what we’re doing is right. These are decisions we are  programmed to make.

ParentsDesk A baby might want to be held all the time. But as he gets older he wants to be put down and toddle around.   A little older and he gets comfortable playing for longer stretches on his own.  Does attachment parenting make it harder to let go?

Bialik:  People who believe in attachment parenting want their children to be independent as much as the next person, just not super duper early independence.  We want the same thing as other parents- independence. But we want babies being babies as long as possible.

ParentsDesk:  You reveal some personal details about your family life.  Was that a concern going into this project?

Bialik:  We tried to protect our family as much as possible. We decided that either I or my husband would be the photographer for the book.  We wanted to have as much control as possible, but we also feel it’s important to present an authentic version of self in making the choice for attachment parenting.


For more on Mayim Bialik and attachment parenting visit her website here.

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Category: Book Buzz

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