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Book Review: Beyond the Sling by Mayim Bialik, PhD

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If the hubbub over the recent Time Magazine cover (you know the one I’m talking about) is any indication, our society feels very strongly about the ways in which we raise our children. Behind the sensationalism of that cover photograph, was a pretty uncontroversial article about Attachment Parenting (AP); what it is, how it entered the mainstream, and why an increasing number of families are choosing it as their parenting philosophy. I consider myself an AP mom, although I had made the decision to embrace most of its key elements — extended on-cue breastfeeding, babywearing, co-sleeping, gentle nighttime parenting, and such — independently and before I knew that collectively they formed a particular style of parenting. Once I started reading books by William Sears and Jay Gordon, the two lions in the field, it all fell into place for me.

I will admit that in the early days it was hard to find support for my choices. I became close friends with a couple of other AP moms, but this way of parenting was not something that had been done by the other women in my family. I really would have benefited by hearing from experienced moms about how they negotiated the challenges of the day-to-day in ways that were in keeping with our ideals. Mayim Bialik, Ph.D. provides just such a voice in Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way (Touchstone, 2012).

Best known for her titular role in the 1990s sitcom Blossom, Bialik went on to get her Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA and became a mother to two sons. Like me, she didn’t inherit this style of parenting; she intentionally and thoughtfully chose it based on her research and her instinct. The key thing that she tells us in the introduction is that this is not a book that is trying to instruct you how to parent your child. Rather, it is meant to help you cut through the excessive noise of parenting how-to manuals so that you can trust your own inner parenting voice and it seeks to offer support by showing what worked for her family and illustrating what AP looks like in everyday life.

Bialik addresses birth, breastfeeding, babywearing, gentle discipline, co-sleeping, elimination communication, simplicity, maintaining a sense of self once becoming a parent, and balancing work with parenthood and she does so in a style that is conversational, non-confrontational, and truly helpful. The target audience here is someone who has heard of AP, but hasn’t yet read anything about it, and for them it will provide a useful introduction as they prepare for their parenting journey. There is also much that will resonate for someone who has already embraced some or all elements of AP, but is looking for some practical advice. As I transition from parenting my baby to parenting my toddler, I found Bialik’s guidance to be concise, tangible, and ready to be implemented today. Her words on how to handle tantrums and conflicts over sharing, for example, really speak to where I am right now.

This book is a welcome addition to any Attachment Parenting library. Bialik provides a much needed voice: that of a mother who is currently employing the AP toolkit. She is one strong mama, and she gives us the encouragement and the support to be the same.

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