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VOL. 129 | NO. 55 | Thursday, March 20, 2014

‘It’s Natural’

Attachment parenting advocate touts healthy habits

By Don Wade

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He goes to bed at 10 p.m. and gets up at 6 a.m.

Dr. Bill Sears, prominent pediatrician and father of eight, is an advocate of “attachment parenting.” He spoke this week to a group of local pediatricians.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

“We’re designed for early to bed and early to rise,” Dr. Bill Sears said.

Whenever possible, the 74-year-old doctor begins his day with 20 minutes on the elliptical machine, nine holes of golf (no cart, of course) and a swim. By 9:30 a.m., “I’m ready to work all day, and I’m feeling fabulous.”

What should you take from this? That Sears – a well-known, if sometimes criticized and misunderstood pediatrician – practices what he preaches.

“My goal is that everything works and nothing hurts,” he said.

As a pediatrician, Sears is best known for advocating “attachment parenting.” More on that in a moment.

But increasingly, he has concerned himself with family health and nutrition for all ages and practical advice for raising a “smarter child.”

On Tuesday, March 18, Sears was to address local pediatricians at a Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Memphis dinner. He has much practical background with children; he’s a father of eight. He also has written more than 40 books on family health, and attachment parenting was the subject of a Time magazine cover story in 2012.

Attachment-parenting critics tend to focus on only its most controversial aspects, including breastfeeding. Time’s article ran with a picture of a woman with model good looks breastfeeding a 3-year-old boy, both of them looking at the camera.

That controversial photo doesn’t explain Sears’ core belief about attachment parenting:

“Imagine you are on an island – just mom and dad, and you have a baby. You don’t have any parenting books or psychologists or pediatricians. All you’ve got is basic intuition. Attachment parenting is what you would do. It’s natural.”

Sears’ website, askdrsears.com, lists the “7 Baby B’s” of attachment parenting, but boils things down to one sentence: “A mother needs to parent from the gut.”

On the nutritional front, Sears said, “There are three magic words: shaping young tastes.”

Early in his own practice, Sears says he found himself challenging nutritional assumptions.

“Remember the old rice cereal out of a box? It made no scientific sense,” he said.

Avocadoes, however, do make sense for a 6-month-old.

“They need fat,” Sears said. “Worst nutritional advice in the world, compliments of our government, was a low-fat diet. Mother’s milk is the gold standard, and it is 40 to 50 percent fat.

“Low-fat,” he continued, “translated to high-carb. We’ve got fat kids all over the place because of high-carb. When we eat right-fat, not low-fat, we don’t overeat.”

Sears offered these five tips for raising a smarter child.

– Breastfeed as long as possible. “Smart fat,” he said.

– Go fish. “Eat more fish and less meat.”

– Raise a grazer. “I call it the rule of two. Eat twice as often, half as much, and chew twice as long.”

– Smart foods. Seafood, blueberries, greens, nuts.

– Move. “Movement is like Miracle-Gro for the brain.”

He adds that one of the new treatments for attention deficit disorder is a simple one: exercise.

“They’re getting kids to come a half hour early to school, and they run them,” he said. “Half of them come off their Ritalin. We’ve got an epidemic of sitting disease.”

Diet and exercise is nothing new, of course, but today everything is packaged differently, more elaborately.

“Know when your mom said to eat your fruit and veggies and go out and play? Mom was totally right.”

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