If I mention Attachment Parenting, it conjures many images, doesn’t it? It also brings up some stigma, some judgment, and some distaste for some. But many others who practice this method of parenting find great comfort in it. I think that many people don’t think that this form of parenting has a place in our modern society, and see many other things as far more superior and convenient than holding, wearing, breastfeeding, co-sleeping with their baby, and for those families, that’s all well and good. I would like to argue, though, that Attachment Parenting is not weird, and it does indeed have a place in our modern world. Sure, there are times when strollers and baby swings do offer those of us who parent attached some convenience, but allow me to offer some scenarios, and you may judge for yourself which sounds more convenient, easier, less stressful, and possibly more cost effective. I think that most people who parent like I do, do so because it is cheaper, easier, much more convenient, and just fits with our lifestyles.
Scenario – Attachment Parenting
It’s 4:30 am, and this is the 4th time since 11pm that you’re awake with your newborn, you’ve been awakened by gentle stirring and squeaks from her, indicating that she’s hungry. You co-sleep and breastfeed, so you move your baby slightly to latch her on, and both of you are happy, as you drift off to sleep. At 7, you both wake up, and get ready to face the day. After diapering, you carry her to the kitchen to fix breakfast for your older child. Before you fix breakfast, you put the baby in a woven wrap, latch her on as you go about your routine in the morning. You are able to help your older child with many things, with the baby in the wrap, and your baby even falls asleep to the gentle movements and sounds of your body, which are so familiar to her. After breakfast, you go to bathe, and take a bath with your new baby and older child. After nursing again before leaving the house, you’re off to do errands. During the errands, you push the shopping cart with your older child in it, and wear your baby, this time in a soft structured carrier, with legs froggied. Baby sleeps most of the time, and only wakes to be changed, and nursed, but then goes right back to sleep. After errands, you return home, and fix a little lunch, again, wearing your baby, then go with your children to take a nap, all together in one bed. You nurse your newborn to sleep, and sing to your older child. You all three fall asleep after a short period of time, and wake refreshed. This scenario could continue, but you get the gist of what attachment parenting looks like. Sure, there is some chaos in the lives of parents who attachment parent, but for the most part, many of the parents that parent this way have easier, more cooperative, go with the flow children that feel very loved, protected, nurtured, and often know how to express their needs more clearly since their needs have been met in the ways they have.
Scenario – Non-Attachment Parenting
It’s 4:30 am, and this is the 4th time since 11pm that you’re awake with your newborn. You hear her on the monitor, from her room, grunting, indicating that she’s hungry. You walk bleary eyed to the kitchen to make a bottle, and by the time you return to your baby, she is screaming in hunger. You pick her up, sit in the rocking chair, and struggle to stay awake as you feed her. When she has finished her bottle, you burp her, change her diaper, and set her back in her crib. After you leave, she cries a bit, because she doesn’t smell or hear you any longer, and you are so tired that you go back to bed, letting her cry herself to sleep. At 7am, you’re awakened again, by your grunting hungry newborn. You get up, make her bottle, and get her up as well. While you make breakfast for your older child, you put your baby in a bouncer with bottle propped up, so you can tend to what needs to be done in the kitchen. As you play with your older child, and help her with things that she wants to do, you transfer your newborn to her swing, and are interrupted by your crying newborn who wants to be held by you. You hold her, but are very busy with your older child, and the things you’re doing with your older child require two hands, and so your newborn is put back in the swing. After another bottle feeding, you go to take a shower, and put your baby in the bouncer in the bathroom with you, and she cries through the entire shower. You get yourself and your children ready and go do some errands. You put your baby’s infant carrier in the large part of the shopping cart, and your older child in the front of the cart. Your baby cries in the carrier because she is uncomfortable and hot, and wants to be held by you. Your errands are cut short, because you grow tired of hearing your baby cry so much. You return home, feed your older child lunch, hold your baby to feed her a bottle, and barely eat anything out of sheer exhaustion. You then go to put your children down for a nap, but your older child fights you, because it’s still daylight and she doesn’t want to go to sleep in her room, she wants to play instead. This ends in crying, a spanking, very much frustration, and a stressed out mama. The baby senses the stress and doesn’t want to go to sleep either. It takes 45 minutes to get the baby to sleep, and you’re not even sure if your older child gets a nap. Again, this scenario could continue through the day. Just typing it makes me exhausted. I speak from my own earlier experiences when I say that this form of parenting did not work for us. My husband and I have had to learn the hard way, with much trial and error, what works best for our family.
When Sydney was born, nearly 5 years ago, we really and truly were clueless, with very little physical support system. I attempted co-sleeping, since breastfeeding was the one thing I was really attached to, but I didn’t understand that I could stay in bed and nurse her to sleep, so I would get out of bed, and sit in a rocking chair for exhausting amounts of time, with both of us falling asleep, and nothing productive happening. I was sleep deprived, anxious, and suffered from postpartum depression, which I’m sure could have been made better with more sleep and better support. We stopped co-sleeping very early.
We tried baby wearing, but the ring sling I had, I never knew how to use, so I got rid of that quickly. I had no knowledge of other carriers (soft structured carriers, woven wraps, stretchy wraps, mei tais, etc). Sydney spent a lot of time in a swing (which she hated) or in a bouncer (which she also hated). It didn’t occur to me at all that we needed each other. There is a special bond between mother and baby, where oxytocin and endorphins are exchanged when they are in physical contact with each other.
As Sydney grew older, parenting went well, but then frustrations mounted as she was becoming her own person, with her own thoughts, and could do more for herself. We employed spanking as a form of discipline, out of sheer frustration. I wish I could take that all back. I wish I had never laid a hand on her. Spanking is proven, through years and years and years of research to cause very real psychological damage to children. Never have I felt like a bigger pile of crap, than when I was hitting my helpless daughter, and never have I seen a child change so quickly for the bad. Her personality changed, and she was no longer my sweet little girl who was full of life. We eventually got a clue and stopped spanking her, and our cheerful, wonderful, spunky, beautiful light of a daughter returned to us, but I do believe she is still learning to trust us again.
When Sydney was 2 and a half, we returned to baby wearing on a trip to California to visit family. We got an Ergo carrier as a gift, and still have it, and use it often. Wearing Sydney has not only been very convenient for us, but it’s increased our bond as a family. She loves being close to us, and we know and understand that now, and so many times throughout the day, she’s with us, physically… attached. We love it, all three of us.
Additionally, in November, when Jeremy came up to Alaska, Sydney and I started co-sleeping again, simply out of convenience, and I felt safer with her in the room with me. She has grown to love this, and bedtime, which was once a challenge, and sometimes, even a battle, has gotten much easier. We have a king sized bed, and she sleeps in between us. I love co-sleeping. I get to hear her, in the middle of the night say things like, “gorilla shoes”, and answer her bad dreams immediately. It is obvious that she feels very safe in our bed, and very much wanted by us. I wasn’t sure if my husband would respond positively to having a 4 year old in bed with us, but on one night when she decided to start out in her own room, as we went to get her, my husband was giddy to have her join us. We will be adding a new baby soon to our family, and he/she will also sleep with us. I now know that I can stay in bed to nurse, which is such a blessing.
The transition from our parenting days in the beginning until now has been sometimes slow and challenging to go with. But the results, ah, the results. Wow. What a difference. Not only has it made a huge difference with Sydney, but our family is so much more tightly knit. Sydney, who was always really intelligent, has grown so much more intelligent. Our trust toward each other has increased so much. We all sleep so much better. Sydney knows that if she needs something, she can depend on us to meet her needs.
We are learning daily how to be better parents. But there are some things that we definitely stand for and stand by. Our family is so important to us, and nurturing it into the best family we can is very important to us. We make every effort to research what is best, psychologically, physically, emotionally for our children. This is how we have come to Attachment Parenting (which we simply call parenting), because all of these fit well in our lives, work well for us, and are founded in well researched practices. What we have found to be the best things for us may not be for you, and we have come to them through a lot of trial and error. If you’re having trouble or challenges with some of your methods, it’s never too late to try other methods, we are prime examples of that. I’m thankful everyday that we parent the way we do now. My personal stress levels are so much lower, and I feel as if my communication with my uber intelligent daughter is so much better and effective.
Comments Welcome, Please.