Shining the Light On Attachment Parenting
A term that I was completely unfamiliar with several months ago. A term that I saw floating around on the Internet that sparked my curiosity and triggered my Google search. A term that is rarely brought up among mothers- similar to vaccines, co sleeping and the like.
So what the heck is attachment parenting? Well that's just what I wanted to know one night when I decided to Google the term that I already had a feeling was a "debatable" term in the world of parenting. I sat there staring at my computer, reading all about AP, and laughing my butt off. Why was I laughing you ask? Well, I was laughing because this style of parenting that I had no clue about, just so happened to be pretty darn similar to the way I was already raising my baby (read a previous post
here). It was everything I already knew I believed in.
It was everything that felt natural to me.
Attachment parenting isn't about just striving to attach your baby to you because you devote every second to them, and because you want to be supermom and have the best baby in the world that stays your little baby forever. It's not about never letting your baby cry a little or about breastfeeding them until they are in pre-school. It's about creating a bond between baby and both parents that creates a relationship of complete trust and security; a relationship that brings out the best in both baby and parents. It's about answering most all wants and needs of your child (to the extent that you can) and later having a child who is extremely secure and independent. It's a tool that can help you navigate parenting and help you decide what is right for you.
AP is natural and it's not even a "style" in my opinion. It's just the way we are wired to respond and parent to our children naturally. Some of us do it all and some of us do some. And those that may not do much of AP or completely disagree with it (I don't think anyone can completely disagree with it) are definitely not doing their parenting wrong.
It's simply about what is right for you.
seven basic tools that build the foundation of Attachment Parenting:
1. Birth Bonding
3. Bedding close to baby
5. Balance and Boundaries
6. Belief in Baby's Cries
7. Beware of Baby Trainers
I really don't need to elaborate too much on these tools as many of them are self explanatory. Typically in an AP family there is birth bonding that may come from a natural, private birth or a birth followed by skin to skin and bonding time. There is a breastfeeding relationship that may become an extended breastfeeding relationship; there is baby-wearing; co sleeping or co "rooming," and so on. There are no nights of cry it out (usually) and there are no fears of "spoiling" a baby.
I recently read
The Attachment Parenting Book by Dr. Sears, a huge proponent for this style. This doctor, who has seven children, has experienced it all. He's experienced those first few babies as a detached father followed by the realization of just how successful AP is. He's not out there to tell you that this is the way to do it or else is your child is doomed. No, not at all. He's just sharing what has successfully worked for his own children, his many patients, oh - and for the gazillion babies that were born and thriving back in the day. Back in the day before baby trainers, baby sleep experts and nosy know-it-alls came along with their two sense and unsolicited advice (P.S. I'm not saying any of that two sense doesn't work or isn't helpful).
What I love about this book and this style of parenting is that it is NOT an all or nothing approach. There is no one saying that you have to do each and every one of these things. You do what feels natural for you, what works for your family and what you believe in. Attachment parenting is the style we all use instinctively. The problem is that often times many of us let the nosy know-it-alls and free parenting advice break our confidence and beliefs in what is right.
No one should ever make you feel like you have to parent a certain way.
Not even Dr. Sears.
I've seen it before with a new mother where her expectations were so high to have a "good" baby. She feared spoiling her child and she does everything she can for that very little one to sleep all night. There is an expectation in her mind that she has to have this perfect baby to be the perfect mother. When in reality, there is no perfect baby and none of us are the perfect mother. Babies have needs and wants; and since they can't just say, "hey mom give me a tit," they cry. They cry because they are hungry, tired, hurting, wet or simply because they need us. Belief in a baby's cry no matter how old they are is learning all about what their cry means (and even learning when a toddler is whining just for attention).
What I love about this book and this "style," is that because you respond to your child and pay attention to all of their needs and wants, you eventually learn so much about them. You become familiar with exactly what is wrong. I even struggle with this some days as my toddler clings to my legs and pushes away her toys. She whimpers and whines for me and that little "baby expert voice" is telling me to let her just cling down there so she can learn that I can't hold her all day. Yet my maternal instinct is telling me, no, there is something wrong. And it may just be as simple as her needing me for comfort (considering she doesn't always do this that kind of tells you something is off). Perhaps I was so busy that day she felt like I didn't hold her much; perhaps daddy is at work and she misses him; or perhaps she simply doesn't feel good.
Attachment parenting may not be for everyone, but at the end of the day I believe we all do something that relates to AP. No one has to have a "style" of parenting; and no one surely needs to practice anything that they don't believe in. But before you criticize or judge AP, make sure you really know what it is about. And honestly, I think that if you're desperate for a good night of sleep, then sure, you can result to some books and tactics to work on it. I hate the term "training" and I hate the idea of a tiny baby learning to "self soothe." I don't see how that is possible and most research says it is not; just as most medical professionals say that it is not normal for a small infant to sleep all night.
But you know what?
That is just ME.
I think that no matter what you do, no matter what you believe in and no matter how many hours of sleep you get, that you're an excellent mother. Motherhood isn't about who is doing it right and wrong or by telling someone how they should do it. It's about supporting each other. And even supporting the mother who is doing everything possible to have the "good baby," even if you don't believe in her ways.
My hope for you is that you simply do what feels right and natural for you. Don't do something just because your mother, mother in law, neighbor, aunt, grandma or because the "expert" told you to do it. Just like I don't have to believe and do everything Dr. Sears writes about, I can do what is right for me, my husband and my child. And for the record, I'm pretty much all AP (completely unintentional and nothing I plan on going around saying I'm doing because I don't really need to label myself) but I do have some things that I will and have done slightly different. No one, no style and no book will dictate how I parent my child.
I will always follow my own instincts and beliefs.
I can just love my child and create the best bond that I can between her and I and parent in the most natural and beautiful way that I know how. And so can you.
What are you thoughts on AP, baby "experts" and so on?
Thanks for reading, Sasha