A grandmother’s take on Attachment Parenting

By Donna Wetterlund

donna wetterlundLike every grandparent, the arrival of my first grandchild was a rite of passage with mixed emotions. I was in denial about the label that clearly identified me as “old,” but I was fascinated with my daughter’s changing body and the life growing inside it.

I was proud of my daughter’s healthy and well-adjusted approach to pregnancy. But most importantly, I was celebrating the addition of a baby in my world without the morning sickness, stretch marks and sleepless nights. I was excited!

When pregnant, my daughter Sharon and her husband traveled to attend a wedding and asked me to dog-sit at their house while they were away. I was so excited to take care of this little puppy and I seized the opportunity to be involved in my granddaughter’s life before she was even born by kick-starting the renovation of the baby’s room. I spent two days tearing out paneling with my bare hands. I scraped and patched and primed the walls. It was a physical labor of love.

Sharon and Jim took over from there and created a darling room with murals of woodland creatures. My sweet baby granddaughter was going to have a spectacular room complete with a birdie mobile over the crib.

I was extremely impressed with Sharon and Jim’s commitment to natural childbirth and equally impressed with the hospital staff that supported her throughout the delivery. The hospital room was akin to a small apartment, which housed her birthing support team of two grandmothers and her spouse.

I literally pulled up a chair in between her legs to witness the birth of my granddaughter up close and personal. Witnessing a baby being born is amazing, and when it is your daughter giving birth to your granddaughter, well…I still burst into tears of joy thinking about it now.

I had spent eight months adjusting to the idea of being a grandmom. This adjustment included happy visions of babysitting and childcare, bonding with the baby while bottle feeding and taking the baby out in a stroller to visit friends and show off what my daughter had made. After all, I’ll have a new baby, too…a new mind to mold, a new person to be proud of, to share love with and have fun with.

Motherhood came so easily and naturally to Sharon from the second our baby was born. She was a breastfeeding champ. She followed her instincts. She could not fathom the thought of letting her baby sleep in the quiet and adorable empty room down the hall, so they slept together.

Her breast pump lay idle as mother and child nursed with ease and on demand. The stroller became a convenient place to hang winter jackets as the baby was worn in a wrap close to her mother’s beating heart. My daughter soon discovered that her instinctive parenting style had a name: Attachment Parenting.

I was struggling.

My access to the baby was already diminished by the one-hour commute that made visiting difficult. Without the ability to produce my own milk, I was out of luck when it came to bonding by meeting the baby’s nutritional needs. The idea of spending more than an hour away from her infant appeared to throw Sharon’s hormone-soaked body into a quivering, milk-leaking frenzy. She decided not to return to work so that she could spend her time focused on the most important thing: her baby.

I questioned whether her decisions were a response to feeling that I had been a poor mother: balancing my career while exposing her to a diversity of caregivers and experiences. I thought I was doing it right, but was I all wrong?

I have not been called to babysit. There have been no sleepovers or walks in the stroller. Thank goodness for Facebook — if not for that, none of my friends would “see” the baby.

Dreams shattered? Not exactly…

I have done my own research and reading. But more importantly, what I witness when I visit my daughter’s family is a calm, happy home. Our baby is content and thriving. She is intelligent and vocal. She is healthy and beautiful. Mom and Dad have created a loving environment where a child will grow to be confident and strong.

It has taken another eight months to adjust my expectations for grandmotherhood.

I don’t babysit. I baby-Skype, reading books to her through technology, making my face and voice a regular part of her life.

I don’t push a stroller. I walk beside my daughter wrapped with her baby.

My friends have not yet complained about the multitude of pictures and videos I post on social media.

And now that she is a bit older, my granddaughter smiles with satisfaction when I slip her a taste of my dessert at the restaurant.

Author: Rita Brhel

Rita Brhel, BS, CLC, API Leader, lives with her family near Hastings, NE, USA, where she works as a WIC Breastfeeding Counselor. She also writes for Mothering and La Leche League's New Beginnings.

8 thoughts on “A grandmother’s take on Attachment Parenting”

  1. what a wonderful grandma! Way too many grandmas out there who show no respect. They come from an era where CIO/rice cereal in the bottle from 3mos/etc was ok…yet BWing/EBF/BLW/cosleeping is wrong and BS to them.

  2. This post found it’s way to me at just the right time. Attachment parenting can be difficult for grandparent to grasp and I hadn’t appreciated this. I love the fact that this grandmother found other ways to bond with her granddaughter. Discussing the parenting style with my in-laws an how they can get involved and foster a great relationship is next on our agenda.


  3. You sound like a new mothers nightmare. The baby is not “our” baby, shes Sharon’s baby and pulling up a chair between her legs. Your entitlement and words bother me.

  4. Where to start. Did your daughter give you permission to start her nursery? Did she invite you to the birth, or did you insist? What right did you have to see the child before her own mum and dad? You sat between her legs?! You thought about or wished for your ability to breastfeed your grandchild. You had very unrealistic expectations about visits, Grammy time and sleepovers. You sneak your granddaughter dessert, presumably against her parents’ wishes. And the epitome of crazy: you say “our baby” and claim part ownership of a CHILD. News flash. She is not YOURS. She is not even partially yours by reason of having birthed her mother. You need to back off, grandma.

  5. Good on this grandma for finding a way to manage her expectations, but she seems to be the one trying to attachment parent her adult daughter. New roles are difficult but grandparents are not co-parents and should not feel entitled to bond as actual parents.

  6. Good for you Donna. I know you are a wonderful grandmother. It gets better all the time. Enjoy every minute it goes so fast. We have a new great grandson. He is delightful,he has a brother and sister and all are precious. Love, Miss Shirl

  7. Please don’t “slip” your granddaughter food. And anyone who has expectations of someone else’s baby experience needs to seriously consider getting some therapy. Possibly a hobby.

  8. Sublime. What a perfect grandmother, what a lucky granddaughter. I will certainly model you someday Rita. <3 <3

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