Is she too attached?

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Editor’s note: This post was originally published on Aug. 11, 2010, and centers on an issue that many of us know all too well — that of separation anxiety and Attachment Parenting.

baby-kiss-1395713-mMy 8-month-old daughter, Penelope, is going through a separation anxiety phase. If I walk out of her eyesight, even for a second — even if Peter, my husband, or someone else is sitting with her and playing — she cries. She is a mama’s girl right now.

When her anxiety first showed up, I was concerned. I thought, “Oh, what have I done?!” Is she too attached? Have I taken Attachment Parenting to an extreme and done damage? I thought, “Should I finally get a babysitter and leave her with someone other than my husband and ‘teach’ her to be OK” — which, of course, had been so often told to me by neighbors and some friends. I had also been told to simply let her fuss for a bit and not immediately pick her up and tend to her.

Luckily,  I snapped out of my doubt and regained my confidence before I heeded any of that advice.

Even if her behavior is not the stereotypical 8-month-baby-separation-anxiety-phase, and she simply wants me all of the time, that’s perfectly fine with me. I am her mother, she is my baby and we are still deeply connected through my breastmilk that I make for her. To me, breastfeeding feels like an extended, energetic umbilical cord. I hold her all day long; I sleep and cuddle with her all night long. I want to be in close contact with her, as much as she wants to be in close contact with me.

This is what is supposed to be happening. This is how mothering and baby rearing is supposed to be.

One of my most favorite books is the Continuum Concept. When I read it…before I was a mother when I was a nanny…it turned on a light bulb in my head. What a novel idea, that babies are expecting to be with their mothers at all times! They are expecting that Mama — or a really great almost-Mama substitute for the time being, like a fabulous nanny — is going to be right there, every step of the way.

I will admit that sometimes I dream of lounging by the pool, or going out to dinner and then (gasp!) a movie with my husband. But most of the time, I am thrilled to meeting my baby’s every need and demand. I love knowing that she has not once “cried it out” to go to sleep. I love knowing that she knows that if she communicates to me that she needs me, that I will be there, every single time. She completely trusts me, and that makes it all worth it.

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Author: stephanie

Stephanie is stay-at-home mother in Tallahassee, Florida, USA. She has one daughter, Penelope, born on Nov. 11, 2009, at home, in water and into her own two hands. You can find her at her blog, Mama and Baby Love.

22 thoughts on “Is she too attached?”

  1. I attachment parented my foster daughter, whom we had from the time she was 6 to 16 months old, whenever she was home with me. My favorite memory of our relationship was that I gave her her eveing bottle on my lap, singing or humming her to sleep. Even after she fell asleep, I would hold her in my arms and hug and kiss her. She would eventually start wiggling around, trying to make herself comfortable, which is when I’d lay her down in her crib, and she immediately flipped on her tummy, with her butt in the air!

    Contrary to popular misconception, this did not negatively affect her ability to self-soothe when she woke up at night. She started sleeping through the night at about 8-9 months old, after being with us for 2 months.

    She was definitely very attached to me, and my husband and I did everything we could to ease her transition back to her mom, when all heck broke loose and the Department of Social Services suddenly moved her to a different foster home for a week, and then another one, and now she’s in the new home, waiting to go permanently to her mom’s.

    I won’t go into details of why she was removed, bc the wound is still fresh in my heart. But I still cannot believe how little thought they put into her emotional well-being. I sent familiar objects with her, so she’d at least have that in strange surroundings, only to find out that for 2 weeks her stuff was in a bag somewhere, and she wasn’t given her things. The extent of their attempt to “maintain her routine” was to keep her going to her daycare, and even that was not the first day she was moved.

    My heart breaks for the way they’ve dealt with this precious little girl. But I thank God that I took every opportunity I could to show her when she was with me that she is loved by oodles of affection. The hope that 10 months of attachment parenting, even part-time, will hold her over until she is back with her mom for good is what keeps me going.

    Foster parents and social services in general need to be educated in the importance of attachment parenting, and ACT ACCORDINGLY!

  2. Not only do I completely get where the writer is coming from, I too had to reassure myself in the midst of the surrounding neigh sayers that what I was doing for my son was the right thing to do. Now, at 18 months, I can proudly say that many of those same people often comment on how independent he is, how self assured he is, and how he is ALWAYS HAPPY. I truly believe that my son is this way because if, on odd days he decides that he wants to be with me, sit in my lap all day, or snuggle through the night, I am always waiting with open arms.

  3. Always trust your instincts, too. If you are feeling anxiety about being separated from her, she will feel it. My girls are age 8, almost 6 and 2 years. I hired a babysitter for the FIRST TIME this summer. My husband and I have been on 2 glorious dates. I’ve depended upon family members in the past when necessary, but have not felt comfortable hiring a sitter until now. I’m in the minority among my peers who seem to drop the kids off at every opportunity, but that doesn’t matter to me in the slightest. The time FLIES and most importantly, I’m at ease with my decision. More power to you!

    1. I agree, its all about trusting our instincts! And time does fly. I keep telling myself that I will go see movies again one day when I have teenagers or even an empty nest. My old life will come back eventually. Now is the time to be mother.

  4. Thanks for this post. My one-year old daughter also wants me now ALL-THE-TIME, and I started to wonder if she was TOO attached 🙂 But I guess it is just a phase and ofcourse I am happy to fullfil her needs. Altough, sometimes it is a bit sad for my husband, When he wants to play with her or comfort her, she is calling my name. But I will continue to follow my instincts.

  5. amen sister!!! i hardly separated from my son until he was nearly or over 3 years old (of course then i WANTED and NEEDED a break!!)

    1. I wrote this post almost a month ago and my daughter is 9 months today. Last week, I went to a yoga class, for an hour, for the first time since I was pregnant. I left my daughter with my husband and I was gone during an hour where she didn’t need to be fed or nursed to sleep. I felt like a new woman after class!

  6. I parented both my children the same way. A 3yo daughter and a 1 yo son. Both nursed to sleep since young. Daughter seems to be learning to fall asleep on her own, but when younger was extremely extremely anxious about away from me or Hubs. She’s still alittle like that. Son? He wants to get OUT of our arms all the time. and is content playing with toys all afternoon. He will only ask for a hug or a snuggle when he’s tired or hungry, sometimes when he jealous too. To me AP is a state of mind, he may not be in my arms but I am aware of when he needed something. So I think that it comes down to each individual child.

  7. My daughter is now 2 years old and I was exactly in the same shoes you are now in, and am so glad that I stayed true to what I believed to be right for us and our parenting philosophy! Thank you for sharing your story Stephanie!

  8. Way to go following those instincts mama! This behavior is normal and responding to your daughter will ensure that she has a secure base. She will become independent on her own.

  9. I forgot to add that all three of my girls are very independent now, despite spurts of separation anxiety (all at different ages). My 2 yr old just started asking for Daddy to put her to bed and saying that she is Daddy’s girl. She used to push him away at bedtime and cling to me. It all happens over time, and like Martha says, she has a secure base so it will happen naturally and when she is ready.

  10. Karolina- my heart broke for you and for the child when I read your response. They say it is better to have lived and lost rather than not to have lived at all. I am sure the heartbreak was mutual and this little baby must still miss you terribly. However I believe you gave her what she needed and nourished her in the way that only you could at that time in her life. She will ways know that she is loved and she will be a healthier person for it. It will carry with her for a lifetime. Well done mamma. And big hugs to you. You are an amazing person for fostering children.

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  12. Thank you for this post. This reassured me that what I am doing is right. My 1 year old baby boy Adan is very attached to me, and my husband and his family who we live with is telling me he’s too attached for his own good. This is very frustating for me as a first time mother because I feel that I have to defend my parenting choices to the people around me everyday. The hardest part is having to defend it to my husband, he thinks that my breast feeding on demand and carrying him in the sling is stressing our child out.

    My mother instinct tells me that what I am doing is right, if my child wants to be carried I will pick him up, if he wants to feed I will feed him. I can’t stand it when he cries, I get so stressed out, my instinct is always to soothe him. I tell this to my husband but he insist that we should try feeding him on schedule or letting him cry it out so that it wouldnt be too hard on me. Yes there are days when I am so tired out from caring for my baby and doing everything else, but I feel that the answer is not caring for my baby less but getting more help and support from the people around me.

    I tell him that maybe we should also look at how clever he is and how advance for his age and that maybe this is because of attachment parenting, then he goes that this has something to do with our child’s genes and not my parenting…

    After reading this, I realize im not alone. I will continue what I am doing and try to connect with more like minded parent

  13. I have been struggling with this very thing. I am torn between creating a confident independent child and tending to his tears. Any advice on this?

  14. Amen! I think the world would be a better place if more parents were more attached to their little ones! Most babies/young children want far more attachment than they get in our modern American culture.

  15. Way to go, Stephanie! I remember when my second son was about 7 months, and he would cry sometimes when I simply turned my back to start across the room! I thought it was kind of funny, but it sure wasn’t going to change my mothering of him. He is now over 30 and was very independent by the time he went to kindergarten when he was four (and still nursing at bedtime).

  16. Crying it out is so cruel. I don’t know how anyone does that. I met a woman who does that with her baby, he’s four months old and she will NOT go and get him in the middle of the night, she lets him cry himself to sleep and is VERY proud of it. She works for the department of child welfare here in Arizona.

  17. Thank you for this article. I am the only person I know IRL who practices this and it breaks my heart to think of all the babies denied their need of touch and attention. It’s a long road but thanks to writings like this I know I’m not the only one and definitely not crazy for following my god given instincts to respond to my child. Thank you.

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