When Attachment Parenting Speaks for Itself

When my first child was born I often felt like I was swimming against the current. My decisions to exclusively breastfeed, co-sleep, wear my baby and practice gentle discipline often set me apart from other parents. For the most part, that was fine with me. I had carefully considered my decisions, and was comfortable with them. But I would be lying if I said I didn’t experience the occasional twinge of self-doubt.

From time to time, and particularly when I was having ‘one of those days’, I wondered if I was making a horrible mistake. What if I was really just being over-indulgent? What if all of the things I did to foster a secure connection ended up creating a monster? I know that all parents face these sorts of questions from time to time. I am no different, I’ll admit it.

My friends and family were very understanding, and accepted my parenting decisions without question. Their support meant a lot to me. As my daughter grew, though, I began to sense an undercurrent of doubt from them as well. Breastfeeding a 2-year-old is still very unusual in our culture. Foregoing the naughty chair is, too. I might have been projecting my own concerns, but I think they sometimes wondered how all of my wacky ideas would turn out in the end.

The kiddos having fun together
My attachment-parented children

By the time my daughter became a preschooler things turned around. She grew old enough to speak for herself. She weaned from the breast. She decided she wanted to walk instead of being carried. She grew into an outgoing and independent little girl. In short, she did all of those things that attachment parenting advocates said that she would.

Today my daughter is 4 1/2 and my son is 14 months old. They are both still very young children, relatively speaking. But as they’ve gotten older they have both silenced my self-doubt, and the doubts of others. It’s one thing to read about attachment theory, it’s quite another to see it play out in front of your eyes. There is no greater endorsement of attachment parenting than watching attachment-parented kids are grow into great little people.

If I could go back and tell myself one thing in the early days of parenting, it would be that it gets easier. As your little ones grow and develop and mature, you reach a point where you don’t need to explain your parenting choices anymore. This is even more true when you have another baby. Issues that generated a lot of discussion with my first child didn’t even merit a thought with my second. These days, for the most part, my attachment parenting choices speak for themselves. I’m so glad that I stuck with it when I was unsure, and that I’ve made it this far.

Attachment Parenting Month 2009 Blog Carnival of Growth

Happy Attachment Parenting Month! “Attached at the Heart Through the Years” is the AP Month 2009 theme. “Attached at the Heart Through the Years” is a statement that a healthy and secure attachment between parent and child is a dynamic process that extends beyond infancy and throughout childhood. During AP Month 2009, parents are challenged to re-examine their daily activities and traditions and learn new ways to grow with each other and remain close and supportive.

API Speaks would like to reflect on, and demonstrate how, we (as parents) remained and will remain “Attached at the Heart Through the Years”. Earlier this month, we requested entries for the Attachment Parenting Month 2009 blog carnival. API received a variety of responses. Without further adieu, I present you with the Attachment Parenting Month 2009 Blog Carnival.

How Long? – House of Boys

There’s a song by the Dixie Chicks that I love. A song that I like to listen to over and over again. I like to sing it to my babies while dancing. A song that describes why I want to be an attached parent. The words speak to me and bring a calmness to my soul. The words remind me to take life slowly.

Great Expectations – The Eclectic Mom

I once knew the perfect mother. She was amazing. She absolutely beamed the glory of motherhood. Her children clustered around her, happily playing and singing, simultaneously gleefully independent and decidedly attached.

Uncovering the Truth About Cosleeping – Khoresht-e Catfish

When I became a mother I didn’t subscribe to any one parenting philosophy. I read all the books and formed my opinions when I was pregnant, but the minute Azita was born all of that went straight to the medical waste can.

Continue reading “Attachment Parenting Month 2009 Blog Carnival of Growth”

International Babywearing Week 2009

This week is International Babywearing Week 2009. My posts over the next week will, no doubt, be mostly related to babywearing, it’s benefits for both baby and wearer, and how to do it.

What is babywearing?

From http://babywearinginternational.org:

Babywearing simply means holding or carrying a baby or young child using a baby carrier. Holding babies is natural and universal; baby carriers make it easier and more comfortable, allowing parents and caregivers to hold or carry their children while attending to the daily tasks of living. Babywearing helps a new dad put a fussy newborn to sleep. It allows a new mom use both hands to make a sandwich. It lets an experienced parent or caregiver carry a baby on her back and wash the dishes, do the laundry, take a hike, weed the garden … all while keeping the baby safe and content

From Wikipedia:

Babywearing is the practice of wearing or carrying a baby or child in a sling or other form of carrier. Babywearing is far from new and has been practised for centuries around the world. In the industrialized world, babywearing has gained popularity in recent decades, partly under influence of advocates of attachment parenting; however, not all parents who babywear consider themselves attachment parents. Babywearing is a form of baby transport.

A one-minute introduction to babywearing:

Attachment Parenting International would like to thank Amanda from The Sour B for her guest post in honor of International Babywearing Week 2009.

AP Ambassador

All wrapped up.
All wrapped up.

Whenever I pack our diaper bag, I include only necessities: two or three diapers, the changing pad, a handful of wipes, and a small notepad and pen. The notepad is a new inclusion, and is totally necessary. Anytime I forget it, I totally regret it. Why? Because every single time I snuggle Sweet Pea into his Moby Wrap at the store, or the park, or the university where Daddy teaches, someone says, “Wow, where’d you get that? My sister/my friend/my daughter could really use one!” This conversation though, is where my dilemma begins, because I am SO SOLD on the benefits of attachment parenting. Continue reading “AP Ambassador”

Saving Money through Attachment

In these tough economic times, I’ve been reflecting on how much money is spent unnecessarily on pregnancy and childbirth.  I thought I’d write about ways that attachment parenting can help save parents money.
Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting

  • By being informed about different birthing methods and medical interventions, you can be more involved in those decisions and this could help avoid unnecessary medical costs.
  • Taking care of yourself and eating right will also reduce your risk of complications during pregnancy.
  • You don’t need to buy pregnancy and parenting books to be well-informed either.  You can check out books from your local library and/or read articles on the web.

Continue reading “Saving Money through Attachment”

Making Babywearing Work For You

In early November, an ad by the maker’s of Motrin sparked outrage among moms who felt that the ad was insulting to babywearing moms. If you haven’t seen the video, you can view it here.

I’ll just say that I thought the ad was poorly done. Although I wasn’t as offended as some were, the ad made me less likely to ever want to buy Motrin. I won’t buy J&J products, but I never did anyway. Generics are cheaper, and just as effective.

I did wear both my babies, but quite honestly, it had nothing to do with bonding and everything to do with convenience. I also breastfed both and I spent so much time doing that, I figured I had the bonding covered.
Continue reading “Making Babywearing Work For You”

Babywearing Ambassador

“Is that a baby in your purse?”

The question startles me as I check out of the grocery store with my newborn daughter tucked close to my body in a baby sling. I glance up at the woman ringing up my purchases, who is looking at me with nothing but friendly interest.

“Well,” I stammer, “Yes, she is my baby, but no, this is not my purse. This is a sling, a baby carrier.”

“Well honey, she looks real happy in there,” she says gently.

“Yes,” I agree. “I never go anywhere without my sling. My baby is so content in the sling that I am able to get out and get things done. She loves the sling and I love that she is peaceful.”

We both seem pleased with the conversation and exchange a smile. She chuckles and adds warmly, “That spoilt little thing. She knows a good thing when she sees it.”

Indeed.

I love hearing people’s feedback when I am out and about with my little ones in tow. Over the past eight years, I have worn each of our four children in a soft baby carrier as I go about the business of life, a practice coined “babywearing” by Dr. William Sears. I do not “wear” my babies on principle, even though as an MD I do know of the benefits of wearing a baby in a soft carrier (for example: reduced crying, improved breastfeeding rates, improved sleep, better attachment and improved parental responsiveness).

No, I wear my baby because it makes her happy like nothing else in the world (except maybe nursing) and when baby is happy, I can feel that she is sorted out and I can focus on other things. This is a sanity saver.

Inadvertently, I have become an unofficial ambassador for babywearing. By merely appearing in public with my baby contentedly riding in a sling, I have received many curious stares and many generous comments. Mostly, people notice first how happy my baby seems and how she never cries. Sometimes they wonder aloud if I am spoiling her.

Comments from folks who are either expecting or juggling small babies of their own are often frankly envious. “Wow,” they say, “your baby is so happy. You are so lucky. Did you make that? Where can I get one?” I am always happy to take a moment and talk shop. Yes, she is happy. Yes, I am lucky. But you can be, too. I tell them how having a sling has made my life easier and I show them how to use it and where to get one.

But I also value the interactions with folks who are not necessarily currently tending an infant of their own. They often sigh wistfully and say “I wish they had those around when I had my own babies.” Or a favorite of grown men, “I wish someone would carry me around like that!” Um. OK. The comments are always positive, they notice how happy and easy my baby is and they remark on it. But they also usually want to know: Why use a sling instead of a car seat? (simple, she hates the car seat) and Gosh, isn’t she squashed? (Well, not as much as she was in her previous living situation) and Gee, aren’t you worried about spoiling her? (see below).

As it turns out, babies are some kind of clever creatures. Yes, babies want to be held, but it goes deeper than that. Studies show that biologically, babies need to be held in order to thrive. A review of current randomized controlled trials suggest that the benefits of holding for preterm babies include shortened hospital stay, decreased illness, higher exclusive breastfeeding rates/longer breastfeeding duration, increased weight gain, improved temperature regulation, and improved maternal sense of competence. Evidence-based benefits for full term babies include improved state organization and motor system modulation; improved temperature regulation; and an analgesic effect, reduced crying, improved maternal responsiveness, and babies who were more securely attached.

In our arrogance, we assume that we have created the need to be held by holding our babies, when in fact babies are born hardwired to seek out that which they need to thrive: food, warmth and human touch. We cannot spoil a baby by meeting their basic needs.

So the next time you see a “lady with a baby in her purse,” smile at her and know that she is doing what she can to keep her baby happy, meet her baby’s needs and tend to her own in the process. She is busy mothering in the best way she knows how. She is the next babywearing ambassador.

This article was written to encourage community support for babywearing in preparation for International Babywearing Week this November 12-18.

Getting Dad into the Game

I often hear new moms tell me they are pumping so that dad can give the new baby a bottle. Over and over I hear that they want dad to feel involved and feeding an infant a bottle is just the way to do it.

As the mother of four, this seems redundant to me. My motto is always to prioritize and simplify. If you are nursing your baby, feeding the baby is not a task that needs doing by someone else. You pretty much have that one covered… and you can accomplish it while ostensibly sitting down and thumbing through a magazine or checking your e-mail. In my world, that means nursing is a baby duty I am happy to do! To let someone else feed the baby actually means more work for me, not less, as I have to figure out a time to pump when the two-year old does not tug at the machinery and what the heck do you do with a crabby newborn while you use both hands to juggle the pump anyways? Such a production!

So then, where does that leave dad? And older siblings? And grandparents? And everyone else who wants a piece of that delicious baby-care pie? Fear not, new babies are nothing if not, how can I put this graciously, full ’o needs. Even when mama is taking care of 100% of the feeding needs, baby still needs changing, bathing, dressing and holding. There are still plenty of baby-care duties that can be delegated and provide those special moments for bonding… tasks that actually need doing.

Send dad off on a walk with a well-fed, drowsy baby in a soft baby carrier and put your feet up and enjoy 20 minutes to yourself. Dad gets to bond with the new baby, dad feels competent because babies are generally content nestled in a soft carrier. Win- win! Let older siblings be in charge of choosing the outfit for the day, or singing to the baby during diaper changes. Grandparents can bathe and cuddle the new baby. There is never a shortage of baby care duties. And, hey, if someone really, really still wants to feed the baby, no worries, in 6 to 8 months, baby will happily accept cheerios, banana and avocado from just about anyone.

Breastfeeding can be intense the first few months. The nursing relationship between mama and nursling can seem exclusive. How have you included other members of your family in baby bonding time outside of the nursing relationship?

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