|The Milk Meg 2004. A sling wearing hippy in pearls!
When you think of attachment parenting do you imagine a woman wearing a baby in a sling with hairy armpits breastfeeding her six year old while eating a rice cake covered in tahini? This is not what attachment parenting is all about!
Attachment parenting as described by “Attachment Parenting Australia”…
“A strong and trusting relationship with your child can be developed by following your intuition; responding to your baby’s cries; “demand” breastfeeding for an extended period; carrying or “wearing” your baby; using gentle ways to help your baby sleep; co-sleeping with your baby and minimising separation from your baby during the first few years.”
But then they go on to say, “However, attachment parenting is not a set of rules and does not necessarily mean following all of the above.”
When I had my first baby at twenty two years old I was just like many other new mums. ..totally clueless. I would listen in great interest whenever anyone had something to tell me about birth, breastfeeding, parenting etc. I did not even think about the words, “motherly instincts” but just took on board anything that anyone told me. I met women from all different backgrounds, some breastfeeding while their babies sat there staring at me, to women who were formula feeding and would never even think to wear their baby in a carrier. These women had been through it before so they knew what they were talking about, right?
Well, it turns out that every mother will have different experiences, different babies and different instincts. I very quickly realized after having my baby that many things I had been told just did not work for my baby.
I was told to, “never sleep with your baby” but my baby literally would not sleep unless he was with me. I remember telling my husband, “he won’t sleep unless he is with me! So I’m bringing him into bed! I’m tired!” I was told to, “breastfeed on both breasts at each feed” but before long I had a HUGE oversupply and my baby was sputtering, cranky every afternoon and gassy because of my over active let down. I was told to, “let him cry so he learns to settle himself” but I could not bear to hear him crying so I always picked him up. Slowly I started to realize that I was the one who knew best. Not my family (although they were caring and trying to help), not my friends, not the regimented books…just me. And my baby! I met a woman who taught me to listen to my baby. She would tell me I was doing a great job and that my baby would let me know if something was working or now.
Wow! These words literally changed my life! I went on to breastfeed to natural term (as long as my baby wanted with only gentle weaning strategies from me), I co-slept with him, I wore him in a sling most of the time and I just followed his lead. I ended up doing the same for baby number two.
Now fast forward to baby number three…where did this baby come from?! He is happy! He is content! He is a chilled out baby who really does not care if I’m carrying him or not! What?! So where does this leave me; as a self-described “follow the lead of my baby” parent…well, I followed his lead and questioned my parenting asking, “am I still an attachment parent?” Just so you know, I actually really dislike this term I call it simply, “parenting”!!
My baby number three loves to sleep alone. Whenever people told me that their babies did not like sleeping with them I secretly did not believe them. I thought there is no way this could be true! There! I said it! If you ever said these words to me I secretly thought you must be lying. Well, now I have one of these babies. Oh the universe is smart! Yes, I have a baby who will wriggle around and not settle very easily if I try to put him in our bed. He actually lies down in his mattress on the floor next to our bed and SLEEPS! BY HIMSELF! WOW! I said to my husband, “I think there is something wrong with him! He does not want to sleep with us!”
Seriously I though he was abnormal. Now I realize he just simply likes his own space. Now don’t be mistaken, he still wakes up about five hundred times a night to breastfeed but does not want to come into our bed until the early morning hours just before sunrise. YAWN. I’M EXHAUSTED BECAUSE OF IT! *update: since writing this post it’s important to point out that once he “woke up” from being a baby (at about 4 months old) he started to wake much more frequently and spent most of the night in our bed until we night-weaned him at 2 1/2 years old
He loves being carried in my baby carrier but he actually hates sleeping in it and happily falls asleep in his pram on our morning walk. He loves being carried around (for short periods of time-anything over twenty minutes and he wriggles to be free!) but if he falls asleep in my carrier he will only stay asleep for a short period of time. If I take him out, breastfeed him back to sleep and then put him down by himself, he sleep for two hours! Again, what does this mean? Why are my strategies not working for him? What sort of parent does this make me?! Some of my attachment solutions do not work!
This is where the confusion around “attachment” or again, as I like to say just “parenting!” comes about. Being an “attachment parent” does not mean you have to have your baby attached to your boob or your hip 24/7, it does not mean you have to breastfeed until they are five years old and heading off to school. This does not mean you FORCE YOUR CHILD TO WANT TO BE ATTACHED! It simple means you are following the lead of your baby and meeting their needs, however that might be. Often babies love to be carried (which my third loves but only for a short period of time), they need frequent unrestricted access to the breast in the early months (and beyond) and most babies love to sleep right next to their mums. Yet what my youngest has taught me is that even if they do not tick off all of the boxes for being an “attached” child, it is still possible to incorporate the philosophy of attachment parenting into daily life with these strange little non- attached creatures! 🙂
When my baby is cranky I breastfeed him. If he does not want to be put down, I carry him. If I’m tired, I pass him to Mr The Milk. If he is restless at night in his bed then I try my bed. If he needs extra cuddles and breastfeeds, then I give them to him. It’s all about meeting your babies needs and as I mention frequently…listening to your baby and your instincts.
Ps. And if that book you are reading is suggesting things (like “cry-it-out”) that make you feel uneasy or really does not feel right to you then don’t do it! Throw out the book and find other mums who parent the same way as you do. You can also check out my book for gentle alternatives to sleep training: CLICK HERE to check it out. We need our tribe to keep us sane. Whether it’s women with hairy armpits eating rice cakes or women in pearls (with the occasional hairy armpits). Let’s keep supporting each other 🙂