Attachment Parenting...My first remembrance of the Ancient Ways of the Goddess...
N.B. I wrote the following article in 2003.
Attachment Parenting (AP). It is a term I knew nothing about before I became a parent. A style of parenting that has been around since the beginning of mankind, AP brings out the best in both baby and parents. Considering one of my goals as a parent was to raise children who feel good about themselves, this parenting style has served me well in producing a well-adjusted, confident 3-year-old.
The term "attachment parenting" is new but its concepts have been handed down for generations. According to Attachment Parenting International, a Nashville based group, AP includes the following concepts: preparation for childbirth, breastfeeding, reading and responding to your baby's cues, babywearing, sleep sharing, avoiding frequent and prolonged separations from your baby, positive discipline and maintaining balance in your family life.
This style of parenting is very different from the style that is predominant in the United States where bottlefeeding, cribs, and spanking as a form of discipline are common and acceptable.
Since the birth of my son, I have struggled to be true to the style of parenting that best fits my personality and parenting goals despite so many messages that I am doing it wrong.
You see, I have struggled with self-esteem issues my whole life and I committed myself to doing all I could to prevent my children from having the same issues. So when I became pregnant, I decided to incorporate what I believed would produce confident, decent, self- sufficient children into my parenting style. I wanted my child attached to people, especially my husband and me, and not to things.
My story begins with the birth of my first son three years ago. It was a great experience because I was able to deliver him after 15 hours of natural, unmedicated childbirth with my husband and mother-in-law by my side.
I had no idea about the changes my life would undergo in that moment, but I am so grateful to the Goddess for all the lessons that come and continue to come through my firstborn. My first lesson was breastfeeding, which proved to be the tool that opened the door to my adopting the attachment promoting style of parenting.
I have come to know that breastfeeding is not just a way to nourish my baby. It is the supreme mothering tool. It is the cure all.
Baby is hungry? Nurse. Baby is sleepy? Nurse. Baby bumps his head? Nurse. Baby is crying for seemingly no reason? Nurse. Nursing the baby always met his needs, which helped me realize just how important I was to him.
It was through my nursing relationship with my son that I felt so close to him and him to me. And it is because of breastfeeding that I began to adopt other attachment promoting tools that I initially was unsure about.
THE LOST ART OF BABYWEARING....
Nursing my son meant that I held him a lot during the day. Actually, I held him all the time because he was the type of baby who was happier when he was held. Because of this need, I discovered the lost art of babywearing.
It was very difficult to get things done while holding my son in one arm and he would protest profusely if I did not hold him constantly. I decided to invest in a sling, a piece of fabric specially designed to carry a baby, and wear my son.
I held and carried him all day while taking care of my housework and running errands. The sling made life easy and my son happy. Oftentimes, I would receive comments on how happy and comfortable he looked in the sling.
Babywearing is the attachment promoting tool that helped me realize that initially, my son did not see himself as separate from me. Being worn all the time helped him feel safe and loved. I believe that carrying him whenever he wanted me to through toddlerhood is the reason that now he rarely has time to sit on my lap.
CO-SLEEPING...THE KEY TO A GOOD NIGHT'S REST
The next attachment parenting concept that I adopted was sleep sharing. Initially, I wanted him to sleep in my room because I felt he was too young and vulnerable to sleep alone in a separate room. Then I realized just how much more sleep I would get if I brought him to bed to nurse. Consequently, I discovered that even when he was not nursing, he still slept better with my husband and me.
I like the fact that bedtime is not a challenge. He has always been willing to go to bed with us and we have never awakened to a scared, fearful child. Bed and naptimes are pleasant. Recently, we have begun to transition him to his own bed, which is going smoothly and I attribute this to sleep sharing.
LOVING GUIDANCE THROUGH POSITIVE DISCIPLINE
Another component of attachment parenting that I have found most helpful in bringing out the best in my son is positive discipline. Positive discipline includes using noncorporal forms of discipline to help a child learn what behavior is expected and to eliminate behaviors that are not appropriate.
Getting connected to my baby early on through staying home, breastfeeding, babywearing and sleep sharing actually make discipline easier because my son has learned to trust me and I have gained a deeper understanding of him.
Because we are so connected, my son does not want to disappoint me and will usually choose his behavior accordingly. People are amazed that I do not spank my son because he is well-behaved. My success comes from being consistent and through understanding where he is developmentally. I do lots of talking to help him understand what I expect of him and give him lots of praise when he exhibits appropriate behavior. Positive disciplines allows both of us to win in sometimes difficult situations.
ATTACHMENT PARENTING...IT AIN'T ALWAYS EASY!
Although attachment parenting makes life easier, I would not say that it is always an easy way to parent. There were times when I thought I would go crazy if my son nursed one more time. And there are days when I am yelling rather than talking because I have to repeat myself over and over to get my son to do one thing. However, despite the challenges, the huge investment of time and emotion are well-worth it.
Becoming an attachment parent has been a process for me. So many times I have heard conflicting information that has made me doubt my decisions: "You better put that baby on a schedule." "Don't hold him too much or you will spoil him." "If you let him sleep with you now, he will never leave your bed." "Let him cry, it is good for his lungs." "They cry to manipulate you."
Initially I would panic because I was doing what felt right to me but because I was a new mother and did not know too many people who parented in this way, I questioned what I was doing.
SURROUNDING MYSELF BY LIKE MINDS WAS KEY TO MY SUCCESS!
I found support from other mothers who attended my LLL meetings. There I found other women who parented in ways very similar to me. I heard many of them refer to the term "attachment parenting" and to Dr. William Sears, a popular pediatrician and author who, along with his wife, Martha Sears, promote attachment parenting.
So, I began to read about attachment parenting and realized that is what I was doing. It helped affirm that what I was doing was best for my son. I needed this affirmation because to parent any other way meant that I was going against what felt to be intense Goddess-given instincts.
I also read anthropological works that backed up these instincts. What I learned was that although the types of culture we live in have changed over the years, the biological make up of babies and mothers are the same as our earliest ancestors.
This means that babies come expecting to breastfeed, be held and in their mother's presence constantly for approximately the first two years of life and to share sleep with them. Babies are programmed this way to ensure that they survive.
Additionally, I discovered that the parenting goals of any group are more reflective of that culture rather than the biological make up of the baby. As a result of this new information, I relaxed and removed the pressure to do anything but what felt right to me.
I recently gave birth to my second baby. His transition into our home has been so easy that my husband and I do not like to speak of it too much because we don't want to jinx ourselves. I honestly believe it is because we are attachment parents that we have not had sleepless nights, uncontrollable crying or sibling jealousy. Having a new baby has been a pleasant experience. This continues to reinforce what I tell people often, "Attachment parenting is the style that works for me."
For those interested in learning more about attachment parenting, the following resources may be helpful:
The Baby Book and The Attachment Parenting Book by William and Martha Sears
Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent by Meredith F. Small
The Continuum Concept: In Search of Happiness Lost by Jean Liedloff