The truth is that I didn’t actually choose attachment parenting; attachment parenting chose me.
Before having children, I had very little idea of how to bring up a baby (who does?)…except for the information I had picked up from a few Gina Ford devotees.
The general message seemed clear – get baby into a routine, put him/her down to encourage independence and GOD FORBID YOU LET IT SLEEP IN YOUR BED.
I assiduously avoided setting a routine (just another thing to be late for, surely?)
Fast forward to my first days out of hospital with my precious bundle. A hungry little
tyrant from the get-go, Big W was a picture of serenity as long as a nipple or a heartbeat was in easy reach; red-faced and screaming if removed from the warmth and rhythm of human contact.
Allergic to the sound of his crying, I embarked on what I can only call a make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach to parenting, by doing what felt right for me and what felt right for my child.
I assiduously avoided setting a routine (just another thing to be late for, surely?), I breastfed him whenever he wanted, I wore him around the house in a cloth sling and he slept in our bed.
In fact, as a family we collectively went to bed at 9.30 and W is still adjusting to an earlier, more sensible bedtime even now!
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It was only further down the line that I learned that there was actually a name for what I was doing – keeping my baby close at all times, and letting him set his own routine – and it is called “attachment parenting”. A loathsome term, but there it is.
When one considers that the rest of the world co-sleeps and baby-wears until their children are into advanced toddlerhood, it really seems a logical approach.
So what exactly is attachment parenting? The philosophy of this approach to parenting is very simple – create a secure emotional bond with your child, and you will provide them with the necessary scaffolding to deal with future stresses and relationships.
This structure of trust and security can be developed through breastfeeding, co-sleeping, babywearing, as well as empowerment methods of child-rearing such as positive discipline (not shouting, basically) and baby-led weaning.
Human contact is at the core of attachment parenting, and when one considers that much of the rest of the world co-sleep and baby-wear until their children are into advanced toddlerhood, it really seems a logical approach.
The belief is that contact with other humans is vital to emotional and physical health and is a normal and essential part of development, starting at that very first moment when a child enters the world and is placed on the mother (or father’s) chest.
Alongside plenty of physical contact, as parents we can offer even very young children the power of choice, and this is where baby-led weaning and positive discipline really come in.
I researched BLW quite thoroughly and I still believe that it makes perfect sense, although with my second child I was less purist about it.
To my mind, a combination of finger food with the occasional bit of shovelling (to assuage any frustration) is the perfect compromise!
Positive discipline is an aspect of attachment parenting where my husband and I often miss the mark. On little sleep it can be incredibly difficult to remain calm and positive when one child is duffing up the other one (perhaps we over-empowered him?).
Needless to say, shouting is still a feature of our household – but we strive to do better! We are essentially liberal parents, who occasionally panic and become dictators.
When I was three months pregnant with baby M, Big W voluntarily dropped his breast feeds.
As Big W has grown up he has very much made his own decisions and, on reflection, that is exactly what attachment parenting is – allowing your child to feel secure enough to develop their own independence. For instance, after a prolonged stint of waking every hour in our bed, we tried Big W in his own room at eight months and from that first night alone he has been a solid 12 hour sleeper ever since (except for a recent hiccup!).
I was heartbroken, but there was no doubt he had demonstrated that we had made the right decision at the right moment, with no crying involved!!
When I was three months pregnant with baby M, Big W voluntarily dropped his breast feeds. He was ready to move on.
At his own request, he moved into a big bed when he was about 26 months. They really don’t stay babies for long.
When baby M came along, I instantly put her in our bed – and at 13 months old she is still very much in situ.
I don’t feel any need to rush her departure; she will go when she is ready, in which case I will be ready too. She still loves to spend time in the sling (but makes it clear when she has had enough) and breastfeeding is still very much a feature of our relationship.
Attachment parenting happened to be the way that I chose to cope with the extraordinary pressures of parenthood.
As with all methods of parenting, every aspect of attachment parenting is negotiable in my book, depending on the circumstances surrounding each child’s upbringing.
After all, there are plenty of mothers who, by choice or necessity, are not available to be at home every day to look after their children and, no doubt, their children have every chance of becoming as happy and well-adjusted adults as mine do.
Attachment parenting happened to be the way that I chose to cope with the extraordinary pressures of parenthood. In many ways I placed enormous limitations upon myself, but it has also given me a lot of freedom.
Recently, Big W has started attending pre-school a couple of mornings a week. My baby boy, now hurtling towards 3, trots happily in, without a backward glance; fully secure and independent. What more can a mother ask for?
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