Sunday, June 14, 2009

A couple ago, I made some remarks regarding attachment parenting in my post on Raising an Optimistic Child book that an esteemed author of The Wonder Years replied in her comment. I thought that I will write a post with my views on attachment parenting, and now finally I have 30 min to do so.

Even before Anna was born, I read multitude of books on child development and raising young children. As I mentioned before, I like to know my theory before even attempting practice, and being an only child, I had very little exposure to babies before my own unexpectedly came along. As I was reading, it quickly became obvious that "the theme du jour" in parenting advice world is "attachment parenting". It mostly applies to children in the first year of life and stresses physical closeness between a mother and her child - breastfeeding, babywearing and co-sleeping.

It's not that I disagree with an importance of close relationship between a mother and her baby. What I disagree with is a sort of doomsday scenarios that some of these books and articles picture. It sounds sometimes that your children will be somewhat "damaged" unless you follow the gospel of attachment parenting. I know women that were depressed just because they didn't have a perfect birth prescribed by attachment parenting and insisted that now they will be unable to bond with their infants properly.

I already profiled "Baby Whisperer" book earlier in my posts, and that was the book that really meshed with my own view of parenting. I think it can be described as "common sense parenting". I followed the premise of that book - think of what you want and don't start on the road where you don't want to be. So, we never co-slept, because I wanted to still have a bed with my spouse, not a family bed. I never wore my baby - I have some back problems, and I couldn't find anything that was comfortable both for me and for Anna (Interestingly, my husband loved Baby Bjorn, and Anna spent a lot of time there while he was running errands or hiking with her). I breastfed my daughter for the first 15 months of her life and didn't mind the fact that she didn't sleep through the night until 18 months. That was who she was, and I accepted that as part of her. I went back to work full time, when she was 3 months old, and my husband took full-time parenting responsibilities confidently and successfully. We never had to "sleep-train" her, to break her out of pacifier (never gave her a pacifier), to potty train her in three days (a subject of a separate post). We never baby-proofed our house. We just paid enough attention to our child and taught her not to touch things that were "not her toys". So far I am happy with the results. Our daughter seems to be healthy and happy. She is introverted (not shy, just prefers to play by herself), but she interacts well with her peers in preschool, and she seems to be securely attached without all the "necessary" ingredients of attachment parenting. We just connected to who she is and responded to what she needed - love with firm boundaries.


Autumn said...

I totally agree with The Baby Whisperer's common sense method of not starting something you don't want to continue. We followed that too with great success.

FWIW, I wore Ben a lot as an infant because it was a great way to transport him and get time in with him while still caring for a toddler. But that's as far into AP as I go! If we ever have another baby in the family, I'll probably wear him/her too.

Gina Tadmor said...

Hi, I just wanted to point out that attachment parenting is loosely based on Attachment Theory that was articulated first by John Bowlby. Attachment theory doesn't have anything to do with breasfeeding or wearing your babies or any of the techniques of attachment parenting. It presents a theory of what makes babies and young children (and eventually all people) tick. It says that the main motivation for babies and young children is to stay close to their parents for the purpose of protection. During most of the years of human history, it was vital for children to stay close to their caretakers in order to survive so that there is a built in attachment instinct to cling to caretakers.So there are essentially two modes to babies and young children - when they're anxious about something they cling to their parents and when they feel secure they explore and play. The main conclusion of Attachment theory is that children that are given a lot of security grow up more trusting, open and otherwise happy people. Attachment parenting is just one way to give babies and young children that security but its not the only way and you can do all those things prescribed and not give your children security (for instance if you're angry with them all the time). To me Attachment Theory makes a lot of sense but I'm not a fanatic about attachment parenting - its just one way to apply Attachment Theory and as I've said, its not the only way.

Summer said...

Though Attachment Parenting is often claimed to be a check list of things you have to do, it's actually more about building and maintaining the needed attachment with your child.

"We just connected to who she is and responded to what she needed"

That's pretty much what attachment parenting is. Connect and respond.

growinginpeace said...

I agree with Summer. Attachment parenting looks different for each family and with each child. What works for one doesn't necessarily work for another child.

For ours, my oldest was minimally APd with great results - she was nursed for 4 months, bottle fed the rest of the time (I had severe low milk supply). She was in her own crib sleeping through the night by 4 months too, sleeping 12 hours at a stretch. But, before then, dh and I would take turns pacing the floor with her at 2 am because she would not sleep and cried an awful lot. Co-sleeping might have helped during those difficult early months.

For my middle child, she was breastfed for 7 months, co-slept with from day one, but was in her own crib around 4 months too. She started night waking and having separation anxiety about 10 months. And I brought her back into my bed after I tried to sleep train her. It took too much effort and caused too much distress on her and I was losing too much precious sleep (especially when I discovered I was pregnant with dd3 - I was too exhausted to do much).

She's the one who grew to have other severe anxieties and selective mutism by the time she was in preschool. She also has nightmares though too. She starts out falling asleep with me in my bed, then I move her to her own, and by early hours of the am, she's back in my bed. I don't send her away, because she falls instantly back asleep. It does feel nice to have her curl up in my arms and fall instantly back asleep until we both get up.

Dd3 was co-slept from day 1 and stayed in our bed for almost 3 years. It was because of nursing though. I finally figured out that the best way to overcome my low milk supply was by having her nurse at night. Milk production is highest between 9pm and 6 am, so nursing at night made sense for us. I didn't intend to nurse or co-sleep so long, but it ended up being good for her. At about 11 months, she had a serious bout of sleep apnea. I woke up because I noticed breathing irregularities and then she stopped breathing all together. I freaked out, but was able to rouse her eventually. I'm convinced co-sleeping saved her. She continued to breath funny all night long, but I sat up with her on the recliner and kept her the rest of the night. The nursing regulated the breathing like nothing else did. I just have this feeling if she was off in another room, she would have not woken up in the morning.

So...yes, in some instances, co-sleeping still has survival value.

Dh and I had always get our intimate needs met. The bedroom isn't the only place to be intimate and the kids usually are out of the beds by 3 years anyway. Quite honestly, with my dh's penchant for snoring, I'd rather sleep with the kids than him sometimes because his snoring loudly keeps me awake.