Accidental Attachment Parenting

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Before I became a parent I had all sorts of notions of what motherhood would look like. If Hannah’s birth (and first few months of life) taught me anything, it’s that oftentimes being a parent means rolling with the punches. We can plan all we want, but sometimes life just does not go according to plan.

When envisioning our future lives as parents, we certainly did not intend to use Attachment Parenting (AP) methods. I thought sleeping with your baby was a bit too much and breastfeeding when the child could walk and talk, well that was just weird. (Actually, I still think extended breastfeeding is a little weird. My philosophy is if the kid’s got teeth, she’s out of there.) But almost three months into this parenthood thing and we find we are accidentally practicing Attachment Parenting.

Attachment Parenting was a term coined by Dr. William Sears, a pediatrician with eight children of his own. He believed that infants with parents who are more sensitive and responsive to their needs tend to become healthier, physically and emotionally, adults. The natural bond between parents and infants is to be encouraged by mothers breastfeeding their babies on demand, “wearing” them often (in slings or carrying them), picking them up when they cry , and even sleeping in the same bed with them. The theory is that by responding to the infant’s cues, the connection between parents and child is strengthened and therefore makes the process of parenting easier.

Now, who knows if this is true. Dr. Sears also makes other claims like AP produces children who are more confident, more intelligent and more socially adept. (It’s important to note that there have been no conclusive studies done to verify these claims.) Matthew and I don’t practice AP for these reasons, but rather as my husband says, “it seems like the loving thing to do.” In our opinion and contrary to what many opponents of AP say, Hannah isn’t trying to take advantage of us, or play mind games. If she’s crying it’s probably because she needs something. Plus, adults aren’t told that they can only eat on a schedule, “sorry, it hasn‘t quite been two hours since you last ate, so you have to wait another 25 minutes.” Could you imagine? So why force babies to? And Hannah spent nine months squished up inside of me, so it would seem only natural that she would enjoy the feeling of being held close by either Matthew or me. Despite their controversy, these methods seem fairly obvious and are probably "accidentally practiced" by many parents.

However, it is the custom of co-sleeping (the baby/child sleeps in the bed with the parents) that seems to be the hot button issue for many parents. Proponents of co-sleeping claim that it promotes family unity and makes it easier for night nursing. Opponents say that it puts the child at risk for SIDS and disrupts intimacy between the husband and wife. I can understand both sides of the argument, but here’s where I have a little confession to make: Hannah sleeps in our bed. We certainly didn’t intend for this, but I must admit, it works for us. She usually starts the night out in her crib, which is right next to our bed, but she manages to make it into our bed by morning. I usually pull her into bed with me for her middle of the night feeding where she sleeps contently with me until morning. Plus, with her recent surgery, I think it was comforting for all of us to be snuggled up together during the night.

As Danielle Bean (famous Catholic blogging mother) says, “do what works for your family.” Every family is different and there are endless parenting styles, this just happens to be ours. I’m not apologizing for it nor am I trying to say that our way is the better way. It’s just that for now, Attachment Parenting is what works for our little family.

But Grammie, don’t worry. We do plan to transition her back to her crib soon. I’m not a big proponent of the “family bed” (the parents and all the kids sleep together). Of course, I say that now…

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