The purpose of this post is to share my personal experience and to also let others moms know there are other options out there if you aren’t happy with the way you are doing things. If everything is working great for you, you and your family are happy, healthy, and well-rested, keep on keepin’ on. I would never want this post to make anyone feel wrong or guilty about their choices. I believe involved parents are all trying to do what’s best for their children and what established authorities have told them is best. Also note, this post is not medical advice. I am a mom of three sharing my experiences.
What I’ve Noticed
Most parents I have observed are attachment parents whether they are conscious of this or not and probably 95 percent of parents I talk to have kids that are not sleeping through the night the majority of the time, even by age 3 and 4 and so on. My thought is, what is the impact on the parent’s mental state with years of sleep deprivation? And the child’s? Does this effect them developmentally?
Before I had my first child, I read the book Bringing Up Bebe. The sound advice made me excited to try the tips with my own baby. It worked. My son slept all night by 2 months or 3 months of age. I’m talking 12 hours. Some kids only need 10 hours of sleep at night but I lucked out with one who needed 12! The book advocates pausing for a few minutes before running to your baby at night and letting them learn to fall back asleep on their own. You can read more about this in this post. I always wanted to breastfeed my children because it seemed like a beautiful way to connect with my baby, and a great way to naturally space my children. Breastfeeding didn’t work out with my first so I decided to try it again with my second baby who arrived a year later. Success! Read more about my experience using this book’s advice here.
How I Became an Attachment Parent
The thing is, most breastfeeding resources seem to group together the feeding of breastfeeding with the attachment parenting style. It makes sense. Wearing your baby can help milk production. It’s the perfect way to calm a baby down and the fastest way. So, like a good nursing mother I followed their advice. I also decided to nurse on demand to postpone the return of my fertility and follow the tenants of lactational ammenorrhea. I nursed wherever, whenever. I tried to teach my daughter to sleep the same way but it was so hard to resist nursing her to sleep. I became her sleep prop. I believe sleep is very important for children and so by 8 months of age, even though I didn’t like the concept of cry it out, I decided it was necessary because my daughter would be up till 11 pm everyday and was overtired and anxious. We did it for two days and despite her frustration she learned to sleep on her own. Note my son learned to sleep on his own with much less crying and frustration. Looking back, the kind of parenting I was implementing without realizing it was attachment parenting.
What is Attachment Parenting?
If you aren’t familiar with the term, here’s a link, and an excerpt from wikipedia.
“The 7 Baby Bs
William Sears strongly believes in the existence of child rearing practices that support “babyreading” and that augment maternal sensitivity. The methods of attachment parenting include seven practices/principles that according to Sears form a “synergetic” ensemble and that are based on the child’s “biological needs”. Sears refers to those principles as “7 Baby Bs”:
Birth bonding, Breastfeeding. Baby wearing, Bedding close to baby, Belief in the language value of your baby’s cry, Beware of baby trainers, Balance.
Until 1999, Sears named only five Baby Bs. The last two were only added in 2001 with the publication of the Attachment Parenting Book.“
Why I Disagree with the Basic Premise of Attachment Parenting
I think attachment parenting is unrealistic for the modern woman living in a society as individualistic as ours and that it encourages mothering perfectionism. I think it works wonderfully in a society where women take turns nursing their baby, and live in a village setting where their are many hands available to do everything but in our society it is too much to place on one woman. And what about women who choose to work or have to work outside the home? Are they doomed to have an insecurely attached child because they can’t wear them all day?
What I Didn’t Like About this Parenting Experience.
Of course no matter what parenting style you have, you don’t have to become a human pacifier, but the temptation is much greater. Especially if your child doesn’t like pacifiers. I was my daughter’s pacifier for her entire infant hood. It was very stressful, but it was easier to just nurse than to help her learn to self-soothe. Her crying was very intense and she never wanted to suck her hand or thumb or anything. And I also felt compelled to block all of her crying especially when I had such an easy solution that worked every time that served the purpose of postponing my fertility.
I’ve tried baby wearing all of my babies and for my lifestyle of bending and stooping doing household chores it doesn’t work very well. My babies don’t like it and frankly I need some space too to be able to accomplish those tasks. For me baby wearing is great on a walk or a hike. But not all day in the house. I realize some moms undoubtedly love this, and some just put up with it because the benefits are worth it. For me. not so much.
In Relation to Natural Family Planning
Any woman in Catholic circles who practices Natural Family Planning undoubtedly knows about the child-spacing benefits of breastfeeding and that there can be less abstinence. But it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to give up having some more control over when your baby eats if that is more your style.
Parent Directed Feeding
Now with my third baby, I found the parenting style that pretty much explains what I’ve been doing all along. Parent directed feeding. Basically you have a schedule for your baby to eat but you follow it in a flexible manner. This gives you predictability in your day. You also gently and gradually teach your baby to fall asleep on their own without any sleep props from an early age. If you can accomplish this by the age of 3 months You can avoid many sleep problems later that may only be fixed by doing cry it out. Using a schedule in this way is a middle ground between the rigid parenting of the early 1900s where mothers would let their babies cry until the clock said it was time to eat versus the baby led feeding attachment parenting style of feeding your baby whenever they want with no regard to what works for you.
Advocates of parent directed feeding will tell you a child who had parent directed feeding is more secure and independent and copes with frustration better. I have found this to be true in my experience. My first baby learned to wait at a young age because of his schedule, he learned to nap well and sleep well and therefore was happier overall. He learned to self-soothe early on and be content playing by himself.
A Note on Breastfeeding and Schedules
Please note that this post is just my opinion and experience and not medical advice. It is extremely important when you breastfeed to pay attention to signs that your baby is eating enough and signs that you have adequate milk supply. I believe a flexible schedule is possible with breastfeeding but it is important to educate yourself and work with a lactation consultant to make sure everything is in place for a properly fed baby.
“We Don’t Like to Say No” Syndrome
There’s a funny scene in the movie Grownups where a mom is breastfeeding her 4 year old and they ask how old he is and the father replies, “48 months.” .The mom also says that her and her husband “don’t like to say no.” So silly, but also an interesting social commentary on the parenting attitudes of our times. I nursed my second baby till she was 2 years and it was no problem to me but the idea of not wanting to say no is what struck me about this. Even though breast milk is good and natural , I think by never saying no or never telling your child to wait you can inadvertently teach your child to be overly needy and whiny when they should be learning to cope with their own frustration and problem solve. Since it is a source of comfort and food it can be hard to make the distinction but that is why a schedule is important, it will help you understand if the child just wants comfort or actually is hungry .
I don’t believe that any person should tell a parent there is only one parenting style they should adopt, no matter which way they choose to feed their baby. People of good will can disagree and have different styles. I also think it’s an okay reason to choose a style or not just because you may or may not like /enjoy it. There doesn’t have to be some deep philosophical reason.