I wish they had given this practice another name. Attachment Parenting?! What were you thinking Dr Sears?… Okay, okay, I know you were thinking about Bowlby and the ensuing experiments on monkeys – where the ones who didn’t form a proper bond (or ‘attachment’) with their mothers failed to thrive (to say the least). But really attachment is such a harsh, sterile word, so shunned by Buddhists and the like… Couldn’t we call ourselves ‘proximity parents’ – where it is all about being in contact or in close proximity to your kid at all times to form a strong parent-child bond? Or bonded parents, for that matter? Ahh, well, be sure to consult with me next time :p
Whatever… somehow I fell (inevitably some might say) into this mode of parenting. I wrestled with it some. It is not only the name I don’t like. I also don’t like dogma or doctrine. I mean some people really seem to take these guidelines as rules, laws to be abided if you are to be a good, alternative parent. And yet I find that as a descriptor for the type of parenting Kai and I naturally gravitate towards this pretty much nails us. I mean – as the card says – we believe in bonding at birth (by having the baby on mother’s chest as quickly and for as long as possible, for example), breastfeeding on cue, baby-wearing, bed-sharing, night parenting, extended breastfeeding, etc. Yep, if you heard this description you would say ‘these are attachment parents’. It is a pretty good description of what we do but it is not a prescription. I would never take these as rules to live by – nor would I pass them on to somebody else as something they should do.
I guess that is what bugs me about some of the attachment parents I have met. They are extremely inflexible in their beliefs. The approach has become rigid in them, like an old school religion. It has lost, in their practicing of it, its flexibility, its spontaneity and its heart: which is to be responsive in the moment to your child’s needs, knowing they can and will change.
It is absolutely not about following a script and doing this because it is what is right or what you should do for all children. For me ‘attachment parenting’ (I am sticking with that word, as that is the one in current usage) is alive. It is a breathing into an experience, a way of being with your little one, of being observant, attentive and responsive, of ‘listening’ with all your senses and your heart to what is best for you and for your baby in this encounter, a-fresh, each time meeting them as if for the first time. You’ve got to remain open and see what comes.
To his credit, that is what Dr Sears says, too, that you should keep reviewing your parenting practices and keep only those that still work for you and your family. I do like that man’s writings.
My point is that I surround myself with mothers who may or may not be ‘attachment parents’ but with whom I share a willingness to see what works for us while respecting what works for others, a commitment to learn and keep learning, to debate, observe and be okay with being imperfect, admitting our vulnerability and our flaws, knowing that is what makes us human.
At the same time, I am proud of our parenting approach, especially because this is not an easy path. Attachment parenting (even in its loosest sense) involves sacrifice, hard work and dedication, above and beyond some of the expected sacrifices of motherhood. Now, I find I am taking a moment to step-back and review our last few months in this new life of ours and noticing that, yes, I belong to this ‘club’… kind of despite some of its members. Here, if you will, are my Attachment Parenting Credentials:
– Anya slept on me, skin-to-skin for the first 6 weeks of her life
– She has slept in our bed ever since
– I have been breastfeeding on cue (including through the night) since she was born, which makes it over 8 months (not bad considering I wasn’t sure if I’d make it 3 months, at one stage)
– Anya travelled exclusively by sling or in arms for the first three months of her life (except in the car, of course – alas). We have used the Ergo since she was four months old (and could sit in it upright). We occasionally use the pram, too. Hey, she weighs over 22lbs already! And my back ain’t super strong… plus nowadays she enjoys it.
As I say some of this I fell into. I had not intended to have Anya sleep on me for 6 weeks… not at all! I didn’t even intend for her to sleep with us to begin with. I had a little bassinet by the side of the bed that stood mostly empty. Even before I knew that much about attachment parenting, it turns out that was the kind of approach that suited Anya’s temperament best. She finds it hard to go to sleep but wakes very easily, at the slightest sound, temperature change or movement (especially in the early days), which means that once she is asleep it is best not to move her! Sleeping with us was really the only way for all three of us to sleep at all.
Overall, I am very happy and proud of the parents we have grown into, the deep listening we have made time for – for each other, for our daughter – and of our commitment to doing what we feel is best for Anya and our family, even when it isn’t always the easiest.
As we build ‘community’ we find an affinity with those who parent from the Heart, be they attachment parents or not. Here, I am celebrating 8.5 months of doing it our way!